FBI investigating 'promising lead' in D.B. Cooper skyjacking case

 

By Steve Miletich
Seattle Times staff reporter
 
The FBI is investigating a "credible" lead in the D.B. Cooper sky jacking case, nearly 40 y ears
after a tall, dark-complex ioned man hijacked a Seattle-bound Boeing 7 27 on Thanksgiving Eve
197 1 and parachuted into history from the rear of the plane with $200,000 in cash.
 
The FBI is investigating a "credible" lead in
the D.B. Cooper skyjacking case, nearly 40
years after a tall, dark-complexioned man
hijacked a Seattle-bound Boeing 727 on
Thanksgiving Eve 1971 and parachuted
into history from the rear of the plane with
$200,000 in cash.
 
"We do have a promising lead," FBI
spokeswoman Ayn Sandalo Dietrich said
Sunday, a day after a British newspaper
reported the development in a lengthy
feature story on the notorious case.
Dietrich, of the Seattle FBI office,
cautioned that the FBI is not on the verge
of a "big break," but is carrying out "due
diligence" on the new information.
"It's a routine part of our investigation,"
she said.
 
Dietrich said the FBI received a tip in the past year from a member of law enforcement who
directed the bureau to a credible person who might have helpful information on a suspect.
"I can't get into specifics," Dietrich said, declining to provide any details on the potential
suspect.
 
The FBI obtained an item from the person to determine if fingerprints can be extracted from it
for comparison to partial prints on a magazine left behind on the plane and on parts of theairliner, Dietrich said.
The item has been sent to the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Va., she said.
Asked to characterize the significance of the lead, Dietrich said, "It's good" but the case is "not
on the brink of a solution."
 
She also called the new information the "most promising lead we have right now."
Dietrich said the FBI disclosed the information to a reporter from The Telegraph newspaper in
London, but didn't think the article was going to appear until November.
 
In the story, Dietrich is quoted as saying, "The credible lead is somebody whose possible
connection to the hijacker is strong. And the suspect is not a name that's come up before."
The development is the latest in a case filled with lore, including the name D.B. Cooper, which
was a media creation. The hijacker who jumped from the plane Nov. 24, 1971, identified
himself as "Dan Cooper," but a day after the skyjacking FBI agents checked out a Portland man
with the name "D.B. Cooper" and quickly cleared him. The moniker stuck, however.
Agents knew little about the skyjacker except that he smoked Raleigh cigarettes, drank
whiskey, was familiar with aerodynamics and paid $20 cash for a one-way flight from Portland
to Seattle.
 
He wore a dark suit and tie, white shirt and pearl tie tack, and had short, dark hair. He
periodically wore sunglasses, carried a briefcase and a dark raincoat, and took seat 18C on
Northwest Flight 305, having the row to himself.
 
The jet was barely in the air before he passed a note to a flight attendant, who slipped it
unopened into a pocket. Cooper leaned closer: "Miss, you'd better look at that note. I have a
bomb." He opened his briefcase to reveal several red cylinders and a nest of wires.
The plane landed in Seattle; passengers were exchanged for parachutes and ransom money
paid by the airline. With Cooper and the flight crew on board, it took off, heading south toward
Mexico.
 
About 30 minutes later, a cockpit warning light showed the rear stairway was fully extended.
The pilot asked over the intercom, "Is everything OK back there?"
Cooper yelled back, "No," and bailed out the back into freezing darkness.
Agents found Cooper's skinny black tie, tie tack, eight of his cigarette butts and two of the
parachutes after the plane landed in Reno, Nev.
 
Cooper's body was never found, and only a portion of the ransom money — whose serial
numbers the FBI had recorded — turned up when a child digging in a sandbar on the north bank
of the Columbia River west of Vancouver in 1980 unearthed a bundle of $20 bills.
 
Cooper, believed by some to have perished in the jump, leapt from 10,000 feet into a storm,
with air temperatures around 7 degrees below zero, strong winds and freezing rain. It wasn't
until the plane landed for more fuel in Reno, with the stairway still down, that the crew and FBI
knew for sure he was gone.
 
Authorities estimated he landed near the small community of Ariel, Cowlitz County, east of
Woodland and one ridge line over from the Washougal watershed. The weather was so bad that
the manhunt was delayed a few days.