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Were These Taunting Letters Really from D.B. Cooper, the Mysterious 1971 Hijacker?

Were These Taunting Letters Really from D.B. Cooper, the Mysterious 1971 Hijacker?


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After an exhaustive 45-year investigation, the FBI in 2016 finally called off its official search for D.B. Cooper, the mysterious man who, on Nov. 24, 1971, hijacked a plane headed from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington. In one of the most daring and unforgettable crimes in aviation history, he parachuted from the Boeing 727 with $200,000 in ransom money, eluding capture and enrapturing amateur sleuths worldwide.

In the decades that followed the brazen act, the bureau eliminated all but two of 1,000 suspects in the case. The most substantive leads included $5,800 of the ransom money found by a boy in 1980 along the Columbia River in Washington state, and taunting letters received by several U.S. newspapers. The letters, in particular, have offered tantalizing clues to the identity of the man behind the alias who got away with what would have been $1.2 million today.

READ MORE: Who Was D.B. Cooper?

At least six letters—typed, handwritten and made using ransom-style cut out letters—were sent to several newspapers soon after the hijacking, all claiming to be from Cooper. The FBI considered most to be hoaxes. But intriguingly, they held back the last two letters from the public until the 2000s, which may indicate they took those far more seriously.

A first letter, signed “DB Cooper” and sent from Oakdale, California to the Reno Evening Gazette, was received on November 29, 1971. Using letters cut and paste from a Sacramento Bee newspaper, it read: “Attention! Thanks for the hospitality. Was in a rut.”

A second letter, handwritten and signed “D.B. Cooper,” was postmarked November 30, 1971 and sent to the Vancouver Province in British Columbia with the following message:

"The composite drawing on Page 3 as suspected by the FBI does not represent the truth.

"I enjoyed the Grey Cup game. Am leaving Vancouver.

"Thanks for the hospitality."

WATCH: Full episodes of History's Greatest Mysteries online now and tune in for all-new episodes Saturdays at 9/8c.

A third letter, mailed in northern Oregon on December 1, 1971, was received by the Portland Oregonian. Using letters cut from a Playboy magazine, it read, “Am alive and doing well in hometown. P.O. The system that beats the system.”

Letter number four, received by the Reno Evening Gazette, was also mailed December 1 (but from the Sacramento, California area). Pasted from letters, it read, “Plan ahead for retirement income” and was signed “D.B. Cooper.”

A fifth letter, signed “D.B. Cooper” and brimming with taunts, was postmarked December 11, 1971 and sent to The New York Times, Seattle Times, Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post. The FBI released its contents after a private investigative team led by documentary filmmaker Thomas Colbert filed a Freedom of Information Act request.

"Sirs, I knew from the start that I wouldn't be caught,” the letter read. “I didn't rob Northwest Orient because I thought it would be romantic, heroic or any of the other euphemisms that seem to attach to situations of high risks. I'm no modern day Robin Hood. Unfortunately I do have only 14 months to live.

“My life has been one of hate, turmoil, hunger and more hate; this seemed to be the fastest and most profitable way to gain a few fast grains of peace of mind. I don't blame people for hating me for what I've done nor do I blame anybody for wanting me to be caught and punished, though this can never happen. Here are some (not all) of the things working against the authorities:

I'm not a boasting man

I left no fingerprints

I wore a toupee

I wore putty make-up

“They could add or subtract from the composite a hundred times and not come up with an accurate description; and we both know it. I've come and gone on several airline flights already and am not holed up in some obscure backwoods town. Neither am I a psycopathic (sic) killer. As a matter of fact I've never even received a speeding ticket.

Thank you for your attention."

Colbert’s team found codes in the fifth and sixth letters, including the numbers "717171684*," which they deciphered as “I’m LT Robert W. Rackstraw.” Rackstraw, a Vietnam War vet and former U.S. paratrooper who died in 2019, both denied and refused to discount himself as being the infamous skyjacker, according to the Oregonian. The FBI investigated—and cleared—Rackstraw in the late 1970s.

A sixth letter, mailed March 28, 1972, from Jacksonville, Florida to the Portland Oregonian and signed “A Rich Man,” read: “This letter is too (sic) let you know I am not dead but really alive and just back from the Bahamas, so your silly troopers up there can stop looking for me. That is just how dumb this government is. I like your articles about me but you can stop them now, D.B. Cooper is not real.

“I had to do something with the experience Uncle taught me, so here I am, a very rich man. Uncle gave too much of it to world idiots and no work for me. I had to do it to relieve myself of frustration. I want out of the system and saw a way through good ole Unk. Now you know. I am going around the world and they will never find me because I am smarter than the system's lackey cops and lame duck leaders. Now it is Uncle's turn to weep and pay one of it's own some cash for a change. (And please tell the lackey cops D.B. Cooper is not my real name).”

Again, Colbert’s team says this letter is coded to say, "I'm LT Robert W. Rackstraw, D.B. Cooper is not my real name" and "I want out of the system and saw a way by hijacking one jet plane."

But the identity of Cooper—and the author or authors of the letters—officially remains a mystery. FBI spokeswoman Ayn Sandalo Dietrich told the Reno Gazette Journal in 2014 that the letters were sent to the FBI laboratory in Washington, D.C. for analysis, but nothing was found: "It was never proven if the actual hijacker wrote the letters."

WATCH: D.B. Cooper: Case Closed? on HISTORY Vault.


Records ‘reveal’ dead CIA pilot was Cooper FBI hid his release

Nothing about the businessman who strode on board the plane that day singled him out. Blending in perfectly with his fellow passengers, everything from his sunglasses, white shirt and dark business suit to the black attaché case he carried screamed corporate America.

Yet at the start of the Boeing 727 flight from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington, “Dan Cooper” suddenly opened his case and showed what appeared to be sticks of dynamite. He demanded $200,000 and four parachutes in return for the safety of his 36 fellow travelers. After getting what he wanted at Seattle Airport, the high-flying robber ordered the crew to take him to Mexico.

But somewhere over the American Northwest, Cooper donned a ‘chute and, clutching the cash, jumped out. It was November 24, 1971, and a national manhunt for the daredevil was mounted, but he was never found. Eventually, just $5,800 of the marked dollar bills were uncovered in 1980, decomposing beside an Oregon riverbank, but Cooper – and his real identity – disappeared forever, along with the rest of the money.

Cooper appears to have been exposed as Robert W. Rackstraw, 75, who died of natural causes in July.

A secret FBI “death file,” released by a judge this week, disclosed the identity of the outlaw who has been mythologized in film, TV and song. For 45 years he was on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, until, in 2016, the agency officially closed the unsolved case.

But the newly-uncovered FBI documents reveal its agents strongly believed their prime suspect was the former US Army pilot, paratrooper and explosives expert Rackstraw – and that he was also a CIA black-ops man.

“This solves one of America’s greatest criminal mysteries,” says cold case investigator, producer and author Thomas J. Colbert, who obtained the private bureau records after Rackstraw’s passing and a lengthy legal battle.

“Three separate intelligence community sources have told us he was a CIA freelancer before and after the hijacking, and that’s why they protected him.

“The new files quote leading [FBI] investigators who were convinced that Rackstraw could be Cooper. He got away with the ransom, invested it in property, and the FBI turned a blind eye, flat-out lying and covering up his crimes to avoid embarrassing the government.”

The bureau’s alleged disinformation campaign involved both the media and the web. Colbert pointed out an entry at Dropzone.com, a blog for “Cooperite” researchers, made by FBI NORJAK agent Larry Carr: “There are 1057 sub files in the [Cooper] case, each representing a subject that has been investigated. There is not one piece of verifiable evidence linking a subject to the case.”

After the skyjacking, DB Cooper entered American popular folklore and helped changed the face of world travel. At the time, there was no security screening of passengers or X-rays of their luggage. He inspired several copycat hijackings for ransom that year, which sparked the beginnings of the modern airline security network.

In addition to the damning fed files, Colbert, 62, who lives in Ventura County, California, says his volunteer team of investigators, led by a dozen former FBI, found more than 100 materials which incriminated Rackstraw – including physical, forensic (including DNA), direct, testimonial, hearsay and documentary evidence.

The documentarian then sought neutral opinions from top experts. One of them was a former two-time U.S. Attorney, FBI agent and San Francisco Law School dean named Joseph P. Russoniello: “I’ve reviewed the materials provided by your investigative team and have concluded the evidence is clear and convincing that Rackstraw was Cooper.”

These developments, first revealed to the FBI in 2015, apparently set off alarm bells at headquarters during the Comey Administration. According to agent emails and tran-scripts recently recovered by Colbert, the director’s senior executives voided their 5-year collaboration with the team and refused to accept any of its work. Colbert said the bureau then “lied” about it all at a 2016 new conference — stating they had reviewed the evidence, dismissed it as weak and concluded “there isn’t anything new out there.”

The team noted Rackstraw’s 1970 Army photo, dug out of an old Pentagon file by the sleuths, has “nine points of match” to Cooper’s sketch and fit the hijacker’s FBI profile. He also had the expertise to make a bomb and jump from a plane.

And Rackstraw had a motive: The airline takedown came five months after the career soldier with Special Forces training was kicked out for lying about his rank, medals, and college education record – he was a high school dropout.

The new memos note the booted lieutenant then mailed his former brass a veiled threat: “I can only hope that I will never use the training and education the Army gave me against the Army itself, as I would be a formidable advisary [sic].”

Even after the hijacking, Rackstraw craved adventure and clashes with the law. He taught the Shah’s pilots to fly choppers in pre-revolutionary Iran printed and delivered fake cheques to banks stole cars, aircraft and construction equipment then after absconding with 22 cases of quarry dynamite and weapons from an armory, officials believe he sold them to various radical bomber groups.

He even stood trial for murdering his own stepfather — the man who hid him after the hijacking — but was acquitted by a sympathetic jury. Rackstraw went on to fake his own death in 1978 by calling in a phony Mayday crash in California’s Monterey Bay.

Months later the fugitive was found (above) and jailed for two years. In all, he had earned more than 30 criminal titles while using fake identities in five countries.

Rackstraw wed three times, becoming a father, grandfather and great-grandfather. After divorcing his third wife, he continued to live with her in the wealthy Bankers Hill district of San Diego, California, for another 20 years. He owned a boat shop, Coronado Precision Marine, and had a 45 foot cruiser, wryly named the Poverty Sucks.

When confronted about Cooper’s skyjacking shortly before his death, Rackstraw confessed: “I’m probably one of the only people who can close the case.” Asked directly in 1978 if he was Cooper, Rackstraw teased: “Could have been… could have been.”

He spoke with authority in 2016 about the Cooper cash found along the Columbia River shore, saying: “I could be wrong, but I believe that’s all that will be found.”

Rackstraw even confided to family members that he was DB Cooper, claims Colbert.

FBI agents told reporters in 1971 that they suspected Cooper died making his daredevil parachute jump into a wind chill of minus 57 degrees, only to land in wild snow-covered woods while wearing loafers and a trench coat.

But several farm witnesses, quietly interviewed by the FBI, claimed three getaway accomplices (two recently located by Colbert’s team) were waiting on the ground with a small plane to extract Rackstraw. And the ransom cash recovered at the Columbia, nine years later, was planted by him to mislead federal officials, multiple sources have told the private investigators.

Cooper may have represented a darker side of America than the daredevil criminal whose escape captivated the nation.

Rackstraw flew helicopters for an intelligence unit of the US Army’s 1st Cavalry Division during the Vietnam War, where he fell in with a CIA operative. The duo disappeared together for “days at a time” on secret missions, according to LTC Ken Overturf, Rackstraw’s retired Vietnam commander in 1969.

Court records also show, right after his alleged 1971 skyjacking, he was a pilot for the CIA’s Air America in Laos. Then a decade later, he signed up to run covert flights during the Iran-Contra affair in Nicaragua.

Rackstraw told a Facebook friend: “Everything I did for our government raised questions.”

Rick Sherwood, a former US intelligence officer and 3-tour Vietnam code-buster (left), was recruited in 2015 to join Colbert’s team. He analyzed six taunting letters sent by a Cooper writer to the media, in wake of his disappearance. Colbert used a court order to get the notes from the FBI’s sealed hijacking file.

In the second letter, Sherwood claims to have decrypted an Army-coded message which said: “IF CATCH I AM CIA.”

In the last one (below), several independent experts declared that Sherwood had unmasked Rackstraw’s bragging confession to the high-flying crime.

Colbert believes the FBI “bushwhacked” his team’s seven-year investigation because they came too close to proving the bureau had a strong case to prosecute Rackstraw, but chose not to — in order to shield his CIA missions overseas.

The cold case organizer says: “It was a cover-up, and we now have the FBI’s own files to prove Rackstraw was the prime suspect. Everything points to him.

“He was questioned by investigators in 1978 and he gave three different alibis, all proven to be false. But the FBI still let him remain free. “

After Rackstraw’s death, his former lawyer, Dennis Roberts, insisted: “He’s not DB Cooper.” Yet bizarrely, the attorney claimed that Rackstraw was responsible for another unsolved skyjack, which was supposedly why he never sued anyone accusing him of being Cooper. “It would have meant that he would have had to admit the second hijack,” said Roberts.

Transportation experts, however, state there are no other unsolved American airborne robberies.

A new TV documentary series on Rackstraw and the secret FBI files is now in the development stage, says Colbert.

And though Rackstraw claimed in his final days that allegations he was DB Cooper were destroying his life, he remained coy to the end.

“They say that I’m him,” said Rackstraw. “If you want to believe it, believe it.”


Somewhere Between Seattle And Reno, Nevada…

Almost two hours exactly after landing, at 7:40 pm, the plane left the runway of the Seattle-Tacoma airport and would take to the skies once again. Along with Cooper was the pilot, copilot, a remaining flight attendant, and a flight engineer.

Unbeknown to Cooper, two F-106 fighter jets were scrambled from the nearby McChord Air Force Base. One would take a higher altitude while the other would fly below. Both would remain out of view of Cooper. Several other planes would also trail the hijacked plane.

Cooper would put his plan into motion almost immediately after the take-off. He would instruct the flight attendant to go to the cockpit and join the other three crew members. She did as he instructed. However, as she made her way there, she witnessed Cooper tying something around his waist.

A short time later, at a little after 8 pm, the crew members in the cockpit noticed the warning light come on. There was a problem with the air pressure in the cabin. They would offer assistance, which was bluntly refused. Then, the change of air pressure suggested one of the doors was open.

By the time the plane landed at Reno at 10:15 pm as previously agreed, it was evident that Cooper was no longer on board the plane. Nor was the money, or two of the parachutes.

Of the five planes that were trailing the airliner, none of the pilots would report witnessing any type of deployment from the Boeing. Where Cooper was, and when he chose to vacate the plane was a mystery.


D.B. Cooper Letter Offers Startling Coded Clue That Might Reveal Skyjacker

“Sirs, I knew from the start that I wouldn’t be caught,” the letter begins.

Postmarked Dec. 11, 1971, it was signed, “D.B. Cooper,” the name the press had given to the unknown criminal who, less than a month before the missive landed at several newspaper offices, had audaciously taken over Northwest Orient Flight 305 out of Portland. The skyjacker parachuted from the Boeing 727 with $200,000 in ransom -- and disappeared. The mystery man quickly became a legend, the subject of folk songs, books and a hit Hollywood movie.

Now, more than 45 years after the crime, independent investigators believe they’ve caught D.B. Cooper. That is, they believe they’ve identified who he really is -- thanks to that taunting letter.

If only they could get the FBI interested.

The 40-member private investigative outfit concluded long ago that the famed skyjacker is former U.S. Army paratrooper Robert W. Rackstraw, a decorated Vietnam War veteran who’s now 74 and lives in the San Diego area. But the FBI, which investigated Rackstraw in the late ’70s, has taken little interest in the voluminous circumstantial evidence put forward by the group.

Documentary filmmaker Thomas J. Colbert, who leads the Cooper investigative team, is convinced the FBI refuses to pursue Rackstraw again at this late date because it would have to admit that a bunch of part-time, volunteer sleuths had cracked a case that the bureau couldn’t.

“It’s not that they’re concerned about a circumstantial case,” Colbert says. “This is obviously about embarrassment and shame.”

The FBI, for its part, offers a different assessment. After considering hundreds of suspects over four decades, it decided to officially close the unsolved D.B. Cooper case in July 2016 “because there isn’t anything new out there,” Special Agent in Charge Frank Montoya, Jr., said at the time.

Eighteen months later, there’s something new. Colbert believes a member of his team has broken a clever encrypted code from the skyjacker that’s embedded in that Dec. 11, 1971, letter.

The FBI still isn’t biting -- it isn’t even responding to Colbert anymore, or offering the press anything but public-relations boilerplate about being open to new hard evidence. So, Colbert says, “we’re moving ahead without them.”

Colbert is convinced he has the right man. The TV producer and former “Hard Copy” story editor has spent nearly a decade digging into Rackstraw’s past. He and his team of retired law-enforcement officers have interviewed their suspect’s family members, former colleagues, friends and military commanders. The portrait that’s emerged of Rackstraw is that of a conman and sociopath who’s talented, charismatic, violent -- and has a lot of possible links to the Northwest Orient skyjacking.

Colbert collected his evidence into a 2016 book, “The Last Master Outlaw.” He’s produced a History Channel documentary about his investigation, “D.B. Cooper: Case Closed?” and is working on another. (Rackstraw, who did not respond to phone calls for this article, has threatened to sue Colbert, but so far has not done so.) Colbert, with a laugh, admits he’s become obsessed with the Cooper case, continuing the investigation far longer than he ever planned. Some of his team’s work is available at DBCooper.com.

Veteran journalist Bruce Smith, author of “D.B. Cooper and the FBI: A Case Study of America’s Only Unsolved Skyjacking,” says Colbert’s reporting and research are impressive, but he worries that the TV producer became too focused on Rackstraw, leading him to “fit the facts” to his theory rather than following the evidence with an open mind.

Colbert’s case against Rackstraw, for example, is dependent on the skyjacker wearing a toupee and heavy makeup to make him look older, something that hasn’t been established. (Rackstraw was 28 in 1971 the well-known wanted posters of D.B. Cooper show a middle-aged man.) Tina Mucklow, the flight attendant who sat next to Cooper for hours during Flight 305, did not pick out Rackstraw from a series of mugshots some years later. Colbert insists the press-shy Mucklow suffers from memory loss related to post-traumatic stress.

But now Colbert has come upon perhaps the most interesting -- and most revealing -- piece of evidence yet: the Dec. 11, 1971, letter, which the FBI released last November after a Freedom of Information Act request by Colbert’s team.

In the month following the skyjacking, a handful of letters from “D.B. Cooper” were sent to various newspapers (including The Oregonian). The FBI’s investigators tended to view the notes as hoaxes, but the Dec. 11 letter -- which went to the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Seattle Times and the Washington Post -- was different.

Agents seized every copy. “They showed up at the (newspaper) offices and said, essentially, ‘Do your duty and hand them over,’” Colbert says. “And the newspapers did. It was a different time.”

This letter, noted one FBI internal case report from December 1971, “had the Bureau somewhat excited.”

The reason: the letter offered up details of the Northwest Airlines hijacking case that hadn’t made it into press reports, such as the fact that the FBI was not able to glean any useable fingerprints from the plane.

Agents carefully combed through the Dec. 11 letter: the writer’s claims that he wore a toupee and “putty makeup” and “left no fingerprints,” as well as the admission of feeling “hate, turmoil, hunger and more hate.” (Colbert says this “hate” was Rackstraw’s anger at being booted from the military for lying and other transgressions.)

Then there are the seemingly random strings of numbers and letters at the bottom of the page. The bureau’s investigators didn’t know what to make of them. In a Dec. 15, 1971, internal case memo, the FBI laboratory wrote of one of the sequences: “The significance of the number ‘717171634*’, appearing next to the copy count in the lower left corner on the face of the letter, remains unknown.”

It has remained unknown for 46 years -- until, quite possibly, a month ago.

Rick Sherwood, a relatively new member of Colbert’s team, has made sense of it and the other odd number/letter combinations in the letter.

Sherwood served in the Army Security Agency, the military’s elite signals-intelligence outfit, during the Vietnam War. He describes the training as “the equivalent of two years of college in 16 weeks. It was tough.”

Rackstraw briefly served as a chopper pilot in the ASA at the same time Sherwood was with the unit, though Sherwood says he didn’t know him.

After the FBI released the Dec. 11, 1971, letter last November, Sherwood began studying the possible cyphers in it, using his ASA code-breaking training to search for links to Rackstraw. It took him about two weeks to figure out the code, with the initial lightbulb moment coming when he simply added all the numbers up.

Surfacing out of what appears to be a mishmash of unrelated numbers and letters were Rackstraw’s Vietnam military units: the 371st Radio Research Unit and the 11th General Support Company, as well as the Army Security Agency.

It wasn’t a sophisticated code, but Sherwood wasn’t surprised that the FBI couldn’t crack it in the early 1970s, “because it would have made no sense to them. For the FBI to do it, they’d have to know a lot about the individual. I was trying to connect the numbers and letters to him.”

Could Sherwood have accidentally created this solution to the code because he was trying to find a connection to Rackstraw?

“It’s not impossible,” Sherwood says. “But what are the odds that these digits would add up to this? Astronomical. A million to one. Rackstraw didn’t think anyone would be able to break it.”

(Sherwood walked The Oregonian through the code-breaking process he used, with the understanding that the details wouldn’t be included in this article, since they’re a key part of the second D.B. Cooper documentary Colbert is working on.)

Colbert considers the Dec. 11, 1971, letter the cherry on top of his years-long investigation, and he’s not alone. Western Illinois University criminal-science professor Jack Schafer, a psychologist and former FBI agent, found Sherwood’s code-breaking work to be first-rate.

“Since these correlate with identifiers in Rackstraw’s (Army) life, I’m convinced this letter was written by D.B. Cooper,” he told Colbert in an email. “This is your strongest piece of evidence linking him to the hijacker.”

Rackstraw himself, it should be pointed out, often has refused to rule out that he’s the legendary skyjacker. He boasted back in the late 1970s that, given his skill set, he should be on the FBI’s list of suspects. “I wouldn’t discount myself, or a person like myself,” he said. When a reporter asked him point-blank if he was D.B. Cooper, he responded:

“Could have been. Could have been. I can’t commit myself on something like that.”

All these years later he’s still playing the tease.

“They say that I’m him,” Rackstraw told a California reporter last fall. “If you want to believe it, believe it.”

Tom Colbert is betting that viewers of his in-the-works documentary will believe it. Since the FBI doesn’t appear to have any interest in relaunching its D.B. Cooper investigation, Colbert is going to rely on the court of public opinion rather than a court of law to provide some sense of justice in the case.

His quarry, it turns out, apparently wants to do the same. As a result, Rackstraw’s and Colbert’s versions of events actually might end up aligning.

Rackstraw said last year that he was cooperating with film producers, who he refused to name but who it seems are only interested in his story if it includes him jumping out of a Northwest Orient commercial airliner in November 1971. Said Rackstraw:


Startling coded evidence upends the D.B. Cooper case

OREGONIAN by Douglas Perry January 3, 2018

“Sirs, I knew from the start that I wouldn’t be caught,” the letter begins.

Postmarked Dec. 11, 1971, it was signed, “D.B. Cooper,” the name the press had given to the unknown criminal who, less than a month before the missive landed at several newspaper offices, had audaciously taken over Northwest Orient Flight 305 out of Portland. The skyjacker parachuted from the Boeing 727 with $200,000 in ransom – and disappeared. The mystery man quickly became a legend, the subject of folk songs, books and later a Hollywood movie.

Now more than 45 years after the crime, a task force of independent investigators, ironically led by former FBI agents, believes it has caught D.B. Cooper. That is, they believe they’ve identified who he really is — thanks to the taunting letter.

If only they could get the Bureau interested.

The 40-member team responsible for this major development concluded long ago that the famed skyjacker is former U.S. Army paratrooper Robert W. Rackstraw Sr., a decorated Vietnam War veteran and four-time felon who’s now 74 and living in the San Diego area. But the FBI, which investigated and cleared Rackstraw in the late ’70s, has taken little interest in the voluminous circumstantial evidence put forward by the group.

Documentary filmmaker Thomas J. Colbert, who set up the team, is convinced the Bureau refuses to pursue Rackstraw again because it would have to admit that a bunch of part-time, volunteer sleuths had cracked a case that it couldn’t.

“It’s not that they’re concerned about a circumstantial case,” Colbert says. “This is all about embarrassment and shame.”

The FBI, for its part, offers a different assessment. After considering hundreds of suspects over four decades, it decided to officially close the unsolved D.B. Cooper case in July 2016 “because there isn’t anything new out there,” Seattle Special Agent in Charge Frank Montoya, Jr., said at the time.

Colbert said Montoya’s surprise announcement instantly nullified an FBI Headquarters’ email (below) that promised the Bureau’s cooperation — something Colbert and his partner-wife, Dawna, have been relying on since 2012. It also left their team holding more than 100 pieces of evidence, including DNA, on the week they were scheduled to turn it all in.

“Never mind the five figures we’ve invested in polygraphs, forensic lab work, armed security and surveillance,” added the organizer.

Colberts’ original collaboration agreement with FBI Headquarters

Now eighteen months after the roadblock, there’s something new: Colbert believes a member of his team has broken a clever encrypted code from the skyjacker that was embedded in that Dec. 11 letter.

The Bureau still isn’t biting – it isn’t even responding to Colbert or his attorney anymore, or offering the press anything but public-relations boilerplate about being open to new hard evidence. So Colbert decided his team is “moving ahead without them.”

He and Dawna usually take two-to-three years to develop and market a crime story. But when the feds slammed the door on his volunteers, the Colberts made the decision to do “whatever it takes” to get to the truth. In the ensuing seven years, meanwhile, their two children have gone from grade school to college.

The portrait that’s emerged of Rackstraw is that of a conman and sociopath who is talented, charismatic, ruthless, violent – and has a lot of confirmed links to the Northwest Orient skyjacking.

Colbert collected the team’s evidence into a 2016 book, “The Last Master Outlaw,” which has won three national awards for true crime. He’s co-produced a 2016 History Channel documentary on the investigation, “D.B. Cooper: Case Closed?” and is planning a sequel. And in between, the part-time police trainer has shared the lessons learned while blending old gumshoe methodologies with the latest law enforcement technology.

Now Colbert has come upon perhaps the most interesting — and most revealing — piece of evidence yet: the Dec. 11 letter, which the FBI released last November after a Freedom of Information Act suit by the team’s lawyer, Mark Zaid.

In the month following the skyjacking, a handful of envelopes from a “Cooper” author were sent to various newspapers (including The Oregonian). The FBI’s investigators downplayed the letters as hoaxes, but the typed Dec. 11 note — copied and sent to The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times and Washington Post — was different.

Agents immediately seized all four. “They showed up at the (newspaper) offices and said, essentially, ‘Be a good citizen and hand them over,’” Colbert says. “And the newspapers did. It was a different time.”

This letter, noted one FBI report from December 1971, “had the Bureau somewhat excited.” The reason: it offered up exclusive details in the Northwest Airlines case that weren’t ever released.

Witnesses on board the aircraft discreetly told agents the suspect appeared to be wearing “a toupee” and “putty makeup.” A forensic search of the airliner also revealed he “left no fingerprints” of value in the back of the plane.

The typing Cooper also wrote he had feelings of “hate, turmoil, hunger and more hate.” Colbert believes this was Rackstraw telegraphing his anger after being booted from his military career for lying and other transgressions, five months earlier.

Then there are the seemingly random strings of numbers and alphabet letters at the bottom of the page. The Bureau’s investigators didn’t know what to make of them. In a Dec. 15, 1971, internal memo, the FBI laboratory wrote of one of the sequences: “The significance of the number ‘717171634*’, appearing next to copy count in the left corner, remains unknown.”

It remained unknown for 46 years — until a month ago.

Rick Sherwood, a relatively new member of Colbert’s team, has made sense of it and the other odd number/letter combinations in the note.

Sherwood served in the Army Security Agency (ASA), the military’s elite signals-intelligence outfit (like the NSA), during the Vietnam War. He describes the code training as “the equivalent of two years of college in 16 weeks. It was tough.”

Rackstraw briefly served as a chopper pilot in the ASA at the same time Sherwood was with the ground flight-control unit, though Sherwood said he didn’t know him.

After the FBI released the Dec. 11 letter, Sherwood began studying the possible cyphers in it, using his training to search for links to Rackstraw. It took him about two weeks to figure out the code and get his initial light-bulb moment.

Surfacing out of what appears to be a mishmash of unrelated numbers and letters were Rackstraw’s three Vietnam military units: the 371st Radio Research Unit and the 11th General Support Company, as well as the Army Security Agency. The two that were classified were even separated by a “Top Secret” rebuke.

Sherwood wasn’t surprised the FBI couldn’t crack it in the early 1970s “because it would have made no sense to them. For the agents to do it, they’d have to know a lot about the individual and our units.” (Rackstraw wasn’t identified as a “person of interest” until 1978, and his two secret programs remained that way until the late 1980s.)

Could Sherwood have accidentally created this solution to the code because he was trying to find a connection to Rackstraw?

“It’s not impossible,” the analyst says. “But what are the odds that these digits would add up to these three Rackstraw units? Astronomical. A million to one. Rackstraw didn’t think anyone would be able to break it.”

Sherwood walked The Oregonian through the methodical code-breaking process he used, with the understanding that the details wouldn’t be included in this article since they’re a key part of the second D.B. Cooper documentary Colbert is planning.

The show developer considers the Dec. 11 letter the cherry on the top of his years-long investigation, and he’s not alone. Western Illinois University criminal-science professor Jack Schafer, also a psychologist and former FBI agent, found Sherwood’s code-breaking work to be first-rate.

“Since these correlate with identifiers in Rackstraw’s (Army) life, I’m convinced this letter was written by D.B. Cooper,” he told Colbert in an email. “This is your strongest piece of evidence linking him to the hijacker.”

Lieutenant-Colonel Ken Overturf (ret.) was Rackstraw’s commander in his covert ASA chopper unit. He also reviewed Sherwood’s code-breaking, verified his methods in their old Army cryptography manual, then confirmed in Pentagon records that Rackstraw did indeed get this same training in 1968. Overturf’s take on all the developments:

“I’m confident that [Sherwood’s decryption work] can be validated via military historical intelligence research. I also do not believe that anyone else in the U.S. Army at that time could possibly fit the profile of these three units. The investigative path leads directly back to Rackstraw.”

Professor Jack Schafer LTC Ken Overturf (ret.)

Rackstraw himself, it should be mentioned, often has refused to rule out that he is the legendary skyjacker. He boasted back in the late 1970s that, given his skill set, he should be on the FBI’s list of suspects: “I wouldn’t discount myself, or a person like myself.”

When the TV reporter asked him point-blank if he was D.B. Cooper, he responded: “Coulda’ been. Coulda’ been. I can’t commit myself on something like that.”

All these years later he’s still playing the tease.

“They say that I’m him,” Rackstraw told a California reporter last fall. “If you want to believe it, believe it.”

Colbert is betting that viewers of his in-the-works documentary will believe it. Since the FBI doesn’t appear to have any interest in relaunching its D.B. Cooper investigation, he and his team are going to rely on the court of public opinion, rather than a court of law, to provide some sense of justice in the case.

His quarry, it turns out, apparently wants to do the same. As a result, Rackstraw’s and Colbert’s versions of events actually might end up aligning.

Rackstraw said last year that he was cooperating with film producers, who he refused to name but who it seems are only interested in his story if it includes him jumping out of a Northwest Orient commercial airliner in November 1971. Said Rackstraw: “They’re paying me to tell the story they want to hear.”

When asked how much Hollywood was forking over, Rackstraw claimed 40-million dollars. Remember, however, that the fanciful figure is coming from a convicted con artist.


D.B. Cooper letter, newly released by FBI, offers startling coded clue that might reveal skyjacker

“Sirs, I knew from the start that I wouldn’t be caught,” the letter begins.

Postmarked Dec. 11, 1971, it was signed, “D.B. Cooper,” the name the press had given to the unknown criminal who, less than a month before the missive landed at several newspaper offices, had audaciously taken over Northwest Orient Flight 305 out of Portland. The skyjacker parachuted from the Boeing 727 with $200,000 in ransom -- and disappeared. The mystery man quickly became a legend, the subject of folk songs, books and a hit Hollywood movie.

Now, more than 45 years after the crime, independent investigators believe they’ve caught D.B. Cooper. That is, they believe they’ve identified who he really is -- thanks to that taunting letter.

If only they could get the FBI interested.

Courtesy Thomas J. Colbert

The 40-member private investigative outfit concluded long ago that the famed skyjacker is former U.S. Army paratrooper Robert W. Rackstraw, a decorated Vietnam War veteran who’s now 74 and lives in the San Diego area. But the FBI, which investigated Rackstraw in the late ’70s, has taken little interest in the voluminous circumstantial evidence put forward by the group.

Documentary filmmaker Thomas J. Colbert, who leads the Cooper investigative team, is convinced the FBI refuses to pursue Rackstraw again at this late date because it would have to admit that a bunch of part-time, volunteer sleuths had cracked a case that the bureau couldn’t.

“It’s not that they’re concerned about a circumstantial case,” Colbert says. “This is obviously about embarrassment and shame.”

The FBI, for its part, offers a different assessment. After considering hundreds of suspects over four decades, it decided to officially close the unsolved D.B. Cooper case in July 2016 "because there isn't anything new out there," Special Agent in Charge Frank Montoya, Jr., said at the time.

Eighteen months later, there’s something new. Colbert believes a member of his team has broken a clever encrypted code from the skyjacker that’s embedded in that Dec. 11, 1971, letter.

Flight 305 on the ground in Seattle after being hijacked in Nov. 1971. (AP)

The FBI still isn’t biting -- it isn’t even responding to Colbert anymore, or offering the press anything but public-relations boilerplate about being open to new hard evidence. So, Colbert says, “we’re moving ahead without them.”

Colbert is convinced he has the right man. The TV producer and former “Hard Copy” story editor has spent nearly a decade digging into Rackstraw’s past. He and his team of retired law-enforcement officers have interviewed their suspect’s family members, former colleagues, friends and military commanders. The portrait that’s emerged of Rackstraw is that of a conman and sociopath who’s talented, charismatic, violent -- and has a lot of possible links to the Northwest Orient skyjacking.

Colbert collected his evidence into a 2016 book, "The Last Master Outlaw." He's produced a History Channel documentary about his investigation, "D.B. Cooper: Case Closed?" and is working on another. (Rackstraw, who did not respond to phone calls for this article, has threatened to sue Colbert, but so far has not done so.) Colbert, with a laugh, admits he's become obsessed with the Cooper case, continuing the investigation far longer than he ever planned. Some of his team's work is available at DBCooper.com.

Veteran journalist Bruce Smith, author of "D.B. Cooper and the FBI: A Case Study of America's Only Unsolved Skyjacking," says Colbert's reporting and research are impressive, but he worries that the TV producer became too focused on Rackstraw, leading him to "fit the facts" to his theory rather than following the evidence with an open mind.

Colbert’s case against Rackstraw, for example, is dependent on the skyjacker wearing a toupee and heavy makeup to make him look older, something that hasn’t been established. (Rackstraw was 28 in 1971 the well-known wanted posters of D.B. Cooper show a middle-aged man.) Tina Mucklow, the flight attendant who sat next to Cooper for hours during Flight 305, did not pick out Rackstraw from a series of mugshots some years later. Colbert insists the press-shy Mucklow suffers from memory loss related to post-traumatic stress.

But now Colbert has come upon perhaps the most interesting -- and most revealing -- piece of evidence yet: the Dec. 11, 1971, letter, which the FBI released last November after a Freedom of Information Act request by Colbert’s team.


D.B. Cooper: Investigators Claim They’ve Discovered Skyjacker’s Identity

D.B. Cooper jumped out of a plane with $200,000 cash in 1971 – and he's never been found.

A team of former FBI investigators is claiming to have proof of the real identity of D.B. Cooper, the notorious airplane hijacker who has remained at large since he parachuted out of a Seattle-bound plane with $200,000 in November 1971. According to filmmaker and author Thomas Colbert &ndash who has led the independent investigation into the cold case for the last seven years &ndash the real Cooper is a 74-year-old Vietnam veteran named Robert Rackstraw. And the proof is hidden in a series of letters allegedly written by Cooper in the months after the hijacking and his disappearance.

Rackstraw &ndash a former Special Forces paratrooper, explosives expert and pilot with about 22 different aliases &ndash was once a person of interest in the case, but was eliminated as a suspect by the FBI in 1979. His elimination was controversial amongst the investigating agents, and he remained, for many, the most viable suspect in what remains the only unsolved case of air piracy in the United States. In 2016, the FBI announced they were ending their investigation into the case.

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&ldquoThis has been a cover up, they’re stonewalling,” Colbert told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He believes that the FBI protected Rackstraw because he was involved in numerous classified units during the war and may have worked for the CIA. “This is an old fashioned scandal,” he said. (A rep for FBI&rsquos Seattle field office told Rolling Stone that they have received “an immense number” of tips over the years, but “none to date have resulted in a definitive identification of the hijacker.” They did not respond to a request for comment on whether the FBI stonewalled an investigation into Rackstraw.)

Colbert and his 40-person team, many of whom are former federal agents, say D.B. Cooper&rsquos identity has been in the FBI&rsquos file all along, hidden in a series of letters sent to various newspapers in the months after the hijacking. While the first four letters had been made public, the FBI kept a fifth and sixth letter under wraps, until Colbert successfully sued for the Cooper case file under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Colbert claims both letters contain coded messages that point directly at Rackstraw. According to the Post-Intelligencer, the newspaper contacted Rackstraw &ndash who is currently living in San Diego &ndash last November. They wrote that he did not confirm or deny anything, telling the reporter to “verify Colbert’s facts.”

Rick Sherwood &ndash a former member of the Army Security Agency, which decoded signals during the Vietnam War &ndash cracked the codes. Rackstraw served under Sherwood in two classified units, and Sherwood was familiar with his writing style having deciphered some of his earlier messages. When he saw the fifth and sixth typewritten letters, he immediately thought the &ldquoodd letter and number combinations&rdquo were indicative of the type of coded message that Rackstraw would send. According to the Post-Intelligencer, Sherwood spent weeks working on the solution, which allegedly referred to three specialized army units that just one soldier had served in.

“He was the only man in the whole American Army with those three units,” Colbert told Seattle PI. “And we know it’s (Robert) Rackstraw.”

As far as Colbert was concerned, the case had already been closed in February, he and his team briefly made headlines when they released Sherwood&rsquos analysis of the fifth letter, and officially fingered Rackstraw as D.B. Cooper. But the sixth letter, sent to Portland&rsquos Oregonian newspaper in March 1972, turned out to be even more damning &ndash &ldquothe icing on the cake,&rdquo as Colbert put it.

&ldquoI read it two or three times and said, &lsquoThis is Rackstraw, this is what he does,&rsquo&rdquo Sherwood told The New York Daily News. &ldquoI noticed he kept on repeating words in his sentences and thought he had a code in there somewhere. He was taunting like he normally does and I thought his name was going to be in it and sure enough the numbers added up perfectly.&rdquo

This letter, however, does not have any fingerprints or watermarks, and the FBI was never able to confirm a genuine connection to the previous Cooper letters, which limits its evidentiary value. Which is a bummer, because according to Colbert and Sherwood, it contains a coded confession and the hijacker&rsquos real identity.

Using codes that only Rackstraw would have known, Sherwood honed in on two sentences for analysis. The first sentence, “I want out of the system and saw a way through good ole Unk,” was decoded to, “I want out of the system and saw a way by skyjacking a jet plane.” And the second sentence, “And please tell the lackey cops D.B. Cooper is not my real name,&rdquo was decoded to “I am 1st Lt. Robert Rackstraw, D.B. Cooper is not my real name.”

Over the course of their 45-year investigation, the FBI considered over a thousand &ldquoserious suspects,&rdquo but nothing more than circumstantial evidence ever implicated any of them. The last &ldquonew&rdquo suspect to be linked to the case was the fictional character of Don Draper, from AMC&rsquos Mad Men. For years, fans speculated that Draper would turn out to be D.B. Cooper, a theory that never came to fruition.

It&rsquos unclear whether the FBI will reopen the case based on Sherwood&rsquos analysis of letters they&rsquove had for over four decades. Back in 2016, upon announcing the end of their investigation, the agency would only commit to reviewing new evidence related to the four parachutes and the money that disappeared along with the mysterious hijacker. But as far as Colbert is concerned, this cold case is officially closed.

&ldquoWe now have him saying, &lsquoI am Cooper,&rsquo&rdquo Colbert told Seattle PI. &ldquoRackstraw is a narcissistic sociopath who never thought he would be caught. He was trying to prove that he was smarter than anyone else. But he couldn&rsquot fight 1500 years of brainpower on our team. We beat him. I didn&rsquot expect it, but it&rsquos the icing.&rdquo

UPDATE: This article has been updated to include a response from the FBI.


A murder, explosives and forgery

According to Colbert, Rackstraw served seven years in the Army, earning medals in Vietnam before he was forced out in 1971 due to misconduct.

He was a helicopter pilot trained in parachute drops and psychological operations. That background did not place Rackstraw onto the FBI’s list.

Ed Cooper parachuting at Apache Junction, circa 1965. (Photo: Courtesy of Tom Colbert)

But in 1975, somebody broke into an armory at Rackstraw’s former military base in California and stole explosives. FBI agents reportedly viewed the former soldier as a person of interest. No arrest was made.

In 1977, Rackstraw’s stepfather disappeared in Stockton, California. Arrest warrants were issued alleging Rackstraw forged the missing man’s name on checks. Separate charges were filed for shipping explosives to a fellow Vietnam veteran.

While awaiting trial, Rackstraw vanished.

Two Stockton detectives realized he not only resembled FBI sketches of D.B. Cooper, but had a skill set for skyjacking. They tipped off an FBI agent. A file was opened.

In 1978, the fugitive was traced to Iran, where he was training pilots for the shah. Just as Rackstraw was returned to the United States, his stepfather’s body was uncovered from a shallow grave, two bullets to the head.

Rackstraw testified during his murder trial, “I didn’t kill my father, but I swear to God that I’ll find out who did …”

He was acquitted, but faced other charges when he disappeared again. This time, while flying a rental plane over Monterey Bay, Rackstraw issued a mayday call and announced he was ditching the aircraft. No wreckage or body was found.

Rackstraw was rearrested a few months later. Media reported the captured fugitive might be linked to the 1971 skyjacking.

And this is where an Arizona connection emerges.


DB Cooper identified? Publisher says mystery hijacker was ex-paratrooper from Michigan

More than 45 years after a mysterious plane hijacker made off with $200,000 in ransom money, disappearing into the night sky, a publishing company believes it has finally identified the man who eluded authorities for so long.

At a news conference on Thursday, Michigan publisher Principia Media said the hijacker, known as D.B. Cooper, was former military paratrooper and intelligence operative Walter R. Reca. The company said it worked with Reca's best friend, Carl Laurin, in compiling the evidence.

While the publisher did not disclose whether Reca was still alive, an obituary online lists a man with the identical name who lived in Oscada, Mich., as having died in 2014 at the age of 80.

An FBI sketch of D.B. Cooper and Walter Reca during a rare visit home in 1984 during his clandestine years working in the Middle East. (FBI/Photo courtesy of Principia Media)

"Evidence, including almost-daily discussions over a 14-year period and 3+ hours of audio recordings featuring the skyjacker, was compiled by Reca’s best friend. It was then analyzed by a Certified Fraud Examiner and forensic linguist," the publisher said in a news release. "The audio recordings, created in 2008, include Reca discussing skyjacking details that were not known to the public prior to the FBI’s information release in 2015."

The publishing company worked with Laurin for the memoir "D.B. Cooper & Me: A Criminal, A Spy, My Best Friend.”

Vern Jones, CEO of Principia, talked about recordings that Laurin claimed were actual recordings of Reca speaking about the heist. Jones, a self-proclaimed skeptic at the start of the investigation, said that the evidence was “overwhelming.”

"D.B. Cooper &amp Me: A Criminal, A Spy, My Best Friend", which claims Cooper was actually Walter "Walt" Reca from Michigan.

“We listened in Walter’s own words. We heard him talk about his motivations for the hijacking. (He) talked about the jump itself, what happened in the plane. Where he landed. How he got home -- and most importantly, why he wasn’t caught.”

Jones played one of the audio clips that described how Reca supposedly snuck the ransom note on the plane.

“Now where did you carry your note?” Laurin can be heard asking. “The inside pockets of the suit,” Reca replied. Laurin then asks what the note was about, to which Reca abruptly replies “I can’t remember right there, this is a hijack and I’ve got explosives.”

Water Reca as seen in Detroit in the mid-1970s. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Story.)

The rest of the audio clip describes the moments inside the plane when Reca was preparing to jump.

In addition to the tapes, Jones said they reviewed letters, official documents, photos and even a typed confession, all of which seem to corroborate Laurin’s theory that “Walter Reca is the real D.B. Cooper.”

Jones also seemed to hint that the discrepancies between Principia’s investigation and the FBI’s investigation might not have been accidental. “The hijacking,” he said “was just the beginning of the story.”

D.B. Cooper mystery solved?

A group of cold case detectives in the Pacific Northwest have allegedly discovered D.B. Cooper's parachute strap and possible location of the missing money

He detailed a supposed meeting between Reca and “two men in hard hats” two months after the heist where he was asked by these two unknown men if he was prepared to go to “prison.” Reca was reportedly hired by them, though it is unclear if the two men Jones talked about were FBI agents.

Laurin himself spoke at the press conference and described Reca as a daredevil “who always wanted to be in the CIA.”

“I always got the feeling that when he jumped with our team, the Michigan parachute team, it was a means of survival, not really for the thrill,” Laurin said. “He was looking for something far beyond that.”

A flier for a Michigan Parachute Team event. The MPC was a group of young men who performed daredevil parachuting stunts. (Photo courtesy of Principia Media.)

Laurin said he always suspected Reca was D.B. Cooper.

A photo of the Michigan Parachute Team reunion in 2000. Bottom row (L to R): Carl Laurin, Walt Reca, Willard Top row (L to R): Hank Lussier, Bill Parker, Mike Lussier and Art Lussier. (Photo courtesy of Principia Media)

In 1971, on the night before Thanksgiving, a man calling himself Dan Cooper, wearing a black tie and a suit, boarded a Seattle-bound Boeing 727 in Oregon and told a flight attendant he had a bomb in a briefcase. He gave her a note demanding money. After the plane landed, he released the 36 passengers in exchange for $200,000 in ransom and parachutes. The ransom was paid in $20 bills.

The hijacker then ordered the plane to fly to Mexico, but near the Washington-Oregon border he jumped and was never seen or heard from again.

After the skyjacking, Reca later became a high-level covert intelligence operative, according to the publishing company.

Reca possessed skills to survive jumping out of the plane because he was on the Michigan Parachute Team, according to the publisher. He attended the team reunion in 2000 and was pictured in a photo released by the publisher.

Despite the claims of the publishing company, the FBI has never ruled out the possibility that the hijacker was killed in the jump -- which took place during a rainstorm at night, over rough, wooded terrain. The hijacker's clothing and footwear were also unsuitable for a rough landing.

Over the years the most lasting image of Cooper, who became somewhat of a legend, may be the two sketches the FBI released of the suspect.

Many investigators have come forward with their theories for who the infamous hijacker may be. Earlier this year, the leader of the private investigative team who has spent years trying to crack the D.B. Cooper hijacking case claimed he believes the mysterious criminal was a CIA operative whose identity has been covered up by federal agents.

Thomas Colbert, a documentary filmmaker who helped put together the 40-member team, said in January his team made the connection from work a code breaker uncovered in each of five letters allegedly sent by Cooper.

Since last January, the FBI has released more than 3,000 documents to Colbert's team investigating the hijacking. The FBI said in court papers that it has more than 71,000 documents that may be responsive to Colbert’s lawsuit.

Fox News' Ryan Gaydos and Robert Gearty contributed to this report.


Time-Line: How Sleuths Exposed D.B. Cooper and his FBI Cover-Up

When a former FBI leader declared a cold case team’s hijacking evidence against Robert W. Rackstraw to be “a tremendouscircumstantial case,” alarm bells went off on HQ’s 7th floor. Senior execs for the Comey Administration canceled a 5-year alliance with the private sleuths, scrapped a 2016 meeting to accept their forensic materials (including DNA) and shipped off the unsolved case to a locked archive.

The dogged team, ironically led by retired special agents, then sued their former bureau in federal court and won access to all the 1971 Cooper file secrets. They soon learned how 3 partners helped the skyjacker escape, where the parachute was buried, and why the FBI shielded the mysterious Rackstraw for decades.

The stunning revelations in the investigation’s final two years unfold in these time-lined releases (Click on bullets for more evidentiary details):

MOVIE MAKERS, TRUE-CRIME READERS & “COOPERITES”: 2021 UPDATE

Court-released FBI records, along with supporting documents from retired military-intel commanders, collectively conclude the missing ’71 hijacker was Robert W. Rackstraw Sr. (R.I.P., 7/9/19).

After we closed our investigation at a 2018 news conference outside FBI Headquarters, the race was on for the story rights. As one senior WME agent put it to my manager, Michael B. London: “We know Tom solved it.”

Hollywood, however, went directly to Rackstraw. Sources tell us he was given a private jet-ride in for a confidential meet-and-greet with leading producers, studios and streamers. I fortunately was prepared for this end-run, thanks to our cold case team.

Rackstraw’s negotiations fizzled because: 1) he was the polar opposite of the folk hero many imagined 2) our new case details and evidence have all been copyrighted, including the decryption of Army-coded Cooper messages and his CIA history and 3) when he traded an FBI prison cell for years of flying black ops missions, fed officials warned the pilot he’d be re-incarcerated if he ever went public. It was the fear of that secret “John Doe indictment” that ultimately kept him from signing a Cooper rights deal.

Our surveillance team first heard his fear in 2013 that’s why we’re grateful to the hundreds of sources (including relatives) who helped us document Rackstraw’s breathtaking life narrative – featuring 22 fake identities, six careers, three families and multiple mistresses in five countries.

The team’s award-winning book, THE LAST MASTER OUTLAW, is now being produced by a premium streamer for a 5-part documentary series in 2022. And we couldn’t be more honored. TJC

FYI: To see our other story discoveries that have reached the big and small screens, please visit IndustryRandD.com for those in development, see TJCConsulting.biz.

SKEPTICS OF THE CODE DECRYPTIONS

If you believe it is all bogus:

How did Rackstraw’s encrypted name, initials and every one of his military training schools and units — including two units that were top secret until the 1980s — get into the six 1971-72 letters?

Are the conclusions from three neutral experts (former FBI and military brass) also bogus? Is the 1950 Army interpretive code book (link at bottom) that they all relied on a sham?

If so, how do you explain the related interpretive code, used by WWII Navajo “code-talkers,” that fooled Japanese soldiers throughout the war?

If you believe Rackstraw wrote the letter coding but IS NOT the fugitive:

In Letter #5, how did the typing writer know the three confidential pieces of Cooper case evidence (“I left no fingerprints… I wore a toupee… I wore putty make-up”)? Old FBI memos show only the Bureau, a few sworn-to-secrecy passengers and the hijacker himself had this knowledge in 1971.

Two world-renowned forensic document experts separately compared D.B. Cooper’s hand-printed Letter #2 to the handwritten signature on the “Dan Cooper” airline boarding pass. Why, years apart, did they both declare there “are indications they were written by one person”?

Finally, a college student who sat directly across from Cooper rejected hundreds of mugshots brought to him by federal agents. But when a career lawman from our team presented six black & white photos from that period to this witness in 2015, he pointed right at Rackstraw. Was it because of the nine points of match to the FBI’s “Sketch B” that this student in fact helped an artist create?

Coding History

Before algorithms, apps and Apple, there was interpretive code — unique masked messaging created by young soldiers sharing the sleepless nights, putrid smells and guttural screams of hell on earth.

“Project Left Bank” was one of the most classified and valuable intelligence-gathering operations in the Vietnam War (More details at the 7/2/18 Stockton Record article in “Latest News” section). Like other military units in history, its veterans developed a private code-speak that only their particular group of brothers in 1969-70 could understand. Along with pilots like Rackstraw, radioing in from above.


Watch the video: The Mystery of DB Cooper: The Amazing Story of a $200,000 Skyjacking (July 2022).


Comments:

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  3. Javiero

    Yes indeed. It was with me too.



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