Who Is DB Cooper–for real?

Today is the 46th anniversary of the notorious DB Cooper hijacking. But who was DB Cooper–for real?

My first DB Cooper blog post revealed that DB Cooper was the name given to the only individual whose hijacking of a U.S. jetliner was never solved. 

According to a Wikipedia article, the FBI investigated many suspects, including individuals who tried to con people into believing they were the real DB Cooper. Amateur investigators zeroed in on several potential perpetrators, all leads that the FBI pursued in detail before concluding none were the actual hijacker. Numerous “copycats” hijacked airliners using means similar to DB Cooper, but they were all caught, and the FBI determined none of those imitators had also successfully hijacked the  infamous Northwest Orient 727 flight from Portland to Seattle. My favorite among these was Robb Dolin Heady. According to Wikipedia, Heady “stormed a United Airlines 727 in Reno in early June, extorted $200,000 and two parachutes, and jumped into darkness near Washoe Lake, about 25 miles (40 km) south of Reno. Police found Heady’s car (sporting a United States Parachute Association bumper sticker) parked near the lake and arrested him as he returned to it the next morning.”

About a year after the original hijacking, a pair of con men bilked Karl Fleming, editor-in-chief of a Los Angeles tabloid, LA Weekly, out of $30,000. One of the men, 49-year-old Donald Sylvester Murphy of Bremerton, Washington, convinced Fleming that he was the real DB Cooper. Fleming spent hours recording interviews with the fake Cooper and ran a series of three front-page articles entitled “The DB Cooper Story–the Skyjacker Who Got Away with It.” The FBI determined that Fleming had been suckered by the two twenty-dollar bills the con men provided as “proof” of their authenticity. True, the serial numbers on the twenty-dollar bills matched those of the ransom money, but the men had doctored the money to make it appear that way.

Although the FBI officially closed the DB Cooper case in 2016, various amateur detectives have continued the quest for the hijacker’s true identity. One cold case team with numerous ex-law enforcement individuals, led by Tom Colbert, believes it has  figured out who Cooper actually is–a man named Robert W. Rackstraw, Sr. Within the past couple of months, two former FBI agents who worked on the DB Cooper case have expressed a belief that the FBI should follow up on the Colbert team’s evidence.

So who’s the real DB Cooper? Well, I’m not going to make any claims to authenticity, but my current work in progress, Cooper’s Loot, will provide what I hope to be an entertaining fictionalized account.

One finding that is real–some of the stolen loot actually did get found, almost nine years after the hijacking. More about that will come in next week’s post.


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