The FBI announced on Tuesday it is no longer investigating the long-time mystery of the skyjacker known as D.B. Cooper, nearly 45 years after he vanished out the back of a Boeing 727 into a freezing Northwest rain wearing a business suit, a parachute and a pack with $200,000 in cash.
Calling the investigation one of the longest and most exhaustive in the agency's history, the FBI Seattle field office said in an email it was time to focus on other cases. The agency said it will preserve evidence from the case at its Washington, D.C., headquarters, but it doesn't want further tips on the topic unless people find parachutes or Cooper's money.
"The mystery surrounding the hijacking of a Northwest Orient Airlines flight in November 1971 by a still-unknown individual resulted in significant international attention and a decades-long manhunt," the FBI said. "Although the FBI appreciated the immense number of tips provided by members of the public, none to date have resulted in a definitive identification of the hijacker."
The story goes, that on Nov. 24, 1971, a man described as being in his mid-40s with dark sunglasses and an olive complexion boarded a flight from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. He bought his $20 ticket under the name "Dan Cooper," but an early wire-service report misidentified him as "D.B. Cooper," and the name stuck.
Sitting in the rear of the plane, he handed a note to a flight attendant after takeoff. "Miss, I have a bomb and would like you to sit by me," it said.
He opened his briefcase, displaying a couple of red cylinders, wires and a battery, and demanded $200,000 in cash plus four parachutes. His demands were granted at Sea-Tac, where he released the 36 passengers and two of the flight attendants. The plane took off again at his direction, heading slowly to Reno, Nevada, at the low height of 10,000 feet. Somewhere, apparently over southwestern Washington, Cooper lowered the aircraft's rear stairs and jumped.
He was never found, but a boy digging on a Columbia River beach in 1980 discovered three bundles of weathered $20 bills — nearly $6,000 in all. It was Cooper's cash, according to the serial numbers.
Over the years, the FBI and amateur sleuths have examined innumerable theories about Cooper's identity and fate, from accounts of unexplained wealth to purported discoveries of his parachute to potential matches of the agency's composite sketch of the suspect.
The 40th anniversary of the case in 2011 brought a wave of attention. A book that year, Skyjack: The Hunt for D. B. Cooper by Geoffrey Gray, posited several theories, including that Cooper might have been a transgender mechanic from Washington state.
More recently, a woman by the name of Lisa Lepsy came forward to claim that DB Cooper may have actually been her father, a grocery store manager who had gone missing at around the same time that the hijacking had taken place.
She made the connection after recognizing him in a news report about the incident.
"When the composite sketch of DB Cooper came on the TV screen, everyone looked at each other and said, 'That's dad!'" she said. "We were stunned because the resemblance was unbelievable, and my brothers and I were all sure that was our dad." This identification is only one of hundreds submitted for investigation.
Much still remains unexplained about the case...even though the FBI is no longer investigating, amateur sleuths will continue to search for the truth.
Skyjack: The Hunt for D. B. Cooper
History's Greatest Mysteries: The Unsolved Case of D.B. Cooper
Into the Blast: The True Story of D.B. Cooper, Revised Edition
The Case of D.B. Cooper's Parachute
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