EVER DREAM THIS MAN?
Shows like “The Walking Dead” would be perfect to watch and well the Seahawks won’t be playing for another 50 days or so. One of my other shows that I loved and hated at the same time was “Mad Men.” I started watching it and it was interesting at first, but the main character Don Draper started getting on my nerves. His arrogance and infidelity even when he had a hot French wife for some reason turned me off.
Then there were there were the rumors about who Don Draper really was. The time the final season of the show aired, the internet was a buzz that Don Draper would eventually leave New York and drive to The Northwest and become the infamous D.B. Cooper.
In fact the last episode had the character leaving New York, going to California and then Utah and eventually to a hippie commune somewhere in the Northwest.
But, unfortunately he did not become the famous hijacker.
Too bad, because I have been thrust into the D.B. Cooper investigation, and it is all because of dumb luck and an association from long ago.
On the eve of Thanksgiving nearly 45 years ago, a man calling himself D.B Cooper or Dan Cooper jumped from a Northwest Orient Airlines Boeing 727 and became a legend.
It was Nov. 24, 1971, when Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305 was scheduled for a 30-minute hop from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle. A man dressed in a suit and carrying a briefcase bought a one-way ticket at the counter under the name Dan Cooper.
He took a seat near the back of the plane. There were 36 other passengers on board the 727 and after it was airborne, Cooper handed a flight attendant named Florence Schaffner a note which she initially ignored, thinking the man was making a pass at her.
He leaned forward and whispered to her and whispered, “Miss, you’d better look at that note. I have a bomb.” He then sternly told her to sit next to him. She asked to see the bomb and he opened his briefcase to expose wires and red sticks resembling dynamite.
He then demanded $200,000 in unmarked $20 bills and four parachutes.
The plane circled Sea-Tac Airport for two hours as FBI and Seattle police worked to secure the money and parachutes.
The plane landed on a remote runway and once the ransom money and parachutes were delivered, the other passengers were released. The pilot, first officer and one attendant were kept on the plane.
According to the FBI, Cooper then demanded to be flown to Mexico. However, he also ordered that the plane be flown with the landing gear down, the flaps at 15 percent, a speed of no more than 200 mph and an altitude no higher than 10,000 feet.
The crew on the flight was unanimous; this man knew what he was doing. He knew enough about flight procedures and protocols.
The mystery of what happened between Seattle and Reno on that night in 1971 has been the source of thousands of tips to the FBI, the subject of books and movies, the inspiration for copy cats, and the subject of untold hours of speculation by amateur investigators who would love nothing more than to be the one who unlocks one of the country’s great unsolved mysteries.
That includes Seattle lawyer Galen Cook, who is convinced that he is on the trail of the man that has been kept form the public eye and has a very good chance of being D.B. Cooper.
The strangest thing of all is that suspect was an old friend of mine.
The D.B. Cooper case for me has always been one of those mysteries that sat on the back shelf. It was always one of those stories that lost its flavor after many years of dead ends and people who could just out of the blue claim that they are D.B. Cooper or have a friend of a friend that is the infamous Hijacker. No one can imagine the shock that you get when you find out that one of your old friends, one of your mentors is named as a suspect in the case.
I know it certainly is a remarkable claim to make, and people all ask me why I haven’t written a book or have called attention to it, but since Cook’s revelation I have been keeping up with the case and am still trying to come to grips that Galen Cook says that a friend of mine, Wolfgang Gossett an associate that taught me how to do what I do now, was one of the most legendary criminals in the United States.
I guess I could say that I will leave it up to the investigators and the F.B.I. to determine whether that Gossett, was indeed D.B. Cooper.
Galen Cook is convinced letters sent to the Reno newspapers a few days after the incident hold the clues to the question everyone wants answered. Galen Cook and myself have also conducted private investigations, some of them with Ground Zero listeners to try and piece together some of the evidence and DNA samples that were left on the plane and compare them to hair and other DNA left behind by Gossett who died in Depoe Bay, Oregon in 2003.
About, five days after the hijacking, a letter arrived at Reno Newspapers editor’s desk of the morning Nevada State Journal and afternoon Reno Evening Gazette.
The letters were postmarked “Oakdale, California.”
The letter was sent in what can be called the typical cut-out and pasted words from magazines “Attention! Thanks for Hospitality, was in a Rut. D.B. Cooper.”
The Reno Evening Gazette published the letter on its front page that evening. They had the scoop and the FBI did not even know that the letters existed.
Four days later, on Dec. 2, another letter arrived with similar cut-out magazine clippings that spelled out “Plan ahead for Retirement income. D.B. Cooper.”
Cook is convinced the Reno letters along with letters to newspapers in Vancouver, British Columbia and Portland, Oregon were written by the hijacker, who wanted to taunt the FBI.
Cook said the first letter to the Gazette, postmarked Oakdale, was near where his suspect, William Gossett, lived. The second Reno letter carried a Sacramento post mark.
Cook started investigating Gossett as a suspect in 2008. In his records, Cook also has Gossett’s 1978 marriage proposal to his fifth wife. The letter was written on “MGM Grand Reno” stationary.
Since Cook’s revelation in 2008, I have been thrust into the yearly ritual of doing investigations into the case with what little time I have had. In fact, in 2008 I was still recovering from my second cancer surgery when I was part of an investigation team that was headed up by former F.B.I investigator Richard Tosaw. The team, along with a few Ground Zero listeners, arrived in Vancouver, Washington with Galen Cook to look over maps and carry out a Columbia River expedition on the shores of a beach called Tena Bar.
In February of 1980, 8 year-old Brian Ingram was digging a fire pit on the beach and found $5,800 dollars of badly deteriorated cash buried in the sand. The serial numbers matched the numbers on the bills that Cooper had with him when he parachuted over Battle Ground, Washington.
The evidence of the money being found just downstream from Vancouver counters the F.B.I.’s claims that Cooper landed near Ariel, Washington, some 30 miles northeast of the area where the money was found.
Since I have been to these areas with Cook and other law enforcement teams, I made my own conclusions as to where D.B. Cooper may have landed – if he survived. While at Tena Bar, I was told that the topography of the area was different at the time of Cooper’s jump into history and that the Columbia River narrowed near Tena Bar.
On the west side of the Columbia is an area near the Port of Portland called St. Johns, Oregon. The area is not as a rugged as the Ariel area and it is possible that Cooper (Gossett), a trained paratrooper in the military, bailed out of the Northwest Orient Airlines jet, deployed his parachute in a winter storm and, with the strong gorge winds blowing out of the east, was blown west towards Oregon and landed near Tena Bar in the narrowed Columbia River.
He then ditched some of the money and the parachute on the shore. He was then able to go to St. Johns, obtain a ride out of the area and disappear into history.
Galen Cook revealed that a 2-3 foot diameter “pilot” chute was discovered near Tena Bar in 1988, just one mile upstream from the money find. The chute was found by Richard Towsaw’s team and it was also revealed that fishermen in the area had found shredded $20 dollar bills upstream from the Ingram find at Tena Bar.
Bruce Smith who is columnist for the Mountain News in Washington State informed me that Earl Cossey the parachute rigger for D.B. Cooper was found murdered on April 26, 2013. Cossey packed the chutes for Cooper used in his famous getaway in 1971.
Earl Cossey’s daughter discovered her father’s body lying on the garage floor of his Woodinville, Washington home. The King County Sheriff’s Office reported that Cossey was killed by blunt force trauma to the head.
FBI documents reveal that Earl Cossey was a significant figure in the Norjak (Code name for “Northwest Hijack”) investigation, especially in the early days, and frequently advised agents on the particulars of the parachutes and DB Cooper’s skills. In effect, Cossey was the FBI’s technical expert for Norjak.
Now this opens up a new door in the case.
Did Earl Cossey want to speak up about other details he knew about the case and was murdered before he could reveal them?
The King County Sherriff’s department later declared the case an unsolved burglary and murder. A “good Samaritan” later mailed Earl Cossey’s driver’s license and credit cards to his house.
Police asked for this “good Samaritan” to come forward. The investigation drew no connections to the D.B. Cooper mystery.
Every year, usually the Saturday after Thanksgiving I travel to the old store in Ariel, Washington where people gather together for “D.B. Cooper days.” I am always around to hear stories from old timers who were there, and from people who tell outrageous stories including a man who told me that his mother was D.B. Cooper. It was some strange transgender story. When I acted as though I was disinterested the guy threatened to punch me in the face.
I also ran into a guy that had the original note book that was carried by the deputy Sherriff that did the initial investigation. I read through the description notes of the suspect and there was a section that said “Suspect possibly Hispanic?”
Well, I would believe that more than some outrageous claim about a D.B. LGBT Cooper.
However anymore, nothing would surprise me.