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Infamous Highjacker D.B. Cooper May Have Finally Been Identified

NY Daily News

In November 1971, one man was all anyone could talk about. The story of D.B. Cooper was one that no one seemed to be able to get off of their minds.

A man calling himself "Don Cooper" boarded a plane to Seattle, hijacked the flight midair by claiming he was holding onto explosives, and demanded a $200,000 ransom and a parachute.  

The plane landed, he was given the money and parachute, and he forced the plane to take off again, jumping out when it reached 10,000 feet.

It was somewhere between Seattle and Reno, but he was never found. It was the only successful "air piracy" case in all of history.

The case was a dead end for decades. The FBI investigated over 1000 "serious suspects" but never were able to find the culprit. It has been one of the country's most fascinating unsolved mysteries, but after nearly 50 years, agents have found evidence that seems to uncover the truth.

NY Daily News

The case was officially closed in 2016, even though it didn't have a resolution, but now one of the investigators is claiming that they know who did it.

Thomas Colbert was a part of team of 40 investigators who searched for Cooper even after the FBI closed their case. Colbert believed that the FBI was actually trying to cover up who the real suspect was.

Colbert had to sue to get access to the D.B. Cooper files, but once he did, he discovered a letter that seemed to have been ignored. After having the letter decoded, Colbert discovered that there was a confession right in it.

“No one even knew about this letter,” Colbert said in an interview with the Daily News. “When I got it, I noticed it was typed just like (a different Cooper letter), so I called a code breaker and showed it to him. He said, ‘Tom, you’re not going to believe it, but his confession is in here.'"

DB Cooper Letter
Courtesy Thomas J. Colbert

In the letter, they claim it says that D.B. Cooper is actually Robert Rackstraw, a 73-year-old veteran living in San Diego. Rich Sherwood was responsible for decoding the message, and he is convinced that it is Rackstraw.

“I read it two or three times and said, ‘This is Rackstraw, this is what he does,’” Sherwood said. “I 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,”

Sherwood and Rackstraw served together in two classified army units, and using a code that would have only been known to those soldiers, he was able to figure out that the sentence that said "I want out of the system and saw a way through good ole Unk," could be translated to "I want out of the system and saw a way by skyjacking a jet plane."

DB Cooper
AP/Courtesy Thomas J. Colbert

Using a series of numbers and letters, the second sentence was even more revealing. It originally said "And please tell the lackey cops D.B. Cooper is not my real name," which was decoded to mean, "I am 1st Lt. Robert Rackstraw, D.B. Cooper is not my real name."

Rackstraw was actually one of the original suspects in the case, because of his history as a Special Forces paratrooper, explosives expert, and pilot. He was eliminated as a person of interest back in 1979, but there is no word on whether or not this evidence could lead to the reopening of the case.

Even though the FBI hasn't said anything about the case being reopened, Colbert feels relieved to have cracked the case.

“We now have him saying, ‘I am Cooper.' Rackstraw 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’t fight 1500 years of brainpower on our team. We beat him. I didn’t expect it, but it’s the icing.”

While this is all very serious legal business, a couple of actors have been having a little fun with the news. In response to the Rolling Stone article, Brooklyn Nine Nine actor Marc Evan Jackson called out Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D actor Clark Gregg.

Jackson tweeted first, with the link, and the note "Say Clark Gregg," and later added a side by side comparison of the two, and honestly it's not that far off.

However, most people agree that he's only saying this because he also looks exactly like the sketch. Even Clark Gregg agrees, saying "Which is exactly what the real DB Cooper would say."

While it's frustrating to know that there is potentially a person out there getting away with these crimes, it's kind of funny knowing that his lookalikes have found a way to have some fun with it.

Do you think that these code breakers figured it out? Or is the real DB Cooper still a mystery?

Ever since they started releasing the letters DB Cooper wrote, interest has once again been on the rise.

But as of now, it remains one of the most shocking unsolved crimes across America.

Source - Rolling Stone / NY Daily News

Tanya has been writing for Shared for two years. She spends too much time thinking about dogs, Marvel movies, and ice cream. You can reach me at tanya@shared.com