D. B. Cooper


D. B. Cooper : biography

In their 1991 book, D.B. Cooper: The Real McCoy,Univ. of Utah Press (October 1991); ISBN 978-0-87480-377-8 parole officer Bernie Rhodes and former FBI agent Russell Calame asserted that they had identified McCoy as D.B. Cooper. They cited obvious similarities in the two hijackings, claims by McCoy’s family that the tie and mother-of-pearl tie clip left on the plane belonged to McCoy, and McCoy’s own refusal to admit or deny that he was Cooper. A principal proponent of their theory was the FBI agent who killed McCoy. "When I shot Richard McCoy," he said, "I shot D. B. Cooper at the same time."

While there is no reasonable doubt that McCoy committed the Denver hijacking, the FBI does not consider him a suspect in the Cooper case due to significant mismatches in his age (29) and description; a level of skydiving skill well above that thought to be possessed by the hijacker; and credible evidence that McCoy was in Las Vegas on the day of the Seattle hijacking, and at home in Utah the day after, having Thanksgiving dinner with his family.

Duane Weber

Duane L. Weber was a World War II Army veteran who served time in at least six prisons from 1945 to 1968 for burglary and forgery. He was proposed as a suspect by his widow, based primarily on a deathbed confession: Three days before he died in 1995, Weber told his wife, "I am Dan Cooper." The name meant nothing to her, she said; but months later, a friend told her of its significance in the hijacking. She went to her local library to research D.B. Cooper, found Max Gunther’s book, and discovered notations in the margins in her husband’s handwriting.

She then recalled, in retrospect, that Weber once had a nightmare during which he talked in his sleep about jumping from a plane, leaving his fingerprints on the "aft stairs". He also reportedly told her that an old knee injury had been incurred by "jumping out of a plane". Like the hijacker, Weber drank bourbon and chain smoked. Other circumstantial evidence included a 1979 trip to Seattle and the Columbia River, during which Weber took a walk alone along the river bank in the Tina Bar area; four months later Brian Ingram made his ransom cash discovery in the same area.

The FBI eliminated Weber as an active suspect in July 1998 when his fingerprints did not match any of those processed in the hijacked plane, and no other direct evidence could be found to implicate him. Later, his DNA also failed to match the samples recovered from Cooper’s tie, though the Bureau has since conceded that they cannot be certain that the organic material on the tie came from Cooper.

John List

John Emil List was an accountant and World War II and Korea veteran who murdered his wife, three teenaged children, and 85-year-old mother in Westfield, New Jersey fifteen days before the Cooper hijacking, withdrew $200,000 from his mother’s bank account, and disappeared. He came to the attention of the Cooper task force due to the timing of his disappearance, multiple matches to the hijacker’s description, and the reasoning that "a fugitive accused of mass murder has nothing to lose." After his capture in 1989, List admitted to murdering his family, but denied any involvement in the Cooper hijacking. While his name continues to crop up in Cooper articles and documentaries, no direct evidence implicates him, and the FBI no longer considers him a suspect. He died in prison in 2008.

Barbara Dayton

Dayton was a recreational pilot and University of Washington librarian. Born a male and named Bobby, he served in the Merchant Marine in 1926 and then the Army during World War II. After his discharge he worked with explosives in the construction industry. Later he became a private pilot and aspired to fly professionally, but could not obtain a commercial pilot’s license.

In 1969 he underwent gender reassignment surgery and became Barbara. Two years later, she said, she staged the Cooper hijacking, disguised as a man, to "get back" at the airline industry and the FAA, whose insurmountable rules and conditions had prevented her from becoming an airline pilot. She said she hid the ransom money in a cistern near her landing point in Woodburn, Oregon (a suburban area south of Portland). Eventually she recanted her entire story, ostensibly after learning that she could still be charged with the hijacking. The FBI has never commented publicly on Dayton, who died in 2002.