Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Curse of D.B. Cooper

The fix is in. Over four decades, agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have spent tens of thousands of hours and countless resources in trying to chase down D.B. Cooper, but no matter how close they have come to the elusive skyjacker, they have always come up short. The basic facts are well known. On a stormy late November night in 1971, a man—with a ticket purchased under the presumed alias "Dan Cooper," reported inaccurately at the time as "D.B. Cooper"—boarded a plane in Portland, Ore., headed for Seattle. He hijacked the flight, forced the plane to land and demanded parachutes and $200,000 in cash as ransom for the passengers. Once in the air again, he strapped the cash to his waist, opened the plane's rear stairs and parachuted away into the remote forests of the Pacific Northwest—never to be seen again. The reason that Cooper has never been caught is not so much a lack of good evidence (though there's plenty of that) or missing evidence (some of that, too). It's something more mysterious and powerful: the Cooper Curse. Consider what's happened recently. Earlier this week, it was reported that the FBI had its most promising lead to date in the Cooper case. It came in the form of a guitar strap, passed along to them by a retired policeman who had received it from a woman named Marla Cooper. She told the FBI that she had overheard her late uncle, Lynn Doyle Cooper, confess to the hijacking when she was 8 years old. The FBI sent the old guitar strap that had belonged to Lynn Doyle Cooper to its lab in Quantico, Va., for testing. Agents hoped to retrieve fingerprints from the guitar strap. Alas, there were none. Even a good print from Uncle L.D. would have been hard to match to the crime. The FBI's forensic scientists have only been able to identify partial prints found on an in-flight magazine in 1971, and they aren't even sure that those came from Cooper himself. "Oh, it exists," former case agent Larry Carr told me about the Cooper Curse. After handling the Cooper file for three years, it was almost paranormal the way that all the good leads Mr. Carr had turned up dissolved into duds...more

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