Cooper Mystery Appears Cracked; California Man Suspected

HOLLYWOOD REPORTER; By Ryan Parker; Thursday, August 8, 2018;

CBS News says the “fascinating” connection came from code-breaking

It was one of the most mysterious unsolved crimes ever committed, becoming a cultural phenomenon and spawning books, films and numerous mentions in TV shows — and an Army veteran may have just made a significant crack in the case.

In 1971, a well-dressed man hijacked a Seattle-bound flight and proceeded to parachute out of the airplane with a ransom totaling $200,000. He was never seen again. The suspect became known as D.B. Cooper.

The mystery has inspired such works as 1981’s The Pursuit of D. B. Cooper, starring Robert Duvall, as well as a character on Twin Peaks being named after Cooper, among multiple other nods and plot lines in assorted shows.

Now, a retired construction worker and Army veteran who specialized in code-breaking believes he may have made a break in the case, which has been dormant with authorities for years, according to CBS News.

“I never in my wildest dreams would have thought I’d use Morse code, or any kind of code-breaking again,” said Rick Sherwood, who served in three top-secret tours in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

Sherman was asked for help by Thomas J. Colbert, an award-winning California author and TV producer who has been investigating the mystery for years with a cold case team, led by former FBI agents.

Colbert has long suspected the daredevil is Robert W. Rackstraw Sr., now 74, a retired University of California law department head who served in Sherwood’s unit. Colbert and his former Indiana analyst believe Rackstraw has been linked to Cooper through letters and other “remarkable” evidence, CBS News reports.

The FBI won’t comment about the private investigation.

FYI: A senior partner at William Morris Endeavor, however, recently told Colbert’s manager, Beverly Hills-based Michael B. London, that “we know Tom solved it.” More on case at


Court-released FBI records, along with supporting documents from retired military-intel commanders, collectively conclude the missing ’71 hijacker was Robert W. Rackstraw Sr. (R.I.P., 7/9/19).

After we closed our investigation at a 2018 news conference outside FBI Headquarters, the race was on for the story rights. As one senior WME agent put it to my manager, Michael B. London: “We know Tom solved it.”

Hollywood, however, went directly to Rackstraw. Sources tell us he was given a private jet-ride in for a confidential meet-and-greet with leading producers, studios and streamers. I fortunately was fully prepared for this end-run, thanks to our cold case team.

Rackstraw’s negotiations fizzled because: 1) he was the polar opposite of the folk hero many imagined; 2) our new case details and evidence have been copyrighted – including his Vietnam missions, the hijack getaway with partners, the Cooper money river ruse, the parachute recovery, the decrypting of Army-coded Cooper messages and his CIA history; finally, 3) when he traded an FBI prison cell for years of black ops work, fed officials warned the contractor he’d be re-incarcerated if he ever went public. It was the fear of that secret “John Doe indictment” that ultimately kept him from signing a Cooper deal.

Our surveillance team first heard his fear in 2013; that’s why we’re grateful to the hundreds (including relatives) who helped us document Rackstraw’s breathtaking life narrative – featuring 22 fake identities, six careers, three families and multiple mistresses in five countries.

Now with three national book awards for true crime, THE LAST MASTER OUTLAW holds the ripcord to one of the world’s greatest adventures never told. And we couldn’t be more honored. TJC