End of Mystery?

Man believed to be notorious fugitive D.B. Cooper has died

FOX NEWS; By Louis Casiano & Johnathan Hunt; 7/10/19

Coast to Coast radio christened him the unsolved case’s “prime suspect.” Rolling Stone wrote he was the “most viable” hijack candidate. But the man who many thought was the legendary 1971 daredevil has just quietly died of natural causes.

Robert W. Rackstraw Sr. was found dead by his wife in their Banker’s Hill condominium on Tuesday, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. He was 75.

An Army veteran pilot, paratrooper and explosives expert who led a life of danger, Rackstraw was often a target for amateur “Cooperite” sleuths who suspected he was the legendary outlaw who jumped from a plane and vanished over Washington State with $200,000 in stolen cash.

He was featured in filmmaker Thomas J. Colbert’s 2016 History Channel documentary, “D.B. Cooper: Case Closed?” The exec producer and his cold case team, led by former FBI agents, concluded Rackstraw was their man. His life story and the seven-year hunt are also featured in the book The Last Master Outlaw, winner of three national awards for true crime.

Calling himself Dan Cooper and wearing a black tie and suit, the high-flying robber told a flight attendant he had a bomb in his briefcase, then gave her a note demanding the money and four parachutes.

Upon landing in Seattle, he traded 36 hostages in exchange for the hefty ransom and chutes. Cooper then ordered the plane to go to Mexico, but he jumped out around 8 p.m. – and vanished.

For a time in the late 1970s, the agency suspected Rackstraw of being the skyjacker but ruled him out because of his age. He was 28 at the time of the crime, while witness testimony said the jet suspect appeared to be 35 to 45.

Colbert’s volunteer team, however, point to his 1970 military photo (Above) that was discovered in a forgotten Pentagon archive. Independent experts declared it had “nine points of match” to this FBI “Sketch B” fugitive drawing. In 2012, the case agent quietly asked the private investigators for a copy.

In addition, a taunting letter-writer – claiming to be the escaped Cooper – wrote that he’d disguised himself with “putty make-up” and “a toupee.”

Rackstraw’s Army file shows he had Green Beret training in deception and disguise.

The FBI stamped this note as “evidence” and locked it away for 46 years – until the team got a copy through a judge.

Rackstraw was born in Ohio in 1943, dropped out of California high school in 1959 and joined the military in the 1960s, serving 15 months of it in Vietnam. The career officer was eventually kicked out in 1971 for serious misconduct — months, notably, before the hijacking.

In 1978, the veteran was acquitted of killing his stepfather, but then he faked his own “mayday” ocean crash in a rented airplane and disappeared.

He ultimately was recaptured and spent two years in California prison for passing bad checks, hording explosives and committing grand theft.

The agency stopped actively investigating the D.B. Cooper case in 2016.

“While I believe Rackstraw was Cooper, he was also a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather,” Colbert told the paper. “Our condolences to the family.” ##

FYI: Our cold case hunt wasn’t the stereotypical old guys chasing an old guy. It was a 40-member national task force of volunteers — from working millennials to retired 80-year-olds — with criminal justice, military, forensic, academic, legal and investigative backgrounds. The mission: to use their 1500 years of experience to reverse-engineer a legend, one dead end at a time. And sadly, the long road to the truth ended at the FBI’s doorstep. See “The Smoking Gun” link for the stunning details and evidence. TJC