DB Cooper Suspect Dies: The Life of Robert Rackstraw


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Alexa Secrest Contributor
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Robert Rackstraw, a longtime suspect in the D.B. Cooper hijacking case, passed away Tuesday morning.

Rackstraw suffered from a “long-standing heart condition,” and died at age 75 in his Bankers Hill condominium, the San Diego Union- Tribune reported

Under the pseudonym Dan Cooper, a suave man dressed in a suit and black tie hijacked a commercial Boeing 727 from Northwest Orient Airlines (NOA) at the Portland International Airport Nov. 24, 1971.

After calmly drinking a bourbon, Cooper slid a note to the flight attendant, revealing that he had a bomb in his black attaché case. Cooper requested four parachutes and $200,000 (the equivalent of almost $1.25 million today) from authorities.

Donald Nyrop, the President of NOA, complied with his demands, and Cooper was able to parachute with 10,000 unmarked $20 bills over the Washougal River in Washington State. He was never seen again. (RELATED : The Perfect Crime: After 45 Years, FBI No Longer Chasing DB Cooper) 

The FBI has acknowledged that Cooper may not have survived the jump, but no body has ever been recovered.

Although he was never formally charged, Rackstraw had been a longtime suspect in the case.

At the time of the original investigation, Rackstraw was considered by the FBI, but ultimately ruled out because he was only 28-years-old at the time. D.B. Cooper was described by flight attendants and passengers as between 35 to 45-years-old, Fox News reported.

In 2016, filmmaker Thomas Colbert released “D.B. Cooper: Case Closed?” which concluded that Rackstraw was indeed D.B. Cooper. 

Colbert, who spent over 10 years investigating the case, offered Rackstraw $20,000 for the rights to his story, but he refused to confirm his role in the hijacking.

“I told everybody I was (the hijacker),” Rackstraw said, before revealing that it was all a stunt. He asked to see Colbert’s check twice before saying : “The problem is, I don’t remember a lot of it,” the San Diego Union-Tribune reported

The DB Cooper hijacking remains the longest unsolved air piracy case in the history of the FBI, and continues to confuse and fascinate investigators and amateur sleuths alike. 

Regardless of his connections to the infamous cold case, Rackstraw lived an eventful, and often unlawful, life. 

Born in Ohio in 1943, Rackstraw served as a U.S. Army paratrooper, working as a pilot in pre-revolution Iran and completing a 15-month tour in Vietnam in 1970. Rackstraw was eventually dismissed for falsifying personal records and lying about rank, according to Newsweek.

During his stint as a pilot in Iran, he was apprehended by U.S. authorities who believed he had stolen dynamite several years prior, the San Diego Union- Tribune reported

This would not be Rackstraw’s only run-in with the law; in 1978, he was charged with the murder of his stepfather. However, he was ultimately acquitted. 

Months later, he attempted to fake his own death by crashing a rented airplane. The ruse did not work, as investigators found him shortly thereafter and charged him with theft as well as passing bad checks, Fox News reported.

Before spending two years in prison for his crimes, Rackstraw publicly claimed to be the infamous DB Cooper, though he later declared it was only a joke. 

After his release in 1980, Rackstraw started several businesses, won election to his homeowner’s association board, and graduated with a degree in economics from the University of San Francisco, as per the San Diego Union- Tribune.

Rackstraw is survived by his wife Dorothy as well as several children and grandchildren.

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