After years of researching and investigating the D.B. Cooper case, a private investigator announced on February 1 that he believes that he and his 40-member investigative team have solved the mystery of the infamous 1971 hijacking. According to the investigator, he recently received word from a documentary filmmaker and investigative team founder named Thomas Colbert claiming that a code hidden among the letters attributed by Cooper has been broken and has led to the identity of the mysterious figure: a Vietnam veteran with CIA ties, who is still alive and living in California.
As Daily Mail reports, the mysterious D.B. Cooper rose to international fame and notoriety after hijacking a Northwest Orient Boeing 727 flying from Portland to Seattle in 1971. Armed with what he said was a bomb, D.B. Cooper held the passengers hostage in exchange for a ransom of $200,000 and four parachutes. After his demands were met, Cooper allowed the passengers to disembark the aircraft and demanded that the remaining four-person crew fly him south in the dead of night. While the crew was in the cockpit, he parachuted from the plane, leaving behind his spare parachutes and a black tie.
Neither he, nor his ill-gotten cash, have been seen since, prompting countless professional and amateur detectives to seek out the mysterious figure. In 2016, the FBI (who Christened the mysterious hijacker with the name “D.B. Cooper” and distributed the now-infamous sketches), closed their case into his disappearance, claiming that he “most likely died of exposure.”
As Fox News reports, Thomas Colbert, D.B. Cooper investigator and documentary filmmaker, claims that the FBI’s closure of the case was erroneous and their determination of the hijacker’s fate inaccurate. At one point, Colbert and his team of private investigators sued the FBI for access to previously unreleased information about the Cooper case. In early January, Colbert announced that one of his code breakers had deciphered words in each of the five taunting letters allegedly written/sent by Cooper after the hijacking.
Over the course of the last year, the Colbert claims that the FBI has released over 3,000 D.B. Cooper-related documents to his team. According to legal filings by the FBI, it has over 70,000 that could be covered by the Colbert team lawsuit.
On Thursday, speaking from the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C., Thomas Colbert claimed that a connection found in the deciphered code led his private investigative team to Robert Rackstraw, a U.S. Army vet who served in Vietnam, who lives in San Diego, and is still alive. Coincidentally, Rackstraw allegedly had a “deep covert history” with the CIA, which led the FBI to close the D.B. Cooper case in 2016 and to stonewall and blatantly lie about the investigation for decades.
“The new decryptions include a dare to agents, directives to apparent partners, and a startling claim that is followed by Rackstraw’s own initials: If captured, he expects a get-out-of-jail card from a federal spy agency.”
According to the investigator, he believes that the codes found in the D.B. Cooper letters may have been included as a message to any co-conspirators. Perhaps the most viable piece of evidence uncovered by Colbert and his team was the typed number “717171684,” which appeared at the bottom of a Cooper letter not released until November, 2017, in response to Colbert’s team’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
Clues from the other four D.B. Cooper letters included “RWR,” deemed to stand for Robert W. Rackstraw, and “SWS,” believed to refer to “Special Warfare School,” the facility where Vietnam veteran Rackstraw allegedly learned to code. In addition to claiming to have unmasked D.B. Cooper, Thomas Colbert claims that he has evidence, if not proof, that the FBI has deliberately worked to keep the hijacking case unsolved. Quite possibly due to Rackstraw’s CIA ties.
“As we suspected, records show the Bureau has been stonewalling, covering up evidence and flat-out lying for decades.”
The private investigative team also claims that two of the five known D.B. Cooper letters were mailed 30 minutes or less from where Rackstraw lived.
Even if he’s not the infamous D.B. Cooper, Robert Rackstraw is no stranger to the FBI or the D.B. Cooper case. According to the investigation by Colbert, Rackstraw was suspected in a case involving $75,000 worth of stolen checks in 1977 and fled to Iran. While he was out of the country, authorities allegedly discovered over a dozen rifles and 150 pounds of dynamite in his storage units. When he returned to the United States, Rackstraw was arrested for fraud and murder.
Reportedly, while Robert Rackstraw was in Iran, his stepfather was found buried after having been shot twice in the head. Ultimately, the Vietnam vet and suspected CIA operative (not to mention suspected D.B. Cooper) was acquitted of murder, bailed himself out of jail in connection with the fraud case, and faked his own death.
Rackstraw was ultimately apprehended by the FBI, and was even suspected by the bureau of being Cooper for a period of time. Insufficient evidence and the discovery of some of Cooper’s ill-gotten gains resulted in him never being charged in connection with the hijacking and ransom. He was ultimately released and secured a plea deal on the old charges and served just a year in prison.
Colbert and his team allege that it may have been Rackstraw’s CIA connections, and not a lack of evidence, that helped him wriggle off the hook.
To this day, Robert Rackstraw denies being D.B. Cooper and any connection to the Cooper case.