D.B. Cooper: Volunteer sleuths find potential evidence in unsolved 46-year-old hijacking

Published: Thursday, August 10, 2017 @ 3:14 PM

Who Is DB Cooper?

A group of volunteer investigators believe they have found a piece of potential physical evidence in the D.B. Cooper case, the only unsolved airliner hijacking in American history.

Fox News reported Thursday that Thomas Colbert, head of the team of amateur sleuths, said his group has found what “appears to be a decades-old parachute strap” during a dig in the case. Colbert declined to tell Fox the location of the dig, but said it took place where a “credible source” revealed that the parachute used by Cooper, and the remainder of the $200,000 ransom he got away with, could be buried. 

The only sign of Cooper ever found was $5,800 of the ransom money, which was uncovered by a young boy playing on the banks of the Columbia River near Vancouver, Washington, in 1980. 

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D.B. Cooper is the pseudonym given to an unidentified man who, using the name Dan Cooper, boarded a Northwest Orient flight on Nov. 24, 1971. During the flight, which departed Portland, Oregon, for a short, 30-minute trip to Seattle, Cooper passed a note to a flight attendant and told her he was carrying a bomb. 

Pictured is some of the ransom money given to D.B. Cooper, who hijacked an airliner flying from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle on Nov. 24, 1971. The cash, part of $200,000 in ransom that Cooper was given before he parachuted from the plane, was found on the bank of the Columbia River near Vancouver, Washington, in 1980 by 8-year-old Brian Ingram. Ingram in 2008 decided to auction off some of the money that the FBI allowed him to keep.((AP Photo/Nick Ut))

Cooper, who showed the woman what looked like dynamite in his briefcase, demanded the $200,000 ransom, four parachutes and that the plane refuel upon its stop in Seattle, according to the FBI. Upon receiving his demands, he released the 36 passengers, but kept a few crew members on board and demanded that the pilot fly him to Mexico City.

Just after 8 p.m. that night, Cooper did the unthinkable -- he strapped a parachute onto his back and, with the ransom money in hand, jumped from the plane’s rear stairs into the night. 

Despite an extensive investigation, code-named NORJAK, Cooper was never identified or arrested. Over the next four decades, there were theories that Cooper died in his plunge to the ground, which took place in cold, stormy weather over the rugged terrain of the Washington-Oregon border. 

There were also theories that, if Cooper survived, it meant he had the specialized training and experience to withstand the difficult jump.  

Many amateur sleuths tried to solve the case, in some instances, sharing their information with the FBI. The FBI also allowed testing of some of its own evidence, including the cheap, black JC Penney clip-on necktie Cooper wore on the flight.  

No closer to a solution, the FBI officially closed its investigation in July 2016

Pictured is the clip-on tie that the hijacker calling himself "Dan Cooper" left behind after he parachuted from Northwest Orient Flight 305 on a cold night in November 1971. The tie is one of few pieces of evidence that Cooper left behind.((Federal Bureau of Investigation))

Two months later, Colbert and his company, TJC Consulting, sued the FBI for access to the entire NORJAK case file.

Colbert told Fox News that details in those archived case documents helped him corroborate information his group received in a tip. That tip and corroboration led to the dig that uncovered the parachute strap, he said. 

He told the news station that he planned to forward the potential evidence to the FBI on Friday, and to offer the federal agency the dig site on Monday. 

Colbert, a former media specialist, is behind the documentary “D.B. Cooper: Case Closed?” that aired on the History Channel last July, the same month that the FBI ended its 45-year search for Cooper. In the film, Colbert and his team of investigators, which includes journalists and retired FBI agents and police detectives, claim they have identified the man who hijacked Northwest Orient Flight 305 that frigid November night. 

The two-part documentary focuses on former U.S. Army paratrooper Robert Rackstraw Sr., who is now 73 and living in California. According to a news release Colbert issued on his website, DBCooper.com, in January, Rackstraw is also a retired university teacher, a former Vietnam pilot, an explosives expert and a four-time felon. 

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Rackstraw was also a suspect early on in the hijacking investigation. The FBI cleared him in 1979, in part because he was only 28 in 1971, much younger than the description flight attendants gave of a man between 35 and 45 years old.

Colbert said in the news release, which accused the FBI of withholding some case documents from the public, that he believes Rackstraw was wrongly exonerated. He also detailed his circumstantial case against Rackstraw in a book, “The Last Master Outlaw.” 

Rackstraw’s lawyer, Dennis Roberts, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last year after the documentary aired that Rackstraw was considering suing Colbert and his team. 

“It’s all conjecture,” Roberts told the newspaper. “They tortured him for five years. He is not D.B. Cooper. He was never D.B. Cooper.”

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‘Deadliest Catch’ co-star pleads guilty to sexually assaulting teen

Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2018 @ 5:25 PM

Edgar Hansen (L) and Matt Bradley of
Edgar Hansen (L) and Matt Bradley of "Dealiest Catch" participate in the 2nd Annual Boot Ride And Rally to benefit U.S. Soldiers on August 26, 2012 in Hollywood. This week, Hansen pleaded guilty to fourth-degree sexual assault of a teenage girl at a home near Seattle.(Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)

“Deadliest Catch” reality TV fisherman Edgar Hansen pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a teenage girl at a home near Seattle, but isn’t expected to serve any jail time.

Hansen, 47, received a 364-day suspended jail sentence after pleading guilty to  fourth degree sexual assault with sexual motivation, the Associated Press reported. He was also ordered to undergo a sexual deviancy evaluation and give a DNA sample to authorities. 

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According to court documents obtained by KIRO 7, a 16-year-old girl told her therapist that Hansen sexually assaulted her at a Montlake Terrace home in September.

>>Related: ‘Deadliest Catch’ star Blake Painter found dead in Oregon home

A detective contacted Hansen’s wife, who confronted her husband about the allegations, court documents show. She told police that he denied the accusations at first, but eventually admitted to touching the girl inappropriately.

>>Related: ‘Deadliest Catch’ star gets probation in Uber driver assault

Hansen is deck boss and crew member of the Seattle-based crabbing boat featured on the Discovery Channel show “Deadliest Catch.”

The boat’s captain, Sig Hansen, is Edgar Hansen’s brother.

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6 nurses in same unit discover they are pregnant at same time

Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2018 @ 4:31 PM

Six nurses in the same unit at  the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. are expecting babies.  Two of the women will be first-time moms, while the other four already have one child. A hospital spokesperson said all of the nurses have developed a special bond in sharing their pregnancies at work.
Wake Forest Medical Baptist Center
Six nurses in the same unit at the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. are expecting babies. Two of the women will be first-time moms, while the other four already have one child. A hospital spokesperson said all of the nurses have developed a special bond in sharing their pregnancies at work.(Wake Forest Medical Baptist Center)

Six nurse practitioners at a hospital in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, were surprised to learn they are pregnant at the same time.

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The women are known as “The Fabulous Six Pack” among their patients at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

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The six nurses work for an outpatient hematology/oncology unit at the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Two of the women will be first-time moms, and the other four already have one child, said hospital spokesperson Eryn Johnson.

The women’s due dates range from the end of July to December. 

Johnson said that all of the nurses enjoy sharing their pregnancy journeys and tips with each other.

“It's exciting because, you see these people every day and they're a part of you family, and now they're your pregnant buddies,” said assistant nurse manager Katie Carlton.

“It’s quite the bond that’s been established,” Johnson said.

The expectant mothers told WXII that while most of them were planning to get get pregnant, it was a surprise when it all happened to all of them at the same time.

One thing that wasn’t anticipated -- six nurses taking maternity leave at the same time.

Johnson said there is a plan in place to cover the nurses’ work during maternity leave. 

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DNA test solves 1988 cold case rape, murder of 8-year-old April Tinsley, suspect arrested

Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2018 @ 5:40 PM

FIn this March 30, 2018, file photo, a picture of April Tinsley was placed in the garden that was dedicated in her honor near where she disappeared in Fort Wayne, Indiana. April 1 marked the 30th anniversary of her death. Police on Sunday, July 15, 2018, arrested John Miller, of Grabill, Ind., in connection to her death.
Michelle Davies/AP
FIn this March 30, 2018, file photo, a picture of April Tinsley was placed in the garden that was dedicated in her honor near where she disappeared in Fort Wayne, Indiana. April 1 marked the 30th anniversary of her death. Police on Sunday, July 15, 2018, arrested John Miller, of Grabill, Ind., in connection to her death.(Michelle Davies/AP)

After 30 years of random notes and taunting from the killer, Indiana authorities finally caught a break in the killing of an 8-year-old girl and made an arrest based on DNA evidence similar to how investigators caught the Golden State Killer, according to news reports.

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Suspect John D. Miller, 59, was arrested Sunday at his home in Grabill, Indiana, and made a court appearance Monday in Allen County on charges related to the 1988 rape and murder of April Tinsley, WANE-TV reported.

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Tinsley was walking to a friend’s house in her Fort Wayne neighborhood when she was allegedly abducted and subsequently killed by Miller, authorities said.

Police used DNA from the victim and from messages and condoms Miller left at three homes in the early 2000s to match Miller and his brother’s DNA in a genealogical database. Once they narrowed the suspect field down to two, it was just a matter of time before they were able to catch Miller, CNN reported. Miller’s DNA was found to be a match with DNA recovered from the victim’s underwear.

>> Related: Police seek to ID Zodiac Killer through DNA after success with Golden State Killer

When police showed up at his mobile home on Sunday and asked Miller if he knew why they were there, he reportedly said, “April Tinsley” and then confessed to the crime, according to local media reports.

Miller’s next scheduled court appearance is Thursday.

>> Related: ‘Golden State Killer’ suspect tracked down using DNA on genealogy website, officials say

The Golden State Killer was finally caught in California in April after terrorizing the state between the mid-1970s and mid-80s. Investigators also used a genealogical database to match Joseph James DeAngelo Jr.’s DNA with evidence left at the crime scenes. DeAngelo is charged with killing 12 people and is accused of 50 rapes and more than 100 burglaries.

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Man walks nearly 20 miles to get to job after car breaks down, boss gives him his own vehicle

Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2018 @ 8:00 AM

CEO Gives Employee Who Walked 20 Miles to Work Personal Car

A man in Alabama no longer has to walk where he needs to go. 

Walter Carr was all set to start a new job with Bellhops Moving, but his car broke down. Instead of calling off, or borrowing a set of wheels, he started walking, starting at midnight, to get to the job nearly 20 miles away, WBMA reported.

Pelham police officers saw him walking, offered him a ride and took him to breakfast before taking him to the moving job. 

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Carr had been walking for about four hours when police offered him the ride, WIAT reported.

Jennifer Lamey hired Bellhops Moving, and Carr, and posted to Facebook about his dedication. His story made it all the way to the home office and the company’s CEO Luke Marklin.

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Marklin made sure that his employee would not have to walk to work again and gave him the keys to his own car, a 2014 Ford Escape. 

Lamey also started a GoFundMe campaign in the name of Carr. She had hoped to raise $2,000, but in one day, raised more than four times that amount.

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