ABC News: New D.B. Cooper Clues Come From 'Niece'

Aug 3, 2011
Originally published on August 3, 2011 11:08 am

ABC News has a report out this morning that claims to name the source of the new information in the D.B. Cooper skyjacking. ABC says unnamed and unspecified sources have confirmed that a woman named Marla Cooper provided the FBI with a guitar strap for fingerprint testing.

NPR is trying to independently confirm ABC's claim. The FBI has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Marla Cooper told the network that she believes the skyjacker is her uncle, a deceased man named L.D. Cooper, who returned bloodied and bruised from what he said was a hunting trip just after the Thanksgiving eve hijacking in 1971.

Marla Cooper says she was eight-years-old at the time and at her grandmother's house in Sisters, Oregon. That's a 260 mile drive from Ariel, Washington, which is where D.B. Cooper parachuted from a Northwest Airlines jet. He had a $200,000 ransom with him when he jumped.

"I heard my uncle say we did it, our money problems are over, we hijacked an airplane," Marla Cooper told ABC News Correspondent Pierre Thomas, who covers the Justice Department for the network.

Cooper said another uncle was involved. "My two uncles, who I only saw at holiday time, were planning something very mischievous. I was watching them using some very expensive walkie-talkies that they had purchased," she told Thomas. "They left to supposedly go turkey hunting, and Thanksgiving morning I was waiting for them to return."

According to Thomas, "Marla Cooper says that her two uncles wanted to return to search for the cash, but her father refused. She believes this was because the FBI search was just beginning to take shape."

Just before Cooper's father died in 1995, he mentioned "his long lost brother, my uncle L.D. ... he said 'don't you remember he hijacked that airplane?'" Cooper told ABC.

Cooper also told the network that her uncle was obsessed with a comic book character known as "Dan Cooper" and had one of the comics pinned to his wall. "Dan Cooper" is actually the name the skyjacker used. His name became "D.B." because of a mistake in one of the earliest news reports of the hijacking.

FBI Special Agent Fred Gutt told reporters yesterday that the guitar strap agents received did not yield fingerprints. Gutt said agents were trying to obtain other belongings from their new suspect's family.

The skyjacker left behind partial prints and saliva on a necktie that has apparently provided DNA evidence to investigators. But writer Geoffrey Gray, who spent three years reviewing the case and the evidence, told NPR, "The forensic evidence that they had to use is incomplete."

Gray is skeptical that the new information will result in firm identification of D.B. Cooper. "The fingerprints themselves are partial," Gray says. "The DNA strain that they have and that they retrieved from saliva found on the hijacker's clip on tie Are also partial and may not even be the hijackers."

Gray has a new book coming out, Skyjack: The Hunt for D.B. Cooper, and writes on his blog this morning, "It could be that Uncle LD is our guy. But proving it conclusively, especially considering the weak forensic evidence in the case, will be a burden that I'm not so sure Marla Cooper can overcome."

ABC's report appeared on Good Morning America this morning. NPR's recent posts about the new evidence in the nation's only unsolved skyjacking can be found here and here.

Also the video of ABC's interview with Marla Cooper is after the jump.

Update at 1:07 p.m. ET. What The FBI Says:

In response to a series of questions about Marla Cooper, including whether she is the source of the new information to the FBI, Seattle FBI Special Agent Fred Gutt tells NPR, "We do not identify witnesses in an investigation."

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