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DB Cooper Suspects Who Look Just Like the FBI Sketches

D.B. Cooper is the name given to a notorious thief and hijacker who somehow managed to escape justice by jumping out of a Boeing 727 – leaving the world with one of it’s biggest unsolved mysteries of the 1970s.

Everything about the D.B. Cooper case is baffling. In fact, the crime he committed remains the only unsolved case of air piracy in the history of commercial aviation.

While the name D.B Cooper is merely a media epithet given to an otherwise unidentified individual, he has gone down in history as a folk hero of sorts even though he was and still is considered to be a wanted criminal. The sheer audacity of his plan, how against all odds he appeared to execute it flawlessly, and the way he seemed to vanish into thin air after making his daring escape, made for a tale that sounded like it could be the plot of a Hollywood action film.

On November 24, 1971, Cooper hijacked Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305. The aircraft was flying en route from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington. Cooper then extorted $200,000 in ransom money – equivalent to $1.4 million today. After releasing the plane’s passengers in Seattle, Cooper asked to be flown to Reno, Nevada. Mid-flight, he parachuted out of the aircraft over southwestern Washington.

No one knows what ever became of the man known as D.B. Cooper, as he was never heard from again. In 1980, interest in the mystery was renewed when a small portion of the ransom cash was discovered along the banks of the Columbia River. While many hoped Cooper would be found and brought to justice, the mystery has only deepened over the years.

The hijacker had identified himself as Dan Cooper when committing his crimes, but due to a miscommunication, he popularly became known as D.B. Cooper. It’s assumed that the name he gave was just an alias, so merely tracking down everyone named Dan Cooper wouldn’t help solve the mystery.

The FBI maintained an active investigation into the D.B. Cooper case for 45 years after the hijacking. Even though the bureau compiled an extensive case file over this time period, they never were able to arrive at any definitive conclusions regarding Cooper’s identity or his ultimate fate.

During the first year of their investigation, the FBI developed several composite sketches of Cooper based upon the eyewitness testimony of flight crew and passengers. In this video, we’ll be taking a closer look at a few suspects that looked just like those FBI sketches of D.B. Cooper.

Ted Braden

Born in 1928, Theodore Burdette Braden Jr served as a Special Forces commando during the Vietnam War. Braden was also a master skydiver and convicted felon. Within the Special Forces community, Braden was widely believed to be Cooper.

He grew up in Ohio and joined the military in 1944 when he was 16. He went on to serve in the 101st Airborne Division during the Second World War. In time, he became one of the military’s top parachutists, frequently representing the Army in international skydiving competitions.

According to his military records, Braden made more than 911 jumps. Throughout the 60s, Braden was team leader for a classified unit of Green Berets called the MACVSOG. That unit conducted unconventional warfare operations during the Vietnam War.

Braden also served as a military skydiving instructer teaching members of Project Delta HALO jumping techniques.

After serving 23 months in Vietnam, Braden deserted his unit in December of 1966. He then made his way out to the Congo, where he served briefly as a mercenary before being arrested by the CIA. He was then taken back to the US to face a court-martial.

Although he committed a capital offense by deserting in wartime, Braden was still given an honorable discharge. Even so, he was barred from re-enlisting in the military.

In a profile piece published in the October 1967 issue of Ramparts Magazine, Braden was described by Special Forces vet and journalist Don Duncan as being someone who had some kind of ‘secret death wish’. Not only did Braden apparently show disregard for military skydiving regulations, he also was often involved in shady business dealings to make money.

At the time of the hijacking, Braden was working as a truck driver in Vancouver, Washington – right across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. It’s also known that in the early 70s, Braden was investigated by the FBI for his alleged involvement in stealing $250,000 with a trucking scam. He was never charged with anything formally, but that little detail is still rather alarming.

A couple of years later, Braden was arrested in Pennsylvania for driving a stolen car with fake plates and no license. In the 80s, he was sent to Federal prison for an unspecified crime.

Given his history doing covert operations in Vietnam, it’s not unreasonable to assume that he would have had the knowledge and ability to pull off a jump from a 727. While he was a bit shorter than the descriptions given of Cooper, Braden’s other physical characteristics, including his complexion, hair color, build, and age, all match those of the hijacker.

Braden was never confirmed to be Cooper and he died in 2007.

Before we discuss several other suspects of the 1971 hijacking, take a moment to show us a little support by giving this video a like and subscribing to the Facts Verse channel.

Kenneth Peter Christiansen

After watching a TV documentary about the Cooper hijacking in 2003, Minnesota resident Lyle Christiansen became convinced that his deceased brother Kenneth was the real D.B. Cooper.

Lyle made several attempts – to no avail – to convince the FBI of his suspicions. He eventually reached out to author and film director Nora Ephron with whom he helped make a film about the case.

In 2010, a private investigator that he reached out to in New York named Skipp Porteous published a book theorizing that Christiansen was the hijacker.

Kenneth enlisted in the Army in 1944. He was then trained as a paratrooper. By the time that he was deployed in 1945, World War II had already ended. Still, he made a few training jumps while stationed in Japan in the late 40s.

After getting discharged from the Army, Kenneth got a job as a mechanic with Northwest Orient in 1954. He later worked as a flight attendant and a purser for the airline.

Kenneth would have been 45 at the time of hijacking. Like Braden, he too was a bit shorter than the description of Cooper. He also was thinner and had a lighter complexion than what eyewitnesses described.

However, he did smoke just as Cooper did and was particularly fond of bourbon – the drink that Cooper requested during the hijacking.

Jack Coffelt

This suspect was a convicted con man and purported government informant who once claimed to have been the confidant and chauffeur of Abe Lincoln’s great-grandson Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith.

In 1972, Coffelt started claiming that he was Cooper. He even attempted to use one of his former prison cellmates as an intermediary to sell his story to a Hollywood film production company. He claimed that after parachuting out of the 727, he landed near Mount Hood. In the process, he claimed to have injured himself and lost the ransom money.

It’s true that photos of Coffelt bear a striking resemblance to the composite sketches of Cooper, but instead of being in his 40s at the time, as eyewitnesses estimated the hijacker to be, Coffelt was already in his 50s.

On the day of the hijacking, Coffelt was known to have been in Portland. According to those that knew him, he also suffered mysterious leg injuries that would have been consistent with a skydiving mishap. That being said, the FBI concluded that his story was a fabrication as his version of events differed in numerous details with info they had that had not yet been made public.

Lynn Doyle Cooper

L.D. Cooper was a Korean War vet and leather worker who was first proposed as a suspect in July of 2011 by his niece, Maria Cooper.

According to Maria, when she was 8 years old, she overheard L.D. and another one of her uncles planning something that she described as being ‘very mischievous’ involving the use of expensive walkie-talkies. She claims that she listened in on this conversation while staying at her grandmother’s house in the town of Sisters, Oregon, which is about 150 miles southeast of Portland.

The following day, Flight 305 was hijacked. While Maria’s uncles claimed that they had been out turkey hunting, when they returned home L.D. Cooper was wearing a bloody shirt. He claimed that he had been involved in an automobile accident, but Maria’s parents later came to believe that he was actually the hijacker.

L.D. died in 1999, but Maria says that he was long obsessed with a Canadian comic book hero known as Dan Cooper. He apparently had one of those comic books tacked on to his wall as well.

Despite all these coincidences, L.D. was not a trained skydiver or paratrooper. The FBI also concluded that his DNA did not match that of the partial DNA profile that they had obtained from the hijacker’s tie.

Barbara Dayton

Born Robert Dayton in 1926, this suspect was a recreational pilot and librarian for the University of Washington. Before undergoing a gender confirmation surgery in 1969, Dayton had served in the US Merchant Marines and later the Army in World War II.

After transitioning and changing her name to Barbara, she claimed that she had staged the Cooper hijacking. The supposed reason why she carried out the hijacking was to get back at the airline and the FAA whose rules had prevented her from becoming a pilot.

When asked what happened to the ransom money, Dayton claimed she had hid it in a cistern near Woodburn, Oregon, a suburb of Portland.

Eventually, however, Dayton recanted her story after being informed that hijacking charges could still be brought against her.

The FBI never seemed to consider Dayton to be a serious suspect, and she passed away in 2002.

The world may never learn who the identity of the real D.B. Cooper really was. Countless other individuals have been proposed as being possibly suspects, but unfortunately, no hard evidence has ever tied any of these people to the crime.

Who do you think was most likely the real D.B. Cooper? And did you know that so many people have claimed to have been or known the hijacker over the years? Let us know in the comments.

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