Nearly 50 years after D.B. "Dan" Cooper parachuted from a commercial jet in 1971, his skyjacking of Northwest Orient Flight 305 from Portland to Seattle remains the only unsolved case of air piracy in US history. While the facts of the hijacking are indisputable, endless speculation abounds, both about D.B. Cooper's true identity and whether or not he actually survived his 1,000-foot jump from a plane flying over a wooded area of Washington state.
HBO's The Mystery of D.B. Cooper documentary offers an in-depth exploration of four prime suspects in the case; it also examines why people are still talking about D.B. Cooper nearly half a century later. Former FBI agents, members of the original flight crew, and family members of the suspects all share their stories - and theories - in the documentary. One woman claims it was her husband; another couple says that D.B. Cooper was a good friend of theirs; some members of law enforcement think Cooper was killed by the FBI after skyjacking a second plane.
Unpacking the case is as fascinating as it is baffling. Below we'll break down the key points of the D.B. Cooper case, and you can formulate your own theory about who Dan Cooper really was.
Jo Weber Claims Her Husband Confessed To Being Cooper On His Death Bed
The first "suspect" of the documentary is Duane Weber, who died in 1995 from kidney disease. His wife, Jo Weber, spoke out after his death, claiming that her late husband confessed to being D.B. Cooper on his death bed. The couple married on March 27, 1978, and Duane died on March 28, 1995. During that time, Weber never suspected that her husband had a criminal background, and she claims she never really asked about Duane's past. As she states in the documentary, "If you love someone, the past is not important."
However, the pieces of Duane's mysterious life began falling into place shortly after his death. Weber discovered that her husband had multiple fake IDs and had even served time in prison. Although Duane reportedly said "Let it die with me" after making his confession, Weber soon contacted the FBI, and Duane has remained a suspect in the case ever since.
Marla Cooper Recalls Hearing Her Uncle Plan To Hijack A Plane Days Before The Incident
Marla Cooper remembers a particularly eventful Thanksgiving in 1971 when her uncle L.D. Cooper arrived at her childhood home covered in blood and nearly unconscious. Marla claims that a few days prior, she overheard her "rowdy" uncles, L.D. and Dewey, making some sort of plan that she didn't fully understand. When she tried to find out what they were plotting, they teased her and said they were going to hunt a turkey for Thanksgiving.
The next time she saw her uncles, Dewey was pulling into the driveway with the injured L.D. in the backseat. Marla remembers her Uncle Dewey telling her father, "Well, we did it. We hijacked the airplane. We're rich!" Marla was only 8 years old at the time, but her father swore her to secrecy, saying the event was a matter of life or death.
Marla maintains that she only began to recall the events of Thanksgiving 1971 when her father brought it up shortly before his death in 1995. Marla also claims that she never saw her uncle L.D. after the Christmas of 1972, but she's convinced that L.D. Cooper and D.B. Cooper are one and the same. According to the documentary, Marla Cooper contacted the FBI in 2011 to share this information and passed a polygraph test when questioned about her uncle's involvement in the case.
Ben Anjewierden Believes Cooper Was Richard Floyd McCoy, Another Skyjacker He Turned In To The FBI
Ben Anjewierden was roommates with a man named Richard Floyd McCoy while they were both serving in the National Guard in the 1970s. McCoy was reportedly obsessed with the D.B. Cooper case, and would go so far as to make up hijacking scenarios with Anjewierden, who now points out that he never took McCoy seriously. However, just five months after D.B. Cooper vanished into thin air, McCoy hijacked a Boeing flying out of Denver, CO. McCoy told the flight crew he was James Johnson, then showed them a handgun and grenade that he'd brought onto the plane. He then demanded $500,000 or he would detonate the grenade.
Anjewierden knew that McCoy was the one who had hijacked the plane and immediately reported him to authorities. Anjewierden states in the documentary, "I felt like I betrayed [McCoy], but it was the right thing to do." Police found the half million dollars in McCoy's attic, although $20 was allegedly missing, supposedly used by McCoy to buy lunch the day he was apprehended.
Pat And Ron Foreman Claim Their Pilot Friend, Barbara Dayton, Admitted To Being Cooper
Pat and Ron Foreman have long believed that D.B. Cooper was actually their good friend Barbara Dayton. Barbara and Ron had flown together multiple times while Ron was earning his commercial pilot's license, and both he and Pat remember Barbara as a skilled pilot. Ron also recalls that she knew how to parachute. The Foremans claim that one night, Barbara confided to them that she was transgender and used to go by the name Robert Dayton. Ron states that Barbara was the first male-assigned person to undergo gender reassignment in Washington state.
The Foremans also note that Barbara criticized coverage of the D.B. Cooper case and eventually confessed that she, in fact, was Dan Cooper. One night when the Foremans had Barbara and several other friends over to their home, Ron took a picture of Barbara with her hair brushed to the side and wearing sunglasses. When the picture was developed, they claim it looked exactly like the composite sketch of D.B. Cooper, and that's when Barbara confessed to her alleged criminal past. Ron says that when he asked Barbara if she used real dynamite during the skyjacking, she replied, "I don't do anything phony!"