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Fri, Oct 26, 2007

D.B. Cooper Unmasked At Last?

Man Says Deceased Brother Fits The Profile

A modern-day Robin Hood mystery may finally be solved. At least, Lyle Christiansen thinks so.

In an extensive interview with "New York" magazine, Christiansen says he firmly believes his brother, Kenneth, was the famed hijacker who in 1971 jumped from a Northwest Orient Airlines 727 near Seattle, WA with $200,000 in ransom money.

Cooper's flamboyant hijacking became an instant legend... spawning books, a movie, a song, and at least one imitator. No trace of the man -- who purchased his ticket under the pseudonym Dan Cooper; the "D.B." comes from a reporter's later misprint -- was ever found, although a boy did come across some $5,800 in $20 bills confirmed to be part of Cooper's ransom in 1980.

Christiansen says his brother -- who died from cancer in 1994 -- fits the profile for Cooper... and the evidence is convincing. Kenneth's appearance matches a flight attendant's description of Cooper almost perfectly; he was a former US Army paratrooper, and knew enough about planes to instruct the pilot to fly low and slow, as Cooper did, to aid in an escape; he was also a disgruntled Northwest employee.

Furthermore, one year after the hijacking Kenneth paid cash for a small home in Bonney Lake, WA. Lyle also says his brother always had money, although he never had a bank account, and only earned a meager living as a purser for Northwest.

On his deathbed, Kenneth also reportedly told Lyle "There is something you should know, but I cannot tell you!" Lyle says he responded he didn't want to know.

When he put the pieces together, Lyle Christiansen tried to inform the FBI... but his statements fell on deaf ears at the agency. He then tried to interest filmmaker Nora Ephron in the story. Skipp Porteous, a private investigator Lyle hired to act as intermediary between he and Ephron (who never did reply) took notice of the story, and began his own investigation.

"It was uncanny, really," Porteous said. "He looked just like the sketch."

Others claimed to be -- or were accused of being -- D.B. Cooper. The most famous suspect was Richard McCoy, a former Sunday-school teacher who himself jumped out of a plane over Utah with a $500,000 ransom five months after Cooper pulled his daring attempt. McCoy was later arrested, and sentenced to 45 years in prison on suspicion of being D.B. Cooper, a charge he denied. He later escaped... only to die in a gunfight with authorities.

Another suspect, Duane Weber, allegedly told his wife "I’m Dan Cooper" before he died in 1995. The FBI collected fingerprints and some DNA evidence, though the case remains open to this day.

Florence Schaffner, the flight attendant to whom D.B. Cooper handed his ransom note, admits the resemblance between Kenneth Christiansen and the man she remembers from that fateful flight is uncanny.

"I think you might be onto something here," she told the magazine.

FMI: Read The "New York" Magazine Report


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