Robert Rackshaw, D.B. Cooper Candidate, Dead at 75
Robert Rackshaw, a 75-year-old man who led an eventful life and who some thought may have been D.B. Cooper, the legendary hijacker who pulled off one of the most daring heists in modern history, died Tuesday at his condominium in San Diego. An Army veteran and pilot, Rackstraw was often the target for amateur sleuths who thought he was the man who jumped from a plane over Washington state in 1971.
Calling himself Dan Cooper, the suspect told a flight attendant there was a bomb in his briefcase before handing her a note demanding $200,000 in cash and four parachutes. Upon landing in Seattle, he released 36 hostages, then ordered the plane to fly to Mexico. He jumped out around 8 p.m. somewhere between Seattle and Reno, Nevada. Thereafter, the vanished without a trace and no one ever confirmed he survived the jump.
For a time, the FBI suspected Rackstraw, but ruled him out because of his age. He was 28 at the time of the crime, while according to witnesses, the suspect was between 35 and 40. He was featured in Thomas Colbert’s 2016 documentary, D.B. Cooper: Case Closed? that aired on the History Channel. Colbert was convinced Rickstraw was the hijacker.
“I told everybody I was,” Rackstraw told The San Diego Tribune before explaining his admission was a stunt.
Rackstraw, a high school dropout, was born in Ohio in 1943 and became an army paratrooper in the 1960s, serving 15 months in Vietnam. He was eventually discharged for misconduct and in 1978, was acquitted of killing his stepfather, after which he faked his own death by crashing a rented airplane and disappearing. He ultimately spent two years in prison for passing worthless checks and grand theft.
“While my cold-case team believes he was Cooper, he also was a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather,” Colbert told The Tribune. “Our condolences to the family.”
The case is one of the longest and most exhaustively-examined in FBI history. The agency ceased actively investigating the D.B. Cooper mystery in 2016.