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Army Vet's Death Raises Question: Is DB Cooper Dead?

Robert Rackstraw was suspected of being the notorious hijacker
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 11, 2019 6:24 AM CDT
This undated artist' sketch shows the skyjacker known as D.B. Cooper from recollections of the passengers and crew of a Northwest Airlines jet he hijacked between Portland and Seattle on Thanksgiving...   (AP-Photo, file)

(Newser) – A 75-year-old Army vet named Robert Rackstraw died this week in San Diego after years of heart trouble. That would not be making headlines save for one thing: Some think Rackstraw was the infamous parachuting hijacker DB Cooper, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. In fact, a History Channel documentary in 2016 came to that conclusion, after piecing together how Rackstraw fit the profile: He had been a decorated Army paratrooper in Vietnam with training in explosives, at least before getting the boot for misconduct. "While my cold case team believes he was Cooper, he also was a husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather," said filmmaker Thomas Colbert. "Our condolences." Rackstraw himself was often cagey when asked whether he was the 1971 hijacker who jumped from a Northwest Orient Airlines plane with $200,000. "I wouldn't discount myself," he once said, per the Oregonian.

When Colbert offered Rackstraw $20,000 to come clean, Rackstraw asked to see the check twice. He admitted he had claimed he was the hijacker over the years but said he did so as a goof. Then he added, "The problem is, I don't remember a lot of it." Rackstraw's criminal history suggests such a crime wouldn't be out of his reach. Among other things, he once stole a plane, passed bad checks, faked his own death by crashing a plane into Monterey Bay, and was acquitted of murdering a stepfather. The Union-Tribune reports the FBI briefly considered Rackstraw a suspect but let it drop because he was 28 at the time, and witnesses thought Cooper was closer to 40; Colbert says makeup made him look older. But the FBI has never confirmed he was a suspect, per the Washington Post. (Did a numbered code on a letter to authorities point to Rackstraw?)

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