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Six of the biggest suspects in search for DB Cooper ahead of possible identification

Six of the biggest suspects in search for DB Cooper ahead of possible identification

A number of names and faces have been put forward as the anonymous plane hijacker

Back in November 1971, a man by the name of Dan Cooper boarded an airplane from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington.

What happened next would lead to one of the most talked about manhunts that still continues to this day.

The man - still anonymous but labelled DB Cooper by the media - hijacked Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305.

His demand was simple, hand over $200,000 and a parachute to get off of the plane or he'd blow up it with a homemade bomb hidden in his briefcase.

These were the days where you could board a plane much like we still do a bus.

After securing the cash on the 24 November flight, Cooper said goodbye and donning his parachute, jumped out of the commercial airplane.

He was never seen again, with his identity still a mystery to this day. The case has become a thing of legend, with countless books and documentaries released trying to establish exactly who he might be.

With that in mind, here are six of the most high profile suspects that gripped audiences but were never proven to be the man himself.

Ted Braden

Ted Braden.
US Government

A veteran of the Second World War and Vietnam War, Ted Braden was one of United States' leading parachutists and would regularly feature for them in competitions.

It was during the Vietnam War that he deserted his army colleagues and became a mercenary for hire. He was quickly arrested by the CIA and court-martialled.

When it came to parachuting, Special Forces veteran and journalist Don Duncan said he would be constantly disregarding military skydiving safety regulations.

His criminal life began in the 1970s, firstly being investigated by the FBI for stealing $250,000 during a trucking scam he had allegedly devised. He was never charged for this supposed crime.

Braden was then indicted by a Federal grand jury for driving an 18-wheeler full of stolen goods in 1980. Two years later, he'd be arrested for driving a stolen vehicle on fake plates.

One family member said he had the 'perfect combination of high intelligence and criminality', with many believing him to be DB Cooper due to his parachuting expertise as well as his covert work while in Vietnam.

While the height of Cooper was given as least 5ft 10in, Braden stood two inches short - albeit without wearing a shoe heel that could easily have made him a little taller.

Braden has dark hair, a medium athletic build and was 43 when the hijacking took place; all features that pinpointed people to thinking he was Cooper. He was never charged.

Barbara Dayton

Barbara Dayton confessed to being DB Cooper.
Family photo

It isn't just men who make the list, just look at Barbara Dayton.

Dayton was a recreational pilot with dreams of going professional. But after failing her exams twice, it was a dream she never fulfilled.

She was also a trans woman, having gone through gender reassignment surgery. According to good friends Pat and Ron Forman, she had lived a life 'trapped in the wrong body'.

Weeks before the hijacking she had been reported as having a depressed outlook by medics, while also reporting she had little money and work.

The bizarre case with Dayton is that, according to the Formans, she confessed to being DB Cooper.

They explain: "Barb had confessed to us that she was D.B. Cooper.

"As we got to know them, we became convinced that it was important to try to investigate the possibility. It was evident that the family did not condone what the skyjacker had done, but it was also evident that the investigation would provide some sort of closure for the family. It would be the ultimate proof of how strong the turmoil inside of Barb was and explain away some of the hurt she had caused by deserting her family to become a female.

"The skyjacking was not done for the money. The reasons she gave for the skyjacking were losing a house because of back taxes, not being able to become a commercial pilot due to FAA rules, and not being able to fit into society even after going through the pain and suffering of the gender reassignment."

Dayton died in 2002 and the Formans took the information to the FBI who never acted on it.

Richard McCoy Jr

Richard McCoy Jr.
FBI

Richard McCoy Jr served in the US Army, touring Vietnam twice.

After his career in the armed forces, he became obsessed with recreational skydiving.

The thing that sticks out for McCoy is that he was the man caught in a copycat hijacking the year after DB Cooper.

In April 1972, he boarded a plane with what appeared to be a hand grenade (it was a paperweight) and demanded $500,000.

He also wanted four parachutes as Cooper had requested.

McCoy had used handwritten notes to put forward his demands; just as Cooper had done. Sadly for him, he left behind the note and a magazine, both containing his fingerprints.

He was caught two days later and sentenced to 45 years in prison. While in prison, parole officer Bernie Rhodes and former FBI agent Russell Calame claimed that McCoy was Cooper.

Apart from the similarities in the heists, they referenced claims from McCoy's family that a tie and clip left behind on the Cooper raid belonged to him, and McCoy's continued refusal to admit or deny he was Cooper.

But the FBI threw the claim out. This was mainly due to him having an alibi for when the Cooper hijacking took place, with him at home having Thanksgiving dinner in Utah with family.

Robert Rackstraw

Robert Rackstraw.
FBI

Robert Rackstraw was a retired pilot and ex-convict who again, served in the Vietnam War.

The FBI initially investigated him as a potential Cooper suspect but ruled him out quickly when there was no evidence to link him to the hijacking.

But it was in 2016 that author Thomas J. Colbert put together team of retired investigators to try and solve the ID mystery for good.

They decided Rackstraw was their man, with Colbert even tracking him down near the end of his life. Rackstraw denied he was Cooper.

He died in 2019, having labelled the allegation 'a load of s**t'.

Sheridan Peterson

A sketch of DB Cooper and a photo of Sheridan Peterson.
FBI/Eric Ulis

Another army veteran, Sheridan Peterson served in the Second World War before embarking on a career at Boeing.

The FBI looked to Peterson due to his appearance, age, background, and experience as a smokejumper.

Private investigator Eric Ulis said he was '98 percent convinced' Peterson was Cooper.

But after DNA analysis from the tie left behind on the plane by Cooper showed Peterson was not a match, Ulis withdrew the allegation.

Peterson himself told the FBI he was in Nepal when the hijacking happened. He died in 2021.

Duane Weber

Duane Weber.
FBI

Duane Weber was a repeat offender, serving at least six prison terms between 1945 and 1968.

Another Second World War army veteran, his widow proposed he could be the wanted man everyone was searching for.

Three days before he died in 1995, Weber allegedly told his wife - 'I am Dan Cooper'.

Having had no idea what Weber meant, it wasn't until six months later that a friend connected the dots.

There was similarities with Cooper's handwriting too but the FBI officially ruled him out when his fingerprints didn't match.

His DNA later came back as a failed match.

Featured Image Credit: FBI

Topics: Crime, True Crime, US News, Weird, Science, Travel