“On a rainy night in 1971, the notorious skyjacker jumped out of a 727 and into American legend. But recently, a chance lead to a Manhattan P.I. may have finally cracked the case.”
Left: An FBI sketch of “D.B. Cooper.” Right: Kenneth Christiansen, Northwest purser and former paratrooper; the suspect.
The Cooper file is now a morgue of dead-end leads. It sits buried in the basement of the FBI’s Seattle field office and occupies several shelves in long rows that open and close by spinning black plastic wheels. The belief among agents handling the case now is that Cooper died in the jump—the conditions were simply too brutal to survive, and the twenties would have blown away. When a new tip arrives in the mail, the Feds typically shrug it off and file it away.
One of those tips that came in was from Lyle Christiansen. In fact, he claims he told the FBI about his older brother several times. “Dear Good People,” a copy of one of his letters, written in November 2003, begins. “Here’s the story of how I began to suspect my brother was D.B. Cooper.” He was watching TV one night, he told them, and flipped on the show Unsolved Mysteries, which had an episode about the Cooper case. “I sat up in my chair,” he wrote, “because my brother was a dead ringer to the composite sketch of D.B.” Suspicious, he read up on the case. “There was so many circumstances that I became convinced my brother was truly D.B. Cooper!”
“I’m not getting any younger,” Christiansen wrote to the FBI again, and for the final time, in January 2004. “Before I die I would like to find out if my brother was D.B. Cooper. From what I know I feel that he was and without a doubt.”