DB Cooper sleuth says he’ll sue FBI for access to famed hijacker’s TIE over possible DNA

In UK News


A man who has investigated the D.B. Cooper case is suing the FBI because he believes a piece of the hijacker’s tie that may contain DNA can solve the case. 

The American hijacker, who is known by the media as Cooper, but whose real identity is still unknown, took over a plane while it was flying over the United States in 1971 and held the entire flight for ransom – and then somehow escaped by parachuting out of the door mid-air, making off with $200,000 in cash. 

The mysterious case, which remains unsolved today, quickly took the country by storm, and went on to become one of the most talked about incidents of its time. 

Eric Ulis, who calls himself ‘one of the world’s leading DB Cooper experts,’ says he’s discovered an adjustable spindle in a tie that matches the one Cooper wore. 

He believes that the spindle may solve the case because previous FBI investigators told Ulis that they didn’t realize it was specifically adjustable. 

A man who has investigated the D.B. Cooper case is suing the FBI because he believes a piece of the hijacker's tie can solve the case

A man who has investigated the D.B. Cooper case is suing the FBI because he believes a piece of the hijacker’s tie can solve the case

Ulis is going to Washington to file a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit on Wednesday to force the FBI to let him and a DNA expert examine the tie.

He believes they can use ancestry genealogy to solve the case, though the FBI recently denied a request to examine the tie under FOIA. 

‘They’ve given access to the tie two separate times before to private scientists, private individuals, once in 2009 and once in 2011, and this could actually solve the case,’ he told KOIN6.

‘That gives us the ability to take D.B. Cooper’s DNA and sort of reverse engineer this and identify his family, nephews, nieces, people of that nature,’ Ulis added.

Ulis suspects a man named Vince Peterson is Cooper after a November chemical trace found on the tie to a lab in Pittsburgh where Peterson worked.

The FBI has said it does not comment on potential litigation. 

After jumping from the moving plane with his money and a parachute, Cooper went missing – and his fate is still not known – however, law enforcement, government officials, retired detectives, and civilian sleuths continued to look for the mystery man for many years to come. 

While various clues have emerged over the years, including a stash of cash found in a riverbed believed to be part of his ransom money, there has never been anything concrete enough to bring the case to a close.

Eric Ulis (pictured), who calls himself 'one of the world's leading DB Cooper experts,' says he's discovered an adjustable spindle in a tie that matches the one Cooper wore

Eric Ulis (pictured), who calls himself ‘one of the world’s leading DB Cooper experts,’ says he’s discovered an adjustable spindle in a tie that matches the one Cooper wore

He believes that the spindle may solve the case because previous FBI investigators told Ulis that they didn't realize it was specifically adjustable

He believes that the spindle may solve the case because previous FBI investigators told Ulis that they didn’t realize it was specifically adjustable

The American hijacker, who is known by the media as Cooper, but whose real identity is still unknown, took over a plane while it was flying over the United States in 1971 and held the entire flight for ransom - and then somehow escaped by parachuting out of the door mid-air, making off with $200,000 in cash

The American hijacker, who is known by the media as Cooper, but whose real identity is still unknown, took over a plane while it was flying over the United States in 1971 and held the entire flight for ransom – and then somehow escaped by parachuting out of the door mid-air, making off with $200,000 in cash

Ulis suspects a man named Vince Peterson (pictured) is Cooper after a November chemical trace found on the tie to a lab in Pittsburgh where Peterson worked

Ulis suspects a man named Vince Peterson (pictured) is Cooper after a November chemical trace found on the tie to a lab in Pittsburgh where Peterson worked

Back in November 1971, a ‘non-descript man’ identifying himself as Dan ‘DB’ Cooper bought a $20 ticket for a Northwest Orient flight from Portland to Seattle. 

He settled into his seat, smoking cigarettes and drinking bourbon, before telling a flight attendant shortly after takeoff that he had a bomb in his briefcase and a note for the pilot. 

Included in the letter was a demand from the criminal, ordering the pilot to communicate with authorities on the ground and tell them to bring him $200,000 in cash (which would be equivalent to around $1.2 million now) and four parachutes in exchange for the lives of the 36 passengers aboard the aircraft.  

When the flight landed in Seattle, Cooper successfully traded the hostages for the cash with the FBI. However, he then ordered that the Northwest pilots take off once more in the direction of Mexico City; Cooper instructed the pilots to fly the plane under 10,000 feet and at a speed lower than 200 knots.

Then, somewhere between Seattle and Reno just after 8pm, Cooper lowered the rear steps and leaped out the back of the plane using one of the parachutes swindled from authorities and clutching onto the cash in a briefcase.

In November 1971, a 'non-descript man' identifying himself as Dan 'DB' Cooper got on a Northwest Orient flight from Portland to Seattle. He then told the pilot he had a bomb and asked for $200,000. Pictured is the plane he hijacked

In November 1971, a ‘non-descript man’ identifying himself as Dan ‘DB’ Cooper got on a Northwest Orient flight from Portland to Seattle. He then told the pilot he had a bomb and asked for $200,000. Pictured is the plane he hijacked

The only clue to what happened happened to Cooper was discovered nine years later in 1980. A young boy camping with his family on the Columbia River, northwest of Vancouver, discovered $6,000 of Cooper's ransom money in a riverbank, pictured

The only clue to what happened happened to Cooper was discovered nine years later in 1980. A young boy camping with his family on the Columbia River, northwest of Vancouver, discovered $6,000 of Cooper’s ransom money in a riverbank, pictured

The pilots later landed safely, but the man the press would later dub as ‘DB’ Cooper disappeared without a trace in the night – leaving his identity and fate to become the subject of folklore and prompting ‘one of the longest and most exhaustive investigations in FBI history.’

The FBI, who speculated that Cooper died in the fall, attempted to find the exact location of Cooper’s landing by recreating his drop with the same plane and the location that he jumped. They searched the area extensively – but they didn’t uncover anything. 

Officials were able to extract partial DNA from Cooper’s tie clip, which was left on the plane, however, they were never able to match it to anyone. 

Based on elements found on the tie, it was believed the Cooper either worked in a metal or chemical manufacturing plant or was possibly a Boeing employee. FBI suspect profilers also said he may have been an Air Force veteran.

Robert Rackstraw (pictured), a military vet with a murky past riddled by fraud and con-artistry, is one of the people believed to be the real DB Cooper, however, there have been numerous suspects over the years. He died in 2019

Robert Rackstraw (pictured), a military vet with a murky past riddled by fraud and con-artistry, is one of the people believed to be the real DB Cooper, however, there have been numerous suspects over the years. He died in 2019

Robert Rackstraw (pictured), a military vet with a murky past riddled by fraud and con-artistry, is one of the people believed to be the real DB Cooper, however, there have been numerous suspects over the years. He died in 2019

One of the only concrete clues as to what happened happened to Cooper was discovered nine years after the incident, in 1980. 

A young boy camping with his family on the Tena Bar stretch of the Columbia River, northwest of Vancouver, came across $6,000 of Cooper’s ransom money, bound-together by elastic bands, while he dug a fire pit on the riverbank.

The discovery, confirmed by the serial number on the cash, led the FBI to believe that the money had washed down river, 18 miles from Cooper’s drop zone, and had been buried in the sand ever since.

But the theory was later thrown into question after scientists analyzed tiny particles of algae that had attached to the notes and suggested that the money had ended up in the river months after Cooper’s flight – leading many to believe that he had survived the drop after all. 

The rest of Cooper’s ransom money was never found, despite FBI releasing the serial numbers to the public and offering rewards to any who turned in a matching bill. 

That extensive search for the hijacker ended in 2016, when the FBI closed the case unsolved. FBI agents are seen scouring the sand of a beach of the Columbia River, searching for additional money or clues on February 13, 1980

That extensive search for the hijacker ended in 2016, when the FBI closed the case unsolved. FBI agents are seen scouring the sand of a beach of the Columbia River, searching for additional money or clues on February 13, 1980

That extensive search for the hijacker ended in 2016, when the FBI closed the case unsolved, having investigated thousands of possible suspects and countless false leads.

During the 45-year investigation, officials had a number of ideas about Cooper’s real identity, some of which are featured in the new Netflix show. 

The most compelling was arguably Robert Rackshaw, a retired pilot and military veteran with a murky past riddled by murder accusations and con-artistry.

Rackstraw had extensive military training, serving in the National Guard, the Reserve, and in one of the most decorated combat divisions in the US Army – the 1st Calvary Division – in Vietnam in 1969. He is rumored to have been granted immunity for his crimes after flying black ops missions for the CIA.

Rackstraw was first considered as a suspect seven years after the hijacking in 1978, with investigators saying ‘so many things’ about him seemed to match the description of Cooper. 

Between his resemblance to the sketch of Cooper, his military training, and his criminal record, law enforcement was suspicious of Rackshaw, who died in 2019, but couldn’t find any direct evidence linking him to the case.

Cooper would be in his 90s now – that is, if he even survived the drop from the plane and if he is still alive today. 



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