D.B. Cooper is the infamous skyjacker who boarded a Boeing 727 in Portland, Oregon, that was heading to Sea-Tac in Seattle, Washington, on Thanksgiving Eve, 1971. He demanded a $200,000 ransom before jumping out of the plane at 10,000 feet.
He was never caught and his true identity has remained a mystery.
During a press conference this afternoon, Grand Rapids-based Principia Media said it believes the man responsible was Walter Reca, a former parachutist in the U.S. Military, who had years of experience jumping from planes including documented night jumps and in inclement weather.
The book publisher has released a memoir, “D.B. Cooper & Me: A Criminal, A Spy, My Best Friend,” written by Carl Laurin, who said he was Cooper’s best friend. The friends were also members of the Michigan Parachute Club.
Laurin, who attended the press conference, said he came to suspect his friend was D.B. Cooper and confronted him in 2000.
Describing Reca as a “daredevil, determined, fearless, and tough as nails,” Laurin said Reca also came from poverty and despised it.
“I knew he resorted to theft and robbery when he was in a pinch,” Laurin said. “For Walt, life was tough and he felt he had to be tougher. In 2000 I told him I suspected him of being D.B. Cooper.”
Reca did not confirm Laurin’s suspicions at the time, but through “almost-daily discussions over a 14-year period and more than three hours of audio recordings,” Reca confessed and provided details of his escape. Lisa Story, Reca’s niece, said he later confessed his identity as D.B. Cooper to her as well. Both kept his secret until after his death in 2014.
A certified fraud examiner and forensic linguist were hired to review the evidence collected by Laurin. The audio recordings, created in 2008, include Cooper discussing skyjacking details that Principia Media said were not known to the public prior to the FBI’s information release in 2015.
The investigation was spearheaded by Principia Media, after being approached with what it called “overwhelming evidence” in 2016.
Vern Jones, investigator and publisher of Principia Media, said initially he was skeptical about Laurin’s story, but after a two-year investigation, he’s come to believe Reca is D.B. Cooper.
Jones acknowledged information released by the FBI does not match up with the recordings and eyewitness reports. But ultimately he’s come to believe the FBI’s evidence is inaccurate.
Principia Media pointed to the following as evidence of the hijacker’s true identity as Walter Reca.
- Correct flight path and landing zone identified
- Witness testimony from an individual who spoke with Cooper within an hour of his jump
- Documentation concerning how the $200,000 ransom was spent
- Confessions from Cooper to two individuals at two different times
- An article of clothing Cooper wore during the jump
Laurin is in Grand Rapids today and will read excerpts from his book and participate in a Q&A and book signing beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Schuler Books, 2660 28th Street SE.