The FBI says it is giving up on the D.B. Cooper investigation, 45 years after the mysterious hijacker parachuted into the night with $200,000 in a briefcase, becoming an instant folk figure.
“Following one of the longest and most exhaustive investigations in our history,” the FBI’s Ayn Dietrich-Williams said in a statement, “the FBI redirected resources allocated to the D.B. Cooper case in order to focus on other investigative priorities.”
The mystery has confounded investigators for decades and they’ve gathered information on hundreds of suspects.
In 1971, on the day before Thanksgiving in Portland, Ore., a man calling himself “Dan Cooper” purchased a ticket on a Seattle-bound flight, paying with cash. “Thus began one of the great unsolved mysteries in FBI history,” the FBI said in a statement.
As the story goes, Cooper calmly ordered a bourbon and soda before takeoff. Once the plane was airborne, he passed the flight attendant a note: “Miss, I have a bomb here. I want you to sit by me.”
Cooper demanded $200,000 in American currency and four parachutes, which he received in exchange for allowing the passengers to leave the plane in Seattle. He demanded the plane take off again, heading toward Mexico City. Then, as the FBI explained, “the hijacker did the incredible: He jumped out of the back of the plane with a parachute and the ransom money.” The FBI added: “The pilots landed safely, but Cooper disappeared into the night—and his ultimate fate remains a mystery to this day.”
The man became known as D.B. Cooper, a name which the FBI said is “apparently, a myth created by the press.”
Numerous leads have surfaced over the years. In 1980, several thousand dollars of the ransom money was found near Portland. Even as recently as 2011, the FBI said it was investigating a “new suspect,” as we reported. Cooper “left behind DNA and fingerprints on a magazine he handled during the hijacking, on a cigarette and on portions of the plane.”
The case has generated major international attention over the years. “Although the FBI appreciated the immense number of tips provided by members of the public, none to date have resulted in a definitive identification of the hijacker,” the statement read. “The tips have conveyed plausible theories, descriptive information about individuals potentially matching the hijacker, and anecdotes—to include accounts of sudden, unexplained wealth.”
But none of the tips led to “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” linking any suspect to Cooper, the FBI said.
And while the agency is no longer actively investigating the case, the statement said it is still open to receiving new physical evidence related to the hijacker — specifically, the parachutes or the ransom money.