The man who once claimed that he was the infamous D.B. Cooper has passed away. Robert Rackstraw died early Tuesday morning from natural causes in his Bankers Hill condominium in San Diego, California. The 75-year-old was a U.S. Army paratrooper who had training in explosives and psychological operations as well as being a pilot.
Rackstraw’s name became well-known to the world when he was the subject of a 2016 mini-series focused on the unsolved hijacking case involving D.B. Cooper which happened on November 24, 1971. The skyjacker, who called himself “D.B. Cooper”, showed a note to the airline stewardess that said he had a bomb on board and demanded $200,000 in cash as well as four parachutes. He then jumped out of the Northwest Orient Airlines plane somewhere between Seattle, Washington, and Reno, Nevada – most likely near Ariel, Washington – with the cash. It seemed as though he vanished into thin air as he was never found.
Rackstraw’s Army photo looked quite similar to the sketch of D.B. Cooper, and with his extensive military training in paratrooping and explosives, it made him a possible suspect in the unsolved hijacking case. In the mini-series titled “D.B. Cooper: Case Closed?” filmmaker Thomas Colbert (who studied the case for nearly ten years) concluded that Rackstraw was in fact the hijacker.
Colbert confronted Rackstraw in the documentary and he even offered him a $20,000 check for his story. While Rackstraw seemed interested at first, he ended up declining the offer and simply replied, “I told everybody I was (the hijacker),” before explaining that it had been nothing but a stunt. He then added, “The problem is, I don’t remember a lot of it.” So, was that a confession or a denial?
Colbert wasn’t the only one who was suspicious of Rackstraw as he was also on the FBI’s suspect list for a short amount of time. The investigators eventually ruled him out as he was 28 years old at the time of the hijacking and the man who committed the crime was believed to have been in his 40s according to eye witnesses. During that time, a reporter asked Rackstraw if he was D.B. Cooper and he responded with, “I wouldn’t discount myself.” Several years later, he attempted to explain his statement by saying that he was just winding up the reporter and that he wasn’t Cooper.
Rackstraw did live a very interesting life to say the least. After his time in the Army, he worked various other jobs before getting into trouble with the law. In 1978, he was acquitted of murdering his stepfather, but that’s not where his encounters with the law ended. He then spent over a year in prison for stealing a plane and writing back checks.
So, was Robert Rackstraw the infamous D.B. Cooper who parachuted out of a flying plane and vanished with $200,000 in cash, never to be caught? I guess we’ll never know… And since the FBI closed the case without resolution in 2016, we may never know who committed one of the most famous unsolved cases of all time.