Mar 12, 2023 I Paul Seaburn

DB Cooper's Necktie is the Subject of an FBI Lawsuit

In the annals of missing persons who have managed to elude discovery despite the most intensive manhunts in history, the name “D.B. Cooper” should be at the top … not only because he disappeared on November 24, 1971, after hijacking a plane, receiving $200,000 and four parachutes, and then jumped out of the plane – he deserves it because over 50 years later, we don’t even know his true identity. A number of people have devoted substantial portions of their lives searching for the identity and what happened to D.B. Copper – some because it was their job, others because they are curiously obsessed. One of the latter is suing many of the former in order to gain possession of a piece of evidence he believes will positively identify D.B. Copper because it has his DNA on it. The man is D.B. Cooper investigator Eric Ulis, the people he’s suing whose job it is to find Cooper is the F.B.I., and the alleged missing link is not a cufflink but a black clip-on tie believed to have been worn by the hijacker and left on his seat in the plane. Why Does Eric Ulis have to sue to test this evidence? Why hasn’t it been tested by the F.B.I.? Or has it?

The police sketch of D. B. Cooper with the infamous black tie.

“We actually do possess the technology, the ability to pull the smallest amounts of DNA off of metal and these types of things.”

On an interview with KOIN. Eric Ulis reiterates what everyone who has ever watched a TV crime drama knows – DNA is ALWAYS the key and forensic investigators seem to be able to find the tiniest traces of it in the most unusual places. However, the mysterious D.B. Cooper was smarter than the average TV crime drama suspect. While on a Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305, a Boeing 727 aircraft, on November 24, 1971, during the flight from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington, he told a flight attendant he had a bomb (a common hijacking tactic back in those days) and demanded the plane to land in Seattle, where he was to be given $200,000 in ransom (about $1,4 million today) and four parachutes.

After releasing the passengers and watching the plane get refueled, he ordered the crew to fly to Reno, Nevada, to refuel again and then continue on to Mexico City to let him off. As we know, that never happened. About 30 minutes into the first leg, he opened the plane’s rear door and parachuted with the money over southwestern Washington. No one ever saw “Dan Cooper” (his name on the ticket) -  a white male in his mid-40s with dark hair and brown eyes, wearing a dark business suit, a white shirt, a thin, black clip-on tie, a black raincoat and brown shoes - again. All that he left behind were 66 latent fingerprints, some cigarette butts (there were destroyed before any DNA samples could be taken), two of the four parachutes, a tie clip and the black clip-on tie.

“The partial DNA profile that the FBI has is from the tie. It is unclear as to where on the tie it came from. Given that it was 2001 and we’re dealing with 2001 technology, they probably pulled something off of the front of the tie from the fibers, maybe a little bit of saliva that was dried up or something of that nature.”

Yes, the F.B.I. performed at least one DNA test on the tie, but Eric Ulis doesn’t trust the results – partly because of the old technology and partly because he doesn’t know where the agents swabbed the tie to obtain Cooper’s DNA sample. According to an F.B.I. report, "The tie had two small DNA samples, and one large sample” but the agency could not link them to an actual person. The location where the samples were taken from has become extremely important to Ulis because he found a black clip-on tie identical to the one carried exclusively at JCPenney department stores and discontinued in 1968. That clip-on tie has a hidden feature he believes the F.B.I. may not have noticed. According to KOIN, Ulis says he discovered a spindle in a tie “precisely like DB. Cooper’s,” that rises up. Ulis may be referring to something connected to the clip which folded over the buttoned collar and kept the tie in place. While it seems highly unlikely that F.B.I. agents would have missed something like that, it is those kids of missing pieces that make TV crime dramas so interesting … and this was 1971. Could the “spindle” have Dan Cooper’s DNA on it?

Ulis has asked the F.B.I. politely for the tie, pointing out that “They’ve given access to the tie two separate times before to private scientists, private individuals, once in 2009 and once in 2011.” Why didn’t they honor his request in 2023? He’s not sure, but it may have something to do with his announcement in November 2022 that he had obtained used a chemical analysis the F.B.I. had done on the tie and traced a rare chemical – titanium - on it to a lab near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, owned by Rem-Cru Titanium, better known as Crucible Steel. Searching for people working there at the time who could have traveled to Seattle and had a motive to hijack a plane, he found a man named Vince Petersen who he believes was D.B. “Dan” Cooper – Peterson is now deceased. Could the F.B.I. be embarrassed that Ulis may have solved this 50-year-old case with its own data? Is it afraid the DNA on the tie’s spindle will confirm it?

What was known about D.B. Cooper.

“This could actually solve the case.”

Eric Ulis is convinced he has the missing link to identifying D.B. Cooper. He went to Washington D.C. this week to file a federal lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act to force the F.B.I. to allow him and a DNA expert to examine the tie, then use ancestry genealogy to link it to Vince Peterson … or perhaps someone else.

“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.”

Those other relatives could help piece together the rest of the background story on the life that led the man who would be Dan or D.B. Cooper to hijack a plane and become one of the most infamous missing persons in history. Does the F.B.I. already know the answer?

The FBI announced in 2016 it was no longer investigating the D.B. Cooper case and this week told KOIN it does not comment on potential litigation.

Ironically, it’s all tied up in a clip-on tie.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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