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A book written by 84-year-old man claims his best friend, a fellow skydiver, was the real D. B. Cooper

Nancy Bilyeau

For years it seemed like the mystery about the true identity of skyjacker D. B. Cooper would remain unsolved. After all, it was back on November 24, 1971, when a well-dressed man passed a flight attendant a note on a Boeing 727-100 flying from Portland to Seattle saying he had a bomb. In 2016, after tremendous media attention, a movie, and a long investigation, the FBI announced it was redirecting its resources away from the D. B. Cooper case, essentially giving up on tracking down the man who jumped out of a plane at 10,000 feet somewhere in Washington State, wearing a parachute and clutching $200,00.

But after the case closed, that’s when things got really interesting.

FBI sketches of Cooper, with age progression

FBI sketches of Cooper, with age progression

This February, it was announced that the man had been identified: D. B. Cooper was actually a former CIA operative named Robert Rackstraw, 74, alive and well and living in Southern California. A team of private investigators hired by TV producer Tom Colbert that has been working on the mystery for several years said they cracked a code proving the infamous hijacker is Rackstraw, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and, according to the investigators, an ex-CIA operative.

Rackstraw, however, has denied he is D. B. Cooper, and no one has arrested him.

One of several FBI composite sketches of D. B. Cooper.

One of several FBI composite sketches of D. B. Cooper.

Now, several months later, there is a brand new candidate. The book D. B. Cooper & Me: A Criminal, a Spy, My Best Friend just appeared from a Michigan publisher, claiming that the wanted man, now deceased, was Walter R. Reca, “a former military paratrooper and intelligence operative.”

The book was written by Carl Laurin, “an 84-year-old pet sitter who lives in DeLand, Florida,” as described in The Washington Post. The Grand Rapids, Michigan publisher, Principia Media, describes its author differently: he’s “a military veteran, commercial airline pilot, skydiver, and entrepreneur.”

A portion of Brian Ingram’s 1980 discovery

A portion of Brian Ingram’s 1980 discovery

According to an obituary, Walter Reca died on February 17, 2014. Laurin said Reca gave his friend the go-ahead to write this book, but only after he was dead.

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“Evidence, including almost-daily discussions over a 14-year period and 3 plus hours of audio recordings featuring the skyjacker, was compiled by Reca’s best friend. It was then analyzed by a Certified Fraud Examiner and forensic linguist,” the publisher said in a news release. “The audio recordings, created in 2008, include Reca discussing skyjacking details that were not known to the public prior to the FBI’s information release in 2015.”

Boeing 727 with the aft airstair open. Photo:R. W. Rynerson. CC BY-SA 3.0

Boeing 727 with the aft airstair open. Photo:
R. W. Rynerson. CC BY-SA 3.0

Among the facts disclosed by Reca to his friend Laurin before he died were that, as “D. B. Cooper,” he received help with the rear door from the stewardess, he ordered the window shades be pulled shut where he was sitting to protect against snipers, he told the stewardess she was “polite and kind” and addressed her as “young lady,” and he told the stewardess to tell the passengers “Happy Thanksgiving” and ordered meals for the flight crew for the flight.

According to the book’s publisher, “Laurin is in possession of Reca’s insulated long underwear bottoms which Reca wore during the skyjacking to protect from the cold air as he jumped and observed by at least one eyewitness.”

Northwest Orient Airlines Boeing 727-51C

Northwest Orient Airlines Boeing 727-51C

The Washington Post story pointed out that Laurin and the publisher never vetted their theories with the FBI.  According to the newspaper, “Asked about the possibility of Reca as Cooper, the FBI’s Seattle division office released a statement to The Post that said it would be ‘inappropriate’ to comment on specific tips. The bureau said that suggestions still pour in but that ‘none to date have resulted in a definitive identification of the hijacker.’ The FBI also said that the new information has ‘conveyed plausible theories,’ but nothing has so far netted ‘the necessary proof of culpability beyond a reasonable doubt.’ ”

FBI wanted poster of D. B. Cooper

FBI wanted poster of D. B. Cooper

Despite dozens of candidates being offered over the years, the leading theory as to what happened to D. B. Cooper is that he died that night. He had a parachute that couldn’t be steered, he jumped at night into a heavily wooded area, in the rain, in a business suit–whether or not he wore the long underwear Laurin now touts.

Related story from us: The only unsolved skyjacking case in U.S. history might have a break: “D. B. Cooper” is Robert Rackstraw, a Vietnam vet and ex-CIA operative, investigative team claims

Laurin and Reca, both devoted skydivers, met in the 1950s and stayed in touch, the publisher says. Laurin explains that Reca told him he was a trained paratrooper but was evasive about what he did as an intelligence operative.


Nancy Bilyeau, the U.S. editor of The Vintage News, has written a trilogy of novels set in the court of Henry VIII: ‘The Crown,’ ‘The Chalice,’ and ‘The Tapestry.’ The books are for sale in the U.S., the U.K., and seven other countries. For more information, go to www.nancybilyeau.com.

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