NEWARK, N.J. — Speculation arose today that a quiet, churchgoing accountant who is accused of murdering his wife, three children and mother in their suburban home 18 years ago could also be the legendary D. B. Cooper, who vanished after parachuting from a hijacked jet in 1971.
Robert P. Clark, who authorities say is really John Emil List, was returned to New Jersey from Richmond, Va., on Thursday after waiving extradition proceedings. He signed the extradition papers as Clark.
Although the man known as Clark denies he is List, authorities said fingerprints and a scar prove Clark and List are the same person.
Clark, 63, was arrested June 1 at the Richmond accounting firm where he had worked for 1 1/2 years. FBI agents had been tipped off by a viewer of the national television program, "America's Most Wanted," which 11 days earlier had run a segment focusing on the List murders.
Authorities said List fled to Colorado and then Virginia and had built a new life without changing his appearance or profession.
An FBI spokesman in Seattle said Thursday that List is considered a suspect in the November, 1971, hijacking of a plane by a man known as D. B. Cooper.
"John List is one of any number of people suspected in the D. B. Cooper case," FBI spokesman John Eyer said. "He will be investigated until he is eliminated."
Eyer declined to comment on the nature of the evidence--whether or not it includes fingerprints--collected from the hijacking, the only U.S. skyjacking case to remain unsolved.
Ralph Himmelsbach, a retired FBI agent who investigated the hijacking, believes Cooper died, but said List warrants investigating.
Himmelsbach, who now lives in Portland, Ore., said List and Cooper have similar descriptions. Cooper was described as in his mid-40s. List was 44 at the time of the slayings. Both were about the same height and weight and wore glasses.
Himmelsbach also said List had spent the last $200,000 of his mother's savings account shortly before the killings. Cooper demanded and received $200,000 before parachuting from the plane near Mt. St. Helens in Washington state. He was never found.
In 1980, authorities found $6,000 in water-soaked ransom money on the banks of the Columbia River, leading to speculation that Cooper landed in the river and drowned.