SALT LAKE CITY — Two former law enforcement officers believe that the mysterious airplane hijacker D. B. Cooper may have been a Utah man who staged a similar crime five months later.
Former FBI agent Russell Calame and Bernie Rhodes, a former federal probation officer, have written a book making a case that Cooper was really Richard Floyd McCoy Jr., a Mormon Sunday School teacher and law enforcement student from Provo, Utah, who was caught after hijacking a plane in April, 1972.
Cooper disappeared near Portland, Ore., on Thanksgiving eve in 1971 after hijacking a Northwest Orient jet bound for Seattle. He parachuted from the plane in the dark with $200,000, and many investigators believe that he drowned in the Columbia River.
It is the nation's only unsolved skyjacking.
On April 7, 1972, McCoy hijacked a United Airlines flight from Denver to Los Angeles. He bailed out near his hometown of Provo with $500,000 cash. But he was caught a few days later and sentenced to 45 years in prison.
McCoy later escaped from a federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa., and was killed in a gunfight with FBI agents in Virginia Beach, Va.
At the time of his arrest, FBI agents suspected that McCoy might be Cooper, but eventually ruled him out as a suspect.
Now Calame, who headed the McCoy investigation, and Rhodes said agents may have made a mistake. The authors say four years of additional research, in which they re-interviewed people and rechecked evidence, has convinced them that McCoy was Cooper.
They outline the evidence in their book, "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (D.B. Cooper No Longer a Mystery)".
Rhodes, who conducted pre-sentence interviews with McCoy, said the skyjacker refused to confirm or deny that he was Cooper.
The men were similar in appearance and used the same method for staging the skyjackings, bailing out of the rear doors of Boeing 727 jets. Both requested four parachutes. Both were calm and cool during the crime, passing notes to flight attendants claiming a bomb was on board.
Even the notes were similar. Both contained the phrase "no funny stuff."
Both hijackings were committed during vacation time at Brigham Young University, where McCoy was studying to become a police officer.
Most significant of all, they say, is that members of McCoy's family identified an object, never publicly identified, left behind by Cooper on the Northwest Orient plane.