Physical evidence that may be connected to the unsolved 1971 D.B. Cooper hijacking case is now in the hands of FBI agents in California.
The “evidence” -- a frayed 18-inch-long nylon strap that may have come from the parachute D.B. Cooper used when he escaped from a plane with $200,000 -- was found in a mound of dirt in the deep Pacific Northwest mountains nearly two weeks ago. It was turned in Friday to the FBI’s Ventura County office by acclaimed D.B. Cooper sleuth Tom Colbert, a Los Angeles TV and film producer.
“Well, after six years of gathering information with a 40-member cold case team, I’m ecstatic that they are considering this,” Colbert told Fox News during an interview Sunday, referring to the FBI.
Colbert is hoping the discovery of the nylon strap will reignite interest in the case within the FBI.
The FBI announced last year that it would no longer actively investigate the D.B. Cooper case to focus on other investigative priorities. The FBI interviewed hundreds of people, tracked down leads around the country and considered 800 suspects during its 45-year probe.
The FBI confirmed meeting with Colbert.
“Any evidence brought to the FBI will be evaluated for its value,” FBI Los Angeles Office spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said in an email Sunday to Fox News. “This case falls under the purview of FBI Seattle so my understanding is that it will be forwarded there.”
Ayn S. Dietrich-Williams in the FBI’s Seattle office told Fox News on Sunday that “the FBI does not typically confirm or deny the routine activities we perform in the course of our investigative work, to include meetings or receiving tips.”
She added, “However, I can reassure you that the FBI's Seattle Field Office will review any physical items possibly related to the parachute or money taken by the NORJAK hijacker. Based on that review, the FBI will take any appropriate action.”
In 1971 a man calling himself Dan Cooper, wearing a black tie and a suit, boarded a Seattle-bound Boeing 727 in Oregon and told a flight attendant he had a bomb in a briefcase. He gave her a note demanding ransom.
After the plane landed he released the 36 passengers in exchange for $200,000 in ransom money and parachutes. The ransom was paid in $20 bills.
The hijacker then ordered the plane to fly to Mexico, but near the Washington-Oregon border he jumped and was never seen or heard from again.
Nine years later a boy found a rotting package full of $20 bills near the Columbia River. The $5,800 matched the ransom money serial numbers.
The FBI has never ruled out the possibility that the hijacker was killed in the jump -- which took place in a rainstorm at night, in rough wooded terrain. The hijacker's clothing and footwear were also unsuitable for a rough landing.
Over the years the most lasting image of D.B. Cooper, who became somewhat of a legend, may be the two sketches the FBI released of the suspect.
Colbert said his team, led by an ex-FBI agent, found the nylon strap while digging in a spot right where a credible source claimed the chute and remaining money are buried.
FoxNews.com reported on the finding last week.
Colbert said his team compared the nylon strap to a parachute like the one the skyjumper used.
"One of my former law enforcement [officers] that studied the samples said the stitching pattern appears to match," he said.
After closing the case, the FBI issued an advisory that should specific physical evidence emerge -- related specifically to the parachutes or the money taken by the hijacker -- individuals with those materials should contact their local FBI field office.
Colbert said that is why he went to the Ventura County FBI office and met with an agent there.
“We sat down with him and went over the details of the chain of custody from the dig to me,” he said.
Colbert, who maintains a website, DBCooper.com, and his team of investigators believe D.B Cooper is Robert Rackstraw, a 73-year-old Army veteran from San Diego with a prior criminal record.
Investigators questioned Rackstraw about the D.B. Cooper case in 1978 and eliminated him as a suspect. Rackstraw has repeatedly denied any involvement in the caper.
Colbert said that during the meeting with the FBI he also gave the agent information about two men in their 80s who he believes may have knowledge of the skyjacking.
He said he also told the agent where the nylon strap was found.
He described the site as a lumber farm but declined to be more specific.
He said he told the agent “the site is yours.”