By Louis Casiano
Published July 10, 2019
A 75-year-old San Diego man who led an eventful life of danger and who some thought may have been D.B. Cooper, the legendary hijacker who pulled off one of the most daring heists in modern history, died Tuesday.
Robert Rackstraw died in his condominium, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. An Army veteran and pilot, Rackstraw was often a target for amateur sleuths who thought he could be the infamous hijacker who in 1971 jumped from a plane over Washington state with $200,000 cash.
Calling himself Dan Cooper and wearing a black tie and suit, the suspect told a flight attendant he had a bomb in a briefcase before giving her a note demanding the money and four parachutes.
Upon landing in Seattle, he traded 36 hostages in exchange for the hefty ransom and parachutes. He ordered the plane to go to Mexico and jumped out around 8 p.m. somewhere between Seattle and Reno, Nev.
He vanished without a trace. No one even knows if he survived the jump.
For a time, the FBI suspected Rackstraw of being the skyjacker but ruled him out because of his age. He was 28 at the time of the crime, while witness testimony said the suspect was 35 to 45 years of age.
He was featured in filmmaker Thomas Colbert's 2016 documentary, “D.B. Cooper: Case Closed?" It aired on the History Channel.
Colbert concluded that Rackstraw was the hijacker.
“I told everybody I was,” Rackstraw said, according to The Tribune, before explaining that his admission was a stunt.
The high school dropout was born in Ohio in 1943 and became an Army paratrooper in the 1960s, serving 15 months in Vietnam. He was eventually kicked out of the military for misconduct. In 1978, he was acquitted of killing his stepfather and then faked his own death by crashing a rented airplane and disappearing.
He ultimately spent two years in prison for passing bad checks and committing grand theft.
“While my cold-case team believes he was Cooper, he also was a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather,” Colbert told the paper about Rackstraw. “Our condolences to the family.”
The case is one of the longest-lived and exhaustively examined in FBI history. The agency stopped actively investigating the D.B. Cooper case in 2016.