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FBI ends 45-year search for infamous plane hijacker D.B. Cooper

By Andrew V. Pestano
FBI ends 45-year search for infamous plane hijacker D.B. Cooper
A man who identified himself as Dan Cooper, who became infamously known by the media epithet D.B. Cooper, hijacked a plane from which he jumped off in 1971 after collecting a $200,000 ransom. On Tuesday, the FBI announced it was ending its inconclusive investigation into the hijacking. Photo courtesy of FBI

WASHINGTON, July 13 (UPI) -- The FBI has ended the 45-year search for D.B. Cooper, the infamous outlaw who vanished with $200,000 after parachuting out of a plane he hijacked.

The FBI said it ended "one of the longest and most exhaustive investigations in our history" on Friday. The agency will allocate resources from the D.B. Cooper case to "other investigative priorities."

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Evidence recovered during the investigation will be preserved at the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., for historical purposes.

On Nov. 24, 1971, a man calling himself Dan Cooper bought a one-way ticket on a Northwest Orient Airlines flight from Portland, Ore., to Seattle, Wash., that carried 36 passengers. The FBI describes Cooper as a quiet man who appeared to be in his mid-40s at the time. He wore a business suit, a black tie and white shirt.

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While waiting for the flight to take off, he ordered a bourbon and soda. Shortly after 3 p.m., Cooper handed a flight stewardess a note indicating he had a bomb in his briefcase and that he wanted her to sit next to him.

After she sat, Cooper showed the stewardess a glimpse of a mass of wires and red colored sticks. He told her to hand the flight captain a note in which he demanded four parachutes and $200,000 in $20 bills.

The hijacker exchanged the passengers for the cash after the plane landed in Seattle but Cooper kept several crew members and ordered the plane to head to Mexico City.

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"Somewhere between Seattle and Reno, a little after 8:00 p.m., the hijacker did the incredible: He jumped out of the back of the plane with a parachute and the ransom money. The pilots landed safely, but Cooper disappeared into the night -- and his ultimate fate remains a mystery to this day," the FBI said in a statement released Tuesday.

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The FBI immediately began work to find Cooper. Five years after the hijacking, the FBI had more than 800 suspects but only about two dozen remained under consideration.

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Richard Floyd McCoy was one such suspect. He was arrested for a similar plane hijacking and parachute escape less than five months after the Cooper flight, but McCoy was later ruled out because he didn't match the Cooper's physical descriptions, among other reasons, the FBI said.

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The FBI also believes Cooper could have died after jumping out of the plane.

"After all, the parachute he used couldn't be steered, his clothing and footwear were unsuitable for a rough landing, and he had jumped into a wooded area at night -- a dangerous proposition for a seasoned pro, which evidence suggests Cooper was not," the FBI said.

In 1980, a boy found a rotting package full of $20 bills counting up to $5,800 in total that matched serial numbers of the ransom money.

The "D.B." in Cooper's presumed name is an epithet popularized by the media. The FBI did question a man with the initials D.B., but he was ruled out as the hijacker.

The FBI said it is still encouraging anyone with new information or possible evidence -- such as the parachutes or ransom money -- to come forward.

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