The FBI Agent Who Investigated D.B. Cooper Says the Case Secretly Remains Open

db cooper
FBI Agent: D.B. Cooper Case Never Actually ClosedWikimedia Commons
  • The D.B. Cooper hijacking case, still unresolved, has been rekindled by fresh DNA inquiries, prompting comments from an ex-FBI agent who worked the case.

  • An amateur detective points to the likelihood of DNA traces on D.B. Cooper’s tie, highlighting its importance in pinpointing the skyjacker’s identity.

  • Given the momentum to analyze the DNA traces, the former FBI official acknowledges that the Bureau might indeed examine the tie itself.

Fifty-two years after D.B. Cooper jumped out of a plane somewhere south of Seattle with $200,000 and vanished without a trace, the notorious skyjacking mystery continues to captivate the imaginations of amateur detectives—and it might still hold interest within the halls of the FBI, too.

In an interview with The U.S. Sun, retired FBI Agent Larry Carr says the Bureau’s investigation into D.B. Cooper remains open, despite it officially “closing” in 2016. Carr said he thinks “it’s very much a conceivable possibility” that the FBI will follow up on new leads in the still-unsolved case, specifically focusing on newly sparked interest in possible DNA evidence from a necktie left at the scene of the crime.

The dapper D.B. Cooper, the most famous skyjacker to never be found, took his tie off on Thanksgiving Eve, 1971, just before dropping out of a Northwest Orient Airlines plane somewhere south of Seattle. Now, citizen sleuth Eric Ulis believes there are enough clues on that infamous tie to unravel the mystery of the skyjacker’s true identity at last.

On November 24, 1971, D.B. Cooper—he called himself Dan, but the media misreported the name as D.B.—paid $18.52 in cash for a one-way ticket to Portland and boarded Northwest Orient Flight 305 without offering any identification due to a lack of regulations at the time.

Holding a briefcase and a paper sack, Cooper passed a note to a flight attendant seated behind him halfway through the flight and whispered that she better look at the note since he had a bomb. Cooper opened his briefcase to reveal what appeared to be a bomb and then relayed his demands of $200,000, multiple parachutes, and a refueling truck waiting in Seattle so he could take off again, bound for Mexico City.

sketch of highjacking suspect d b cooper
Bettmann - Getty Images

After Cooper’s demands were met, the scheduled 30-minute flight extended into a two-hour loop over the Puget Sound while ground crews prepared. Cooper released the airliner’s 35 passengers and some crew members, then dictated the flight path and aircraft configuration to the remaining crew, demanding specific speeds, flap angles, and more. With these negotiations complete, Cooper and the four remaining crew members took off again.

Somewhere still over Washington, Cooper then opened the rear staircase and parachuted from the plane, but the exact location and timing is unknown. Immediate searches yielded no evidence, and over the years, experts have been unable to determine an exact search area due to the multiple variables involved in the night jump.

One thing we know for sure? D.B. Cooper left his tie behind on seat 18-E.

Ulis is advocating for an analysis of the $1.49 clip-on tie from JCPenney using contemporary equipment, and has been fighting to free it from FBI holds, even suing the government for access. Ulis says the 100,000 particles left behind on the clip-on fashion accessory can tell the definitive story about just who the tie belonged to, and where it traveled.

Ulis recently traced the tie, which contained a unique particle that was part-stainless steel and part-titanium, to Crucible Steel of Pennsylvania, which “supplied the lion’s share of titanium and stainless steel for Boeing’s aircraft,” he told Fox 13 Seattle. He’s landed on a titanium research engineer from the factory as the possible real D.B. Cooper.

Atlhough the FBI hasn’t publicly commented on the case, Carr, who managed the D.B. Cooper investigation from 2007 to 2010 before his transfer from Seattle to Washington for a higher position, believes the agency has discreetly recommenced examinations. “They may be testing everything as a final full-court press,” Carr, who retired from the Bureau in 2022, told The U.S. Sun. “If I was still overseeing the case … I’d do one last full-court press and take everything that could possibly contain DNA—the parachute we have, the tie, Cooper’s ticket—and just see what we can come up with.”

Ulis has argued that the FBI is withholding access to the tie, preferring to conduct its own re-testing discreetly.

a knife on a white surface

Carr says that’s a plausible theory and adds that even though the FBI announced the case closed in 2016, it may never have been. “I don’t understand them calling it closed because I was assigned the case when I came back,” he told the U.S. Sun. “It was more administratively closed rather than slammed shut. I think even if the case was ‘closed,’ there would’ve been an agent on the squad that had that case, and if something came in, they’d be told to follow up on it.”

The U.S. Sun references an unnamed informant stating that the evidence from the case was transferred to Washington, D.C., from Seattle after the announcement in 2016, but has now been sent back to the Pacific Northwest. Carr supports the claim.

Regardless of the FBI’s involvement, Ulis continues to pursue his own avenues. He asserts that he has obtained D.B. Cooper’s DNA from a researcher who examined the tie in 2011 and plans to carry out a sophisticated metagenomic DNA analysis on this small sample. Having the FBI’s resources would simplify the process. “Simply by taking the tie from storage, rotating the spindle, and having a specialist swiftly swab the area,” Ulis said, “the FBI could potentially close the case once and for all after nearly 53 years."

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