The disappearance of DB Cooper remains one of the most mysterious unsolved mysteries in true crime history. After hi-jacking a plane and demanding random money, he vanished without a trace.
On the afternoon of November 24, 1971, a man approached the counter of Northwest Orient Airlines in Portland, Oregon. He appeared to be in his mid-40’s and was referring to himself as “Dan Cooper”. He was dressed in business attire and witnesses labeled him as “nondescript”. He paid cash for a one-way ticket to Seattle, Washington on flight #305.
Shortly after take off, Cooper handed the flight attendant a note claiming he had a bomb in his briefcase. He requested the flight attendant sit with him and being scared for her life, she did just that. Cooper proceeded to open his briefcase and show her the bomb inside. He demanded the flight attendant write down his demands and give them to the captain. Cooper demanded four parachutes and $200,000 in $20 bills (worth about $1.2 million in the early 21st century). Meanwhile, none of the passengers on the plane had any knowledge of what was happening. They were informed the plane had a delayed landing due to mechanical issue.
The flight landed in Seattle and Cooper agreed to let the 36 passengers go in exchange for the money and parachutes. He forced two pilots, a flight engineer, and a flight attendant to remain on the plane. As the plane was refueling, Cooper informed the crew he wanted to head to Mexico City, making a stop to refuel again in Nevada. He demanded the pilot fly under 10,000 feet and slower than 200 knots.
Around 8:00 PM, while between Seattle and Reno, Nevada—widely believed to be near Ariel, Washington—Cooper lowered the rear steps and jumped. He then disappeared. No parachute was ever found, and the ransom money was never used. Many claim Cooper could have never landed the jump and speculate he did not survive.
The search for Cooper became one of the FBI’s longest and most extensive searches in history. The agency investigated approximately 800 suspects within the first 5 years without gaining any answers.
In 1980 there was a break in the case when a young boy discovered a decaying package that contained $5,800 in twenty dollar bills. The serial numbers on the cash were positively matched with what was given to Cooper for the ransom. However, following an extensive search, nothing further was discovered. Although the FBI continued to receive tips, in 2016 the agency officially closed its investigation, stating that its resources could best be used on other cases.