He saw more than a con-man
For four months in late 1971, a vacationing “Swiss baron” pilot, Norman de Winter, charmed his way through two Oregon communities while grifting thousands of dollars from kind souls and naive young people. Then he picked up and vanished — the day before the Portland hijacking.
When D.B. Cooper’s FBI sketch first appeared on TV, this Astorian, then a college student, told his family and friends that the fugitive looked a lot like their missing town con-man. But they all laughed it off.
For more than 40 years, all the baron’s victims remained silent about their embarrassing ordeal. All except this early bell-ringer — now a life-long restaurateur and former city councilman. After hearing of this investigation in 2011, he stepped up and told his community’s humiliating story. But knowing our team needed someone to confirm his bizarre tale, the activist worked tirelessly to find others – and 14 more followed his lead.
Since then, two forgotten articles have been recovered from a personal scrapbook (See below), substantiating the memories of these (now) senior citizens. And we owe all of it to this brave Astorian, featured in the award-winning book, The Last Master Outlaw. Here is his personal testimonial:
Working with Tom Colbert to find the witnesses along grifter Norman de Winter’s deceitful trail through Astoria and Corvallis, and the incredible connection which developed to D.B. Cooper and Robert W. Rackstraw Sr., has been an eye-opening experience.
To see the story finally come to light after four decades has been very gratifying. But to read the thoroughness and diligence to history that Colbert and his co-writer, Tom Szollosi, applied to their book, that has been the real reward.
Restaurateur / Hero