HOLLYWOOD REPORTER; By Ryan Parker, August 9, 2018;
CBS News credits a veteran’s “fascinating” code-breaking skills for a “remarkable” case development.
It was one of the most mysterious unsolved crimes ever committed, becoming a cultural phenomenon and spawning books, films and numerous mentions in TV shows — and an Army veteran may have just made a significant crack in the investigation.
In 1971, a well-dressed man with a briefcase bomb took over a Seattle-bound flight and proceeded to parachute out of the airplane with a ransom totaling $200,000. He was never seen again.
The mystery has inspired such works as 1981’s The Pursuit of D. B. Cooper, starring Robert Duvall, as well as a character on the 1990’s Twin Peaks being named after Cooper, among multiple other nods and plot lines in assorted shows.
Now a retired construction worker and military analyst who specialized in code decryptions believes he has a break in the case, which has been dormant with authorities for decades. According to CBS News, it involves secret Army-coded messages unmasked in a series of taunting letters mailed by a Cooper author (More in this video package).
“I never in my wildest dreams would’ve thought I’d ever use Morse code or any kind of code-breaking again,” said Rick Sherwood, who served 50 years ago in three top-secret tours during the Vietnam War.
Sherman’s unique expertise was requested by Thomas J. Colbert, an acclaimed California co-author and producer who has been investigating the mystery with a national cold case team, led by former FBI agents.
Colbert and his partner-wife, Dawna, have long suspected the daredevil is Robert W. Rackstraw Sr., now 74, a retired University of California law instructor who in fact had served in Sherwood’s same covert unit, CBS News reports.
Last February, a Courthouse News reporter tracked down the San Diego man and pressed him on the phone to either confirm or deny he was the fugitive. Rackstraw’s answer was straightforward:
“There’s no denial whatsoever, my dear.”
The FBI won’t comment on any of these developments.
FYI: A senior agency partner at William Morris Endeavor, however, told Colbert’s manager, Michael B. London, that “we know Tom solved it.”
DOCUMENTARIANS, MOVIE MAKERS & COOPER-CASE FANS: 2019 Update
Court-released FBI records and four retired commanders (with damning documents) collectively conclude that Robert W. Rackstraw Sr. is the missing 1971 hijacker.
Hollywood buys it, too. In fact, after our mike-drop at the 2018 news briefing at FBI Headquarters, the race was on for his rights. Tinseltown tipsters revealed the San Diego veteran was secretly flown up by private jet for a meet-and-greet involving talent agents, leading producers, studios and streamers.
My wife and I, however, were fully prepared for this end-run on our long investigation – thanks to our cold case team.
All the hush-hush negotiations with Rackstraw failed because: 1) he was the polar opposite of the folk hero many had imagined; 2) all the new case details and evidence have been recorded and copyrighted – including his getaway with the help of crime partners, the parachute recovery, Rackstraw’s decrypted Army-coded Cooper letters and CIA history; and finally, 3) when he traded an FBI prison cell for years of black ops work, authorities warned the contractor he’d be re-incarcerated if he ever went public. (His healthy fear of this fed “secret indictment” is on doc video in the 8/8/18 CBS News-WBBM story, posted above.)
The Industry should also know that Rackstraw’s memory of the jump is now, ironically, cloudy. During a private 2013 approach and sit-down in his hometown, the cordial suspect twice admitted (on surveillance tape): “The problem is I don’t remember a lot of it.”
We believe that’s why, with release of our award-winning book in 2016, “Bob” was one of the first orders on Amazon. His posted review: “Full of unsubstantiated accusations and innuendos by writers trying to sensationalize with consistently negative comments about their target with nothing but unearned credits given to themselves. Wish they would go after Hillary and Obama in the same ruthless manner.”
Dawna and I spent years of our time to organize the hunt and meticulously document this man’s full life narrative – our 21st discovery to reach the big and small screens (TJCConsulting.biz). But there’s no race to make history here; we’re looking for the right production partner that respects the team’s efforts and, needless to say, won’t take us for a ride. TJC