Hollywood Reporter; by Ryan Parker Thursday, 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. It involves secret Army-coded messages unmasked in a series of taunting letters mailed by a Cooper author, according to CBS News (More in this video package).
“I never in my wildest dreams would’ve thought that I would ever use Morse code, or any kind of code-breaking or anything 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 award-winning California author and producer who has been investigating the mystery for years 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 elderly 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 partner at a top Hollywood talent agency, however, told Colbert’s manager, Beverly Hills-based Michael B. London, that “we know Tom solved it.”
ATTENTION, DOCUMENTARY & MOVIE MAKERS
Court-ordered case records and four retired military brass (with confirming memos) all conclude Robert W. Rackstraw Sr. is the missing hijacker. But before the mike hit the ground at our February 2018 press announcement at FBI Headquarters, the Hollywood race was on for the daredevil’s rights.
Tinseltown tipsters told the cold case team the San Diegan was flown up by private jet for a quiet meet-and-greet involving talent agents, leading producers, studios and streamers. My wife and I, however, were fully prepared for this end-run.
Their negotiations with Rackstraw failed because: 1) he was the dark polar-opposite of the folk hero many had imagined; 2) all the new case details and evidence have been copyrighted in our bullet-proof book – including his getaway with the help of crime partners, the parachute recovery, Army-coded letters and his CIA history; and finally, 3) when he traded an FBI prison cell for years of black ops work, authorities warned him he’d be re-incarcerated if he ever went public.
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 to me (also on surveillance tape): “The problem is, I don’t remember a lot of it.”
We believe that’s why, after our book release in 2016, “Bob” was one of the first orders on Amazon. Here’s his wacky review: “Full of unsubstantiated accusations and innuendos by the 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 valuable time and money to organize this hunt and document every facet of this man’s true story — our 21st discovery to reach the big and small screens (TJCConsulting.biz). But there isn’t a race to make history here; we’re patiently seeking a production partner that shows us the respect we deserve. No jet ride necessary, of course. TJC