Hollywood Reporter; by Ryan Parker Thursday, August 9, 2018
CBS News credits veteran’s “fascinating” code-breaking skills for breakthrough
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 case.
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 former construction worker and military analyst who specialized in code decryptions believes he has a break in the investigation, which has been dormant with authorities for decades. It involves secret Army-coded messages in a series of taunting letters mailed after the hijacking by a Cooper author, according to CBS News (More in video package).
“I never in my wildest dreams would have 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 unit. Their team claims the man has been linked to Cooper through other strong evidence, including alleged pieces of a buried parachute (now with FBI) and DNA, CBS News reports.
The FBI won’t comment about the private hunt. But a senior rep at a top Hollywood talent agency recently told the producer’s manager, Beverly Hills-based Michael London, that “we know Colbert solved it.”