Decider.com: The Skyjacker’s “Mystery within a Mystery”

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Who Is Robert Rackstraw on Netflix’s ‘D.B. Cooper: Where Are You?!’
By Brett White; Decider.com; July 13, 2022

It’s a mystery that has confounded professional and amateur investigators for 50 years: who was D.B. Cooper? He remains the only airplane hijacker to not only go uncaught, but to go unidentified — until now?

That’s the mystery within a mystery that Netflix’s new docuseries “D.B. Cooper: Where Are You?!” aims to untangle. Did a 40-member team of cold case sleuths uncover Cooper’s real identity, years ago? And if they did, why is this mystery still, well, a mystery?

The main theory in the first half of the program comes from former CBS newsman, award-winning author and Cooper investigator Thomas J. Colbert. His volunteer team’s research in five countries led him to the conclusion that a man named Robert W. Rackstraw actually pulled off the infamous D.B. Cooper airplane heist. That’s where a man in a suit and sunglasses with a briefcase bomb held an airliner hostage for $200,000, which he then received and escaped by jumping out of the jet with a parachute.

Who is Rackstraw?

The Vietnam vet is one of the many individuals who were suspected in this first-of-its-kind heist. The primary reason he’s at the top of the list? Rackstraw not only has a stunning “nine points of match” to the sketch, he’s an award-winning pilot and a dishonorably-discharged paratrooper, which gave him the skills and dark motive to pull off a stunt that’s kind of an elaborate middle finger to authority.

The guy spent the 1970s jumping from crime to crime and lover to lover. According to official FBI records, relatives and old newspapers: He falsified his military records, faked college degrees, had mistresses during three marriages, was charged with domestic violence, forged a new wife’s name on a loan application, wrote tons of bad checks,  stockpiled illegal explosives, sold them to violent radical groups, stole dozens of cars and construction vehicles, and escaped officials a total of four times — three by plane and once by river.

During his runs, jumps and short jail visits, he wielded 22 identities, racked up 34 criminal titles and earned four felonies. Oh, and he was also charged with — but not convicted of — murdering his own stepfather. A stepfather, family members claim, who hid him right after the 1971 hijacking.

Is Rackstraw D.B. Cooper?

The FBI sure thought he could be. Old agent memos released by court order reveal that Rackstraw was seriously investigated by California field agents back in 1978-79 — then, suddenly freed without fanfare by Headquarters. That’s just one of the many reasons why Colbert and his cold case crew think Rackstraw had a get-out-of-jail card.

Colbert’s team members believed the FBI was never able to pin the hijacking on Rackstraw because of his alleged ties to the CIA. While there’s nothing official to suggest Rackstraw worked with The Agency, there are plenty of coincidences and former high-ranking military men that swear he was a freelance pilot, going by Cooper, who flew black-ops planes for the organization in the 1970s and 80s. If Rackstraw knew CIA secrets, then he’d presumably be protected him from the multitude of other “domestic” agencies.

Rackstraw passed away on July 9, 2019 at 74. Unlike others who made deathbed confessions about being Cooper, Rackstraw remained coy all the way to the end. But his only sibling, a stepsister, told a compelling story of growing up with him; see her 2013 deathbed testimonial at this exclusive link: https://dbcooper.com/robert-rackstraws-sister-kid-d-b-cooper/

 

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