GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids-based publisher claims its latest work finally reveals the identity of D.B. Cooper, the man who hijacked a jetliner, collected a ransom and jumped into oblivion 47 years ago.
“D.B. Cooper and Me” suggests Walter “Walt” Reca was the hijacker who collected $200,000 in ransom before parachuting out of a jetliner into the wilderness somewhere between Seattle and Reno, Nevada in 1971. Then, Cooper vanished.
Author Carl “Charlie” Laurin, a longtime friend of Reca says if anyone could pull off the legendary crime Cooper pulled off, it was Walt Reca.
“My best friend Walter was a daredevil. He was determined, he was fearless, he was tough as nails,” said Laurin.
Laurin had long suspected his friend had pulled off the hijacking. Along with being a tough guy who sometimes got on the wrong side of the law, Laurin says Reca was an expert parachutist and had the wherewithal to pull off the crime.
After 37 years of dancing around the subject, Laurin finally got a confession.
“He called me up in 2008, in November, and he said, ‘Charlie, I am D.B. Cooper,’” Laurin said, who also claims to have the confession in Reca’s own words.
A recording of a conversation he claims he had with Reca about what he said to a stewardess on the hijacked plane was played during a media conference held by the publisher Thursday afternoon in Grand Rapids.
“And she said, ‘I can’t believe you’re actually hijacking this airplane.’ I said, ‘I can’t believe it either but I’m serious,’” said a voice on the recording identified as Reca.
Family members also claim Reca confessed to them. His niece Lisa Story recalls finding a written, but unsigned confession before Reca died.
“I asked him, ‘Is this true?’ He said yes and we talked about it and I told him, ‘Don’t sign this,” Story said.
Cooper was the last name of the man who boarded a then North West Orient Airline flight in 1971 before the hijacking and disappearance. The story became legendary and theories ran rampant.
But the mystery of D.B. Cooper continued.
The FBI dropped their investigation in the search for Cooper in 2016, to focus on other investigative priorities.
It was one of the longer, most exhaustive investigations in the bureau’s history. The FBI has suggested Cooper may not have survived the jump.
If the book is correct, Reca, who died in 2014, got away with it.
“I doubted it for over a year into our investigation, until finally, the overwhelming evidence just really did convince me,” CEO of Principia Media, Vern Jones.
There were 800 potential suspects identified, and all but a few dozen were eliminated.
So how did the FBI miss Reca? According to Jones, that’s where the story takes another turn.
Jones said Reca, a part-time criminal, part-time globetrotting rouge adventurer, eventually ended up working for a group tied to the CIA. Jones claims Reca’s specialty was assassinations.
He believes the FBI ignored evidence they may have collected against Reca for the hijacking because of his CIA ties.
“We have pretty strong evidence that the FBI went out of their way to not let Walter go to jail,” Jones said.