Detectives are investigating a homicide at a suburban home owned by the man who packed the parachutes used by infamous airplane hijacker D.B. Cooper more than four decades ago.
A woman called police Friday to report that she had gone to the home in Woodinville, northeast of Seattle, to check on her father and found him dead, said King County Sheriff’s Sgt. Cindi West. The woman had not heard from him in several days.
King County property records show that the home is owned by Earl Cossey, 74, a former skydiving instructor who played a bit part in one of the Northwest’s most enduring mysteries.
On Nov. 24, 1971, a man calling himself Dan Cooper, later mistakenly identified as D.B. Cooper, hijacked a Northwest Orient plane from Portland, Ore., to Seattle. At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, he released the passengers in exchange for $200,000 and four parachutes, and he asked to be flown to Mexico.
Somewhere near the Oregon line, Cooper leapt out of the plane. Despite intensive searches, no sign of Cooper ever emerged. Investigators doubt he survived and have never been able to determine his true identity. But a boy digging on a Columbia River beach in 1980 found three bundles of weathered $20 bills – Cooper’s cash, according to the serial numbers.
The parachutes provided to the skyjacker came from an Issaquah skydive center which had recently purchased them from Cossey. The one Cooper apparently used was a military-issue NB6, nylon, 28-foot with a conical canopy.
Geoffrey Gray, author of “Skyjack: The hunt for D.B. Cooper” told Seattle’s Morning News on Monday that Cossey not only packed the parachutes, but also contributed to the case in another way.
“One of the things he did was he met with the FBI on numerous occasions and basically gave birth to this idea that D.B. Cooper could have survived the jump,” said Gray. “Before that, the FBI thought that Cooper perished in the jump – ‘who could survive a jump like that?’ they thought. But Cossey, being a master parachutist and a rigger, said that the jump could have been no problem. He could have just gotten away with a broken ankle.”
Over the decades, as parachutes were sometimes discovered in the area of Cooper’s jump, the FBI turned to Cossey to ask if they were the real thing.
“They keep bringing me garbage,” Cossey told The Associated Press in 2008, after the FBI brought him a silk parachute discovered by children playing at a recently graded road in Southwest Washington. “Every time they find squat, they bring it out and open their trunk and say, ‘Is that it?’ and I say, ‘Nope, go away.’ Then a few years later they come back.”
Gray can’t see who involved in the case would have had it out for Cossey, and said while Cossey did play a role, in packing the parachutes, they were actually packed well before the hijacking occurred.
“They were actually in the possession of somebody else who delivered them to the airport. So Cossey himself was sort of an instrumental character but at the same time a kind of distant one too,” said Gray.
“I think that really what’s going on here is the Cooper case itself is such a magnet for mystery and suspicion, even paranoia, that I think that his death is sort of getting dragged in a little bit. I don’t see anybody or anyone having a sort of beef with Cossey over the Cooper case.”
The identity of the body found in the home has not been released, but is expected to come out Monday, after it is confirmed by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office. But West said Saturday that detectives have ruled the case a homicide.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.