After 45 years, FBI closes investigation into unsolved 'DB Cooper' hijacking

Police sketch shows "DB Cooper." (FBI)

SEATTLE (KOMO) - The FBI has closed the books on their 45-year hunt for skyjacker D.B. Cooper.

Seattle FBI Special Agent in Charge Frank Montoya Jr. said it was his decision to halt the investigation. He said that he notified counterparts in Washington D.C., former agents and others directly impacted by the case before making the announcement.

"The fact of the matter is it's sometimes difficult to come to a consensusit's time to move on," Montoya Jr. said on Tuesday.

The Cooper case captivated the world for four decades.

He was thought by some as a folk hero - he swiped a bundle of cash before jumping out of a jetliner destined for freedom. He was also considered the world's most infamous skyjacker - he held a plane hostage until his demands were met.

FBI Special Agent Curtis Eng, who has been leading investigation for several years, said the only thing that could lead to the case being reopened is if one or both of the parachutes taken by Cooper, or if the missing ransom money, are brought to the bureau.

"In order to make this case prosecutable is we need solid evidence," Eng said at a news conference Tuesday night.

On Nov. 24, 1971 passenger Dan Cooper threatened to blow up a Northwest Orient flight if he didn't receive $200,000, four parachutes and a flight to Mexico.

As part of the agreement between Cooper and authorities, passengers on the flight were dropped off at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. In exchange for the hostages, ransom loot and the parachutes were brought aboard.

Shortly before hitting the Oregon border, Cooper jumped out of the plane's tail exit with two of the chutes. Neither Cooper, nor his remains, were ever found. Tattered ransom money was found along the banks of the Columbia River in 1980.

Over the decades the FBI has investigated more than 100 persons of interest, Montoya Jr. said.

Montoya Jr. said he recalls learning about D.B. Cooper from Walter Cronkite on the evening news. He admits there is an element of folklore to the case, but he cautions that people need to remember Cooper terrorized an entire aircraft. He said this is the only unsolved skyjacking case the FBI has investigated.

The mystery of D.B. Cooper's disappearance has been featured in books, movies and dozens of television specials. Three years ago the Washington State Historical Society in Tacoma had their own D.B. Cooper exhibit - one of his four ransom parachutes is on display at the museum.

Gwen Whiting, lead curator at the Washington State Historical Society, said she hopes that by closing the case the FBI is helping give the investigation the break it needs.

"People are fascinated with this case they're likely to write more about it and maybe someone out there is going to make a connection they didn't make," Whiting said.

While Whiting said she hopes the FBI will now turn over the evidence they have to a museum. Montoya Jr. said that could possibly happen. The evidence has been shipped from FBI Seattle to FBI Headquarters in Washington D.C.

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