Woman claims 1971 hijacker D.B. Cooper was her uncle

Wed Aug 3, 2011 6:49pm EDT
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By Steve Olafson

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - A woman claiming to be the niece of the mysterious skyjacker dubbed D.B. Cooper, who bailed out of a jetliner with $200,000 in ransom, says she recalls her uncle plotting the sensational caper at a family gathering in 1971.

Marla Wynn Cooper, 48, of Oklahoma City, told ABC News that she is the person who recently furnished the FBI new clues pointing to a previously unknown suspect and sparking a renewed probe of the 40-year-old case, said to be the only unsolved hijacking in U.S. aviation history.

The FBI in Seattle acknowledged earlier this week that a person who was close to the new suspect had obtained objects now being examined to see if they bear fingerprints matching those left behind on the hijacked plane.

An FBI spokesman in Seattle, Fred Gutt, declined again on Wednesday to reveal the person who came forward with the latest information, saying, "We do not identify witnesses in an investigation."

But Marla Cooper said she is certain that her uncle, Lynn Doyle Cooper, who went by the name L.D. Cooper, was the man who seized a Seattle-bound Northwest Orient Airlines flight in November 1971 by claiming to have a bomb. He vanished when he jumped out of the rear of the plane in mid-air with a parachute and $200,000 in cash.

The plane was flying at about 10,000 feet at night through a storm over wooded, rugged terrain in the Pacific Northwest, and the hijacker was presumed by many to have likely perished.

Still, the sensational Thanksgiving eve caper triggered a massive manhunt, and the FBI went on to consider over 800 suspects in the first five years after the crime.

The only trace from his getaway was a crumbling batch of $20 bills matching the ransom money's serial numbers, unearthed by a boy from a sandbar along the Columbia River in 1980.   Continued...

<p>Accused skyjacker D.B. Cooper is shown in these FBI sketches released to Reuters August 1, 2011. REUTERS/FBI/Handout</p>