FBI officials in Washington state, who last week were investigating a "promising lead" in the nearly 40-year-old case of skyjacker D.B. Cooper who escaped with a $200,000 ransom after parachuting out of a commercial airliner over the Pacific Northwest, said a new DNA test does not match a new suspect in the case.
But Agent Fred Gutt warned that the test does not necessarily rule out the deceased suspect since investigators are not sure whether DNA on the tie is that of the skyjacker. Mr. Gutt said three different DNA samples from the tie were taken, adding that it could have been used by others.
Mr. Gutt also noted that agents, who also were dealing with an inconclusive round of fingerprint testing, are now working with family members to identify other items that could be further tested for fingerprints.
The FBI is trying to determine if there is any physical evidence to link a new suspect to the skyjacker, whose fate and identity have remained a mystery. Agents were hoping to match fingerprints of DNA from the now deceased suspect with those found on items left behind by the skyjacker.
Mr. Gutt said the case remained "a low priority" for both the agents and the laboratory because the suspect is dead.
He said a year ago, a retired law enforcement official directed FBI agents to a "credible" source who pointed them to a potential suspect they had not known about. He said the source thought the suspect was the skyjacker known as D.B. Cooper but was not in a position to know.
Mr. Gutt said the source's information pointed to the deceased suspect but it remains to be proven whether he was the person sought since 1971 or a victim of coincidence. He said that the source had been "a close associate of the suspect" both before and after the skyjacking and that agents were able to corroborate some of what the source told them.
He said the source led them to other people who knew the suspect and had items he may have touched.
"Physical evidence may or may not yield results," he said. "At the end of the day, it would be nice to make a physical connection."
The man who called himself Dan Cooper skyjacked a Northwest Orient Airlines flight headed from Portland, Ore., to Seattle on Nov. 24, 1971, after giving a stewardess a note saying he had a bomb in his briefcase. He demanded $200,000, two main back parachutes and two emergency chest parachutes.
He released the passengers in Seattle in exchange for the cash — 10,000 $20 bills — and the parachutes. After ordering the crew to fly the aircraft to Mexico, Cooper lowered the stairs in the back of the 727 and jumped out with the money at 10,000 feet somewhere between southern Washington state and Portland, never to be seen again.
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Jerry Seper is the investigative editor for The Washington Times.
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