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Old 07-09-2019, 08:31 PM   #1
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Default D.B. Cooper Suspect Robert Rackstraw (1943-2019)


He was a high school dropout and U.S. Army paratrooper trained in explosives and psychological operations. He also worked as a pilot for hire in pre-revolution Iran and served more than a year in prison for stealing a plane and passing bad checks.

And Robert W. Rackstraw, who died early Tuesday in his Banker's Hill condominium, also was a subject for amateur sleuths investigating D.B. Cooper, the legendary skyjacker who jumped from a Northwest Orient Airlines jet somewhere over southwestern Washington in 1971 with $200,000 in cash and into history.

D.B. Cooper was never found. It was not even clear the hijacker survived the leap from the back of the airplane on Thanksgiving Eve nearly 50 years ago.

But Rackstraw, whose Army photo bore some resemblance to the notorious mastermind and had many of the skills required to pull off such a feat, became the subject of a four-hour miniseries that aired on the History Channel in 2016 and linked him to the unsolved caper.

The San Diego Medical Examiner's Office said Tuesday that Rackstraw died early in the morning in his home just west of Balboa Park.

Investigators responded to a 911 call about 3 a.m. Tuesday at the home, near Fifth Avenue and Laurel Street, and found Rackstraw deceased, officials said. The 75-year-old Army veteran was pronounced dead from a longstanding heart condition.

Filmmaker Thomas Colbert spent almost a decade investigating the D.B. Cooper case and concluded in his 2016 documentary, "D.B. Cooper: Case Closed?", that Rackstraw was indeed the hijacker.

"While my cold case team believes he was Cooper, he also was a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather," Colbert said Tuesday. "Our condolences to the family."

In the film, Colbert confronted Rackstraw and offered him a check for $20,000 for rights to his story of the 1971 hijacking. Rackstraw appeared interested in the money but resisted confirming the filmmaker's theory because he could have faced criminal charges.

"I told everybody I was (the hijacker)," Rackstraw said, before explaining the admission was a stunt. He asked twice to see the check Colbert had written out before adding this non-denial assertion: "The problem is, I don't remember a lot of it."

Rackstraw did not respond to interview requests from The San Diego Union-Tribune when the newspaper wrote about the History Channel miniseries three years ago this week.

The FBI considered Rackstraw a suspect for a brief time in the years after the hijacking. Investigators eventually ruled him out based largely on witness testimony that placed the suspect between 35 and 45 years of age. Rackstraw was 28 on the night of the crime.

Colbert's investigation, which included dozens of retired FBI agents and other private detectives, turned up a number of clues that point to Rackstraw as the possible hijacker, including the Army portrait, his paratrooping skills and explosives training.

It was 1972 when D.B. Cooper showed a stewardess what he claimed was a bomb and demanded $200,000 in cash and four parachutes.

Whether or not he was the infamous skyjacker, Rackstraw led a colorful life.

Rackstraw completed a 15-month tour in Vietnam in 1970 with 50 decorations, including dozens of air medals. He was drummed out of the military the following year after one too many incidents of misconduct.

He also worked as a private scuba instructor and later piloted airplanes across Iranian skies before being apprehended by U.S. authorities, who were sure Rackstraw was behind the theft a couple of years earlier of a stash of dynamite.

He was charged with murder in Calaveras County for the death of Philip Rackstraw, his mother's third husband, and was acquitted by a sympathetic jury.

Rackstraw attempted to fake his own death by crashing a rented airplane into Monterey Bay, but investigators found him months later in Fullerton. He was charged with stealing a plane and passing bad checks, and later called news stations claiming to be Cooper. The story was picked up around the country before he was convicted.

After his release from Folsom State Prison in 1980, he opened multiple businesses. At one point, he was appointed a chief inspector for the Riverside County building department, and later he won election to his homeowner's association board.

He also parlayed his layman's understanding of contract law and mediation into an online teaching position at the University of California Riverside. In 1991, he earned an economics degree from the University of San Francisco -- two decades after getting kicked out of the Army for faking college transcripts.

Rackstraw was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1943. He is survived by his third wife, Dorothy, and several children and grandchildren. No information on services was available.
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Old 07-11-2019, 04:36 PM   #2
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I don't think he was Cooper, but anytime someone who has been linked to a case dies, its another blow, because of it was him, it will be much harder to prove that now.
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