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Longtime D.B. Cooper Suspect Died As Skyjacking Case Remains Unsolved

FBI sketches of D.B. Cooper.

By Steve Neavling

Sheridan Peterson, once considered the chief suspect in the D.B. Cooper skyjacking case, has died at the age of 94. 

He died in California on Jan. 8, according to his obituary on Legacy.com, as first reported by The Oregonian on Thursday.

Peterson was a former Boeing employee, experienced skydiver and World War II Marine Corps vet. 

The FBI never determined the identify of D.B. Cooper, making the case the only unsolved skyjacking in U.S. history. But Peterson was long a suspect and one of the few people whom the FBI tested for DNA in 2004. The FBI never publicly cleared Peterson.

A man who went by Dan Cooper boarded Northwest Orient Flight 305 in Portland, Ore., on Nov. 24 and claimed to have a bomb. He forced the plane to fly to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where he got $200,000 in ransom money. He subsequently parachuted from the plane and was never found.

The FBI said it had ended its investigation in 2016, saying the suspect may have died during the treacherous jump. But a year later, the bureau said it may resume the search after a team of private investigators coordinated by a filmmaker found “an odd piece of buried foam” that they believed may be material from Cooper’s parachute backpack.

On the 56th anniversary of the hijacking in 2017, the FBI publicized a letter that someone claiming to be the suspect sent to newspapers.

Ralph Himmelsbach, the lead FBI agent in the case, died in October 2019.

After his retirement, Himmelsbach wrote the book “Norjak: The Investigation of D.B. Cooper” and “The Secrets of the FBI.”


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