In Parts one and two, this writer described the somewhat crazy world that has grown around the infamous 'D.B. Cooper' case since 1972. In part three, I talk about my adventures in Cooperland, which sometimes seems more like Wonderland than anything else.
I was a reletive latecomer to Cooperland. Back in 2008 a New York private investigator named Skipp Porteous contacted me by email about a possible book. "I have a pretty good suspect in mind," he said in his email, "and some files and documents I want you to see." I serve as managing editor for a small press called Adventure Books of Seattle, and Porteous had something special in mind for me. Part of it was based simply on where I lived - the Puyallup Valley area of Puget Sound, Washington - the same place where his suspect Kenneth Peter Christiansen had lived most of his life.
My knowledge on the Cooper case was no more than average, but I told Porteous to send the documents, pictures, and whatever manuscript he had going on Christiansen and I would take a look. After I examined everything, I saw why he thought Christiansen could be the hijacker, but I didn't see enough proof of it. "You need to interview the people Christiansen knew," I suggested. That's when Porteous asked ME to do the interviews, since I live here in Washington State, and he was from New York. I agreed, and spent the next year searching these people out, speaking to them, and taking notes and pictures. I fully expected most of them to laugh me off and send me packing.
What happened next, I never expected. The first person I interviewed, Bernie Geestman, pointed to his ex-wife Margaret as possibly being involved in the hijacking. The next week, I interviewed Margaret and she pointed back to her ex-husband with the same thing. Then...Geestman's sister Dawn tells me that she and some of her friends had suspected Christiansen was the hijacker clear back in 1972, and gave some fairly compelling testimony on why. Geestman was also caught in several lies during his interview, all of them trying to direct attention away from himself as the possible accomplice. He was gone almost the entire year of the hijacking for Foss Tugs in Seattle, he said. Foss said he wasn't. He said he didn't know the arrangements on a $5,000 cash loan made to his sister Dawn by Ken Christiansen just five months after the hijacking. His sister said her brother Bernie was the one who asked Christiansen for the money, as well as delivering it to her. He said he didn't know how Christiansen bought his house in Bonney Lake under rather suspicious circumstances seven months after the crime. But Christiansen bought the house from a couple where Geestman served as Best Man at their wedding.
Before long, I was up to my neck in testimony and gathering more evidence all the time. It became apparent to me that someone was hiding something, and that it probably related to the hijacking. It was overwhelming, and what started out as simple research for another Cooper book was turning into something else entirely - a possible solution to the case.
The end result was a book titled Into The Blast - The True Story of D.B. Cooper. However, the original edition was so rushed to press that we made several key errors and it was pulled from publication shortly afterward. The only good thing that happened as a result of the book was a phone call from Marisa Kagan, a producer for the History Channel show Brad Meltzer's Decoded. She said they wanted to do an episode on Kenny Christiansen. I agreed to this, but I also made a list of things in the book that couldn't be used because we had been wrong on those things. After that was settled, everyone went to work. After the program aired, I wasn't completely satisfied with the results, but I thought they got almost everything right. The cast of the show voted that they thought Kenny was the hijacker, but that Bernie Geestman probably wasn't his accomplice. Later, when more evidence emerged against Geestman, two of the cast changed their minds, Scott Rolle (a former state prosecutor), and Buddy Levy, a multi-published author and a professor at Washington State University. After the show aired, I released a Revised Edition of Blast, and although there are probably a few errors in that book, it is accurate on the main points.
Cooperland went ballistic about the History Channel show, as well as the book. My email box was crammed with messages. Most were supportive, some I can't repeat. Over at Dropzone, the hardcore posters would pick and poke at every tiny thing I've ever done or said in an effort to discredit claims made in the book. Literally thousands of posts appeared at Dropzone about it, many of them nothing but insults. I attempted to defuse some of this by reminding people that we had not proven Kenny was the hijacker, but much of this fell on deaf ears.
In an effort to silence these critics, and to present the evidence in a way people could understand, I finally created a 29-page report for the FBI, complete with documents and pictures that I thought had evidentiary value. (It was made public for a short time, but withdrawn in favor of a more updated report with additional evidence. That report, the final word on Kenny Christiansen, will be released to the media and the Seattle FBI in 2015) Any thoughts that the initial report would cool off the hotheads in Cooperland were wrong. The report only made some of them more furious than before. In the world of Cooperland, you can never win. You can only hope to validate a point here or there without being cursed or mocked. That is all you should expect.
Links of Interest: