OKLAHOMA CITY - When an FBI agent pleaded several years ago for help finding notorious skyjacker D.B. Cooper, he wondered, off-handedly, if someone’s “odd uncle’’ might be their guy.
Marla Cooper believes that her late uncle Lynn Doyle Cooper was the man who hijacked a plane in 1971 and parachuted away with $200,000 ransom into a rainy night over the Pacific Northwest.
The FBI has for years tried to find out whether D.B. Cooper survived the jump, chasing more than 1,000 leads as the man who pulled off the nation’s only unsolved hijacking became part of American folklore.
The agency said it is following up on a credible new lead in the Cooper case. FBI agent Fred Gutt declined yesterday to say if Marla Cooper was linked to that lead.
“It is an unsolved crime and we are obligated to address that if new, credible information comes to us,’’ he said, adding that the case is a low priority.
Marla Cooper told ABC News, which first reported her comments in an interview yesterday, that she made the connection by piecing together her memories and her parents’ comments over the years. She did not say why she chose to speak out now.
Cooper said on “Good Morning America’’ that she heard her uncle, L.D. Cooper, and another uncle planning something “very mischievous’’ during the holidays in 1971, “using some very expensive walkie-talkies.
On Nov. 24, 1971, a man who gave his name as Dan Cooper claimed shortly after takeoff in Portland, Ore., that he had a bomb, leading the flight crew of the Northwest Orient plane to land in Seattle. Passengers were exchanged for parachutes and ransom money.
The flight then took off for Mexico with the suspect and flight crew on board. The hijacker parachuted from the plane after dark as it flew south, apparently over a rugged, wooded region not far from Marla Cooper’s grandmother’s home in Sisters, Ore.
Marla Cooper said L.D. Cooper came home claiming he had been in a car accident.
She also said she heard her uncle say at the time, “ ‘We did it, our money problems are over, we hijacked an airplane.’ ’’