After 45 years, the FBI has closed one of its strangest unsolved cases: The 1971 disappearance of D.B. Cooper, last seen leaping from an airplane with $200,000 in ransom money strapped to his body.
In a statement, the FBI said it was ending “one of the longest and most exhaustive investigations in [its] history” so that it would no longer divert resources from more pressing cases.
“In order to solve a case, the FBI must prove culpability beyond a reasonable doubt, and, unfortunately, none of the well-meaning tips or applications of new investigative technology have yielded the necessary proof,” said the FBI. “Every time the FBI assesses additional tips for the NORJAK case, investigative resources and manpower are diverted from programs that more urgently need attention.”
According to the FBI case summary, the D.B. Cooper saga took place November 24th, 1971 when a man in his mid-40s wearing a business suit purchased a one-way ticket to Seattle from Oregon using the name Dan Cooper. When the flight was airborne, the man passed a note to a flight attendant claiming there was a bomb in his briefcase. He reportedly opened it to show her a tangle of wires and red sticks.
When the plane landed in Seattle, the hijacker released the flight’s 36 passengers and received $200,000 in cash and four parachutes. Several crew members were kept on board and Cooper ordered them to fly to Mexico City. However, shortly after returning to the air, Cooper jumped from the back of the plane and landed somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.
The case captivated the country and sparked countless amateur investigations while the real one slogged on with little success. After 45 years, the FBI still does not know Cooper’s whereabouts, whether he survived the leap from the plane or even his true identity (he definitely wasn’t Don Draper).
While the D.B. Cooper case is now officially inactive, the FBI will hold on to the few pieces of evidence it collected over the years for historical purposes. These include pieces of the parachute and Cooper’s black tie, as well as $5,800 in $20 bills — found by a boy in 1980 — that matched the serial numbers of the ransom money.
The Bureau also noted at the end of its statement, “Should specific physical evidence emerge — related specifically to the parachutes or the money taken by the hijacker — individuals with those materials are asked to contact their local FBI field office.”