A U.S. Army officer with a security clearance and a "solid professional reputation" believes he's solved the infamous D.B. Cooper skyjacking case -- naming two now-dead men in New Jersey who have never before been suspected, "possibly breaking wide open the only unsolved skyjacking case in U.S. history," according to the Oregonian.
The data analyst started his research because, simply enough, he had stumbled upon an obscure old book called "D.B. Cooper: What Really Happened," by the late author Max Gunther. Gunther wrote that he was contacted in 1972 by a man who claimed to be the skyjacker... Using the name "Dan LeClair" and various details from the book, as well as information from the FBI's D.B. Cooper case files that have become public in recent years, Anonymous tracked the bread crumbs to a very real man named Dan Clair, a World War II Army veteran who died in 1990... Continuing his research, our anonymous Army officer eventually determined that Clair probably was not D.B. Cooper. More likely the skyjacker was a friend and co-worker of Clair's, a native New Jerseyan by the name of William J. Smith, who died in January of this year at age 89... Clair and Smith worked together at Penn Central Transportation Co. and one of its predecessors. For a while, they were both "yardies" at the Oak Island rail yard in Newark. It appears they bonded in the 1960s as Penn Central struggled to adapt to a changing economy.
The data analyst says the two men's military backgrounds -- Smith served in the Navy -- and long experience in the railroad business would have made it possible for either of them to successfully parachute from a low-flying jetliner, find railroad tracks once they were on the ground, and hop a freight train back to the East Coast. Poring over a 1971 railroad atlas, the hijacked plane's flight path and the skyjacker's likely jump zone, he determined that no matter where D.B. Cooper landed, he would have been no more than 5-to-7 miles from tracks. "I believe he would have been able to see Interstate 5 from the air," he says, adding that one rail line ran parallel to the highway... He believes Smith and Clair may have been in on the skyjacking together. He notes that Clair, who spent his career in relatively low-level jobs, retired in 1973 when he was just 54 years old.
Several incriminating coincidences were noted by an article this week in the Oregonian -- including a scar on Smith's hand, his visit to a skydiving facility in 1971, and Smith's strong resemblance to the police artist's sketches. Even the chemicals found on Cooper's clip-on tie in 2017 would be consistent with his job as the manager of a railyard. "[I]n my professional opinion, there are too many connections to be simply a coincidence," the data analyst told the FBI, while telling the Oregonian he believes the pair were "mad at the corporate establishment" in America and determined to do something about it.
"If I was on that plane, I wouldn't have thought he was a hero," he says. "But after the fact, I might think, 'OK, this took balls,' especially if I knew he was an ordinary guy, a working man worried about his pension going away. That he wasn't some arch-criminal. I would want to talk to that guy.... he is a kind of folk hero."
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