EUGENE, Ore. - An attorney who is writing a book about the D.B. Cooper investigation claims the legendary hijacker who vanished from the back of a passenger jet with $200,000 in ransom in 1971 survived and returned to his life as a college instructor in Ogden, Utah, before moving to Depoe Bay on the Oregon coast.
Federal investigators are aware of the claim and are treating it like more than 1,000 other leads they have checked out over the last 36 1/2 years. They're skeptical that the late William "Wolfgang" Gossett pulled off the heist many others have claimed to but were found to be hoaxes.
"There is not one link to the D.B. Cooper case other than the statements (Gossett) made to someone," said FBI Special Agent Larry Carr, who is overseeing the Cooper investigation.
The Standard-Examiner reported in a story Sunday that Gossett told his sons and a few friends that he was the illustrious Cooper, who investigators believe didn't survive the parachute jump over the Pacific Northwest in November 1971 but have never been able to prove it.
The Depoe Bay Beacon reported the story back in May. The community newspaper, published every two weeks, is styled like the Weekly World News tabloid with local news headlines like "Orcas Lurk for Baby Grays!" and "Firefighters Finally Feted!"
"A lot of people, they're hesitant to touch this topic," said publisher Rick Beasley, who wrote the story. "We're the Weekly World News of Depoe Bay."
"This guy Galen Cook out of Spokane has really put this thing together," Beasley told KVAL.com in May. "I was really surprised when he came in and laid the evidence out."
Galen Cook, a Spokane, Wash., attorney who has been investigating the Cooper case for more than two decades, shared his theory with Beasley when he visited Depoe Bay to research Gossett.
Beasley knew Gossett as "a man about town, an iconoclastic oddball" and wrote Gossett's obituary when he died Sept. 1, 2003.
"This guy had an extensive military background, which I've got," Beasley said. "I can always sniff out somebody who is phoney, and this guy was not phoney."
Cook said he has submitted a fingerprint of Gossett's to the FBI's Seattle field office and hopes it will confirm his theory, which he plans to publish in a book.
Gossett had military experience, including wilderness survival, and looked like the FBI composite sketch of Cooper, Cook said.
"He had the opportunity, talent and motive to carry out the crime," Cook told the Standard-Examiner.
Gossett died in 2003 at the age of 73. His son, Greg, still lives in Ogden, where he said his father told him on his 21st birthday that he had hijacked the plane, then revealed to his son two keys to a safety deposit box at a bank in Vancouver, British Columbia, where the money was stored.
"He said that I could never tell anybody until after he died," Greg Gossett said.
Kirk Gossett, another son, says his father also told the story several times.
"He had the type of temperament to do something like this," Kirk Gossett said.
After a career in the military, Gossett worked in the early 1970s as an ROTC instructor and military law instructor at Weber State in Ogden. He also worked as a radio talk-show host in Salt Lake City, where he moderated discussions about the paranormal.
While Carr was doubtful that the fingerprint and hair samples Cook has from Gossett would prove anything, the FBI has heard tales that were more far-fetched.
"Everything about the case is just bizarre," Carr said.
For his part, Beasley thinks the story remains unsolved because the FBI wants it to remain unsolved.
"I can actually believe the FBI does not want to solve this case," Beasley said. "They certainly do not want a guy like Galen Cook to solve this case."
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(From The Associated Press and KVAL.com reports).