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Suspects And Confessions

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Bruce A. Smith:
You are not allowed to view links. Register or LoginMy daughter is in her last year of med school at Pitt. Graduating with an MD is just the start. Years of slave labor as a resident follow. And now residency isn’t enough. You need a post residency fellowship of a year or two. And even that isn’t enough for some specialties.

As a 5 year old kid she loved coming to the DZ with me and her older brother. I’d toss two candy bars with long crepe paper streamers attached right after I opened. They’d run like crazy to catch them before they hit the ground. She used to stand next to the boarding line and as I passed she’d wag her finger and shake her head as she admonished me: “No hook turns daddy”. I still get teased about that many years later.

The DBC Facebook page is now hard to navigate meaningfully. No shortage of folks who know “for sure” who DB Cooper was. Ted Braden is pushed hard. He sure had the skills but he really doesn’t match the witness descriptions. I’d sure like to know why General Singlaub intervened on his behalf to avoid punishment for desertion. It might be as simple as he was put in the Congo by the US govt. Singlaub was a founding member of the CIA.


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Congrats on the daughter graduating Pitt Med School, Three-Seven-Seven. Yup. It's a long, tough grind to a fully functioning doc. Not getting into medical school was one of the best things that never happened to me. Being a recreation therapist in psychiatry for 14 years was much better for my soul.

BTW: What's the terminal velocity for a candy bar????

BTW II: I agree. the Fb page on Cooper is too tough to follow. I only go there or response when I get an email prompt.

I have been doing research on Frank Sturgis, off and on, for the last two years as a possible DB Cooper suspect.  To my knowledge, no one has ever proposed Frank Sturgis as a possible suspect.  I have searched the forums and the internet at large over the years, and have never seen anyone else propose this theory, so I think this is the first time.

If you don’t know anything about Frank Sturgis, you can read all about him here:
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Sturgis’ nephew Jim Hunt wrote a biography of him, and it is available for purchase here:
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You can get a feel for Sturgis’ appearance, speech pattern, and demeanor from this interview:

Most of Sturgis’ fame comes from his involvement in Watergate and his alleged involvement in the JFK assassination.  This notoriety makes it difficult to find information on how he could have been involved in matters other than Watergate or JFK, but from my research I think he’s a strong DB Cooper suspect. 

Here are the main reasons why I think Frank Sturgis is a strong DB Cooper suspect:
-Sturgis matches the physical description.  He stood around 5’11”, and weighed 175 lbs (per his draft card).  He was a full-blooded Italian (born Frank Fiorini), he had an olive complexion, and he had black hair that was marcelled, and usually combed-back.
-Sturgis was a chain smoker.  You will have trouble finding a full-body picture of him WITHOUT a cigarette in his hand.
-Sturgis had the skillset.  He was essentially a special forces commando in WWII.  During the war he jumped out of planes behind enemy lines and engaged in covert assassinations.  After the war, his specialty was working for the CIA to train rebels in guerilla warfare and techniques on how to survive in the jungle/harsh terrain.  He had the experience to perform the jump, and the survival skills to know what to do once he landed on the ground. 
-Sturgis was a pilot.  He owned his own plane, flew many missions to Cuba, and he would have known how to direct the Flight 305 pilots in regard to the plane controls and flight path.
-Sturgis was an “off the books” CIA operative.  If you think the U.S. government (i.e. the CIA) was involved in the Cooper heist, then Sturgis is EXACTLY the type of guy they would have used to do the job.  If not, as a CIA operative he still would have had access to inside information that the 727 air stairs could be lowered during flight.
-Sturgis was a pilot in the Bay of Pigs Invasion.  In Geoffrey Gray’s book Skyjack, he says that Florence Schaffner told him that a strange man followed her after the skyjacking and said to her that Cooper wanted to meet her and that Cooper flew in the Bay of Pigs Invasion. 

There are also reasons why Sturgis is not likely to be Cooper:
-Cooper ordered a cocktail, while Sturgis was a teetotaler who by all accounts never drank alcohol.  The counterpoint to this is that in his book DB Cooper and the FBI, Bruce Smith says that witness Bill Mitchell told him Cooper ordered only one drink, and spilled it. 
-Cooper supposedly had no accent, while Sturgis had a subtle East Coast accent.
-Sturgis became a national figure after Watergate, and his face was all over the news.  If he was Cooper, he would have been easily identified by the witnesses on the plane.
-Between his military career and his CIA work, Sturgis’ finger prints and palm prints would have been “in the system”.  The FBI would have had as easy time matching even a partial print to him, assuming he was on the radar as a possible suspect.
-Sturgis wasn’t really a criminal per se.  If Cooper, whomever Cooper was, kept the money for himself, then Sturgis didn’t do it.  Sturgis was a U.S soldier/agent/operative who loyally served his country, no matter the request, and he probably wouldn’t have gotten involved in a common (or in this case uncommon) robbery scheme.  The counterpoint to this is that if the skyjacking really was a mission assigned to him by Uncle Sam, then he probably would have done it, no questions asked.

A few interesting coincidences between Frank Sturgis and DB Cooper: 
-After he was discharged from the military, Sturgis was suffering from “battle fatigue”, presumably due to the many killings of the enemy he was asked to commit at such a young age.  He spent time recovering in a mental health facility in Oregon.  Did this give him some familiarity with the Northwest?
-Sturgis went “missing” once when he was younger and living at home in Virginia, and his disappearance made the local news.  It’s unclear what happened, but the official story is that he went hunting, was attacked by some people, and was hit on the head which altered his mental state.  He says he “woke up” smoking a cigarette (for the first time) in Raleigh, of all places.   
-Sturgis’ experiences in Cuba left him with a hatred of Castro, and Kennedy’s pullback in the Bay of Pigs were the source of a lifelong “grudge”.
-Sturgis had a job in the late 60’s working as a salesman/installer for an aluminum window company in Florida.  Is this a possible source for the spiralized aluminum and the titanium (white paint) found on the tie?
-Sturgis trained rebels in Honduras in the 60’s.  At a Congressional hearing, Howard Hunt was asked about Frederick W. Hahnemann (alias George Ames), a so-called copycat skyjacker. He was asked specifically about a connection between Hahnemann and Sturgis: “Do you know whether Frank Sturgis was involved while in Honduras or elsewhere in Central America with Hahnemann or George Ames?”  The coincidence is incredible.  Also, Sturgis met with Howard Hunt in late 1971 to join the Plumbers, and the Plumbers were in full swing in the Fall of 1971.  Was the Cooper heist their first operation?
-After the statute of limitations had run, a man admitted that Sturgis hired him to blow up a plane with a bomb carrying the Portuguese Prime Minister, for $200,000.  The plane, bomb, and dollar amount are another incredible coincidence.

Lots of names have been thrown around as possible Cooper suspects over the years, and I think it’s time Frank Sturgis be considered as a possible suspect.

Blanket Footnote:  Special thanks to Jim Hunt, Bruce Smith, and Geoffrey Gray, whose books were the original source material for much of the factual information re-stated here, and the main sources for my research and learning about Frank Sturgis and the Cooper skyjacking.  While the theories, analysis, and conclusions are my own, I personally discovered none of the facts re-stated here, and relied upon the investigatory written works of others in my research, for which I am very thankful.

It's nice to see someone propose a suspect while at the same time listing some very good reasons why the person isn't Cooper. Very rare indeed.

Spent a delightful few hours with a retired UA pilot (who prefers anonymity) who knew Don Burnworth. My pilot friend was a 727 check pilot. He flew everything from DC 6s and 7s through every model of the 747 retiring on the 747-400. He said Don had a reputation as an oddball and troublemaker among UA mgmt. Don took lots of unpaid leave to deal with family problems. When the Cooper skyjack took place and the FBI sketches were published my friend said many UA pilots said: “that’s Don Burnworth.” My friend said UA pilots told him that Burnworth had parachute training. When I spoke with Don Burnworth he calmly denied being Cooper and told me that he had no jump experience or training. My pilot friend said he just heard rumors about Burnworth’s parachute training and never learned specifics or saw proof. He told me Burnworth took leave two weeks before the skyjack and returned to work one week after. He had money problems due to extensive time off and legal expenses arising from marriage problems. He assumed all this had been investigated by the FBI but wasn’t certain. He had a very troubled marriage (Don told me his ex was seriously mentally ill). He often cared for their kids full time and even took them to Europe to protect them from their mother. That trip violated a court order which got him briefly jailed in Redwood City CA. He said the arrest and brief jailing were not Cooper related. So there you have it. If we can show that Burnworth did have parachute training then he becomes a very interesting candidate. If not, then I’d say it’s unlikely that he was Cooper.

Bruce A. Smith:
I concur, Three-Seven-Seven.

Interesting, your account differs slightly from what Don told me: He left UA for Germany several months before Cooper and returned about a year later.

However, he told me that he had never received any parachute training, nor did he ever do any skydiving. But he sure was a pain-in-the-ass for UA mgt, who tried to fire him. Union got him re-instated.


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