(RNN) – In 1971, a man who came to be known as D.B. Cooper hijacked Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305 from Portland to Seattle by telling a flight attendant he had a bomb.
When the flight landed in Washington, he took a $200,000 ransom and four parachutes, and released all 36 passengers and two of the six-person crew. He then directed the remaining crew to fly on to Mexico City.
Sometime after the plane was again in the air, Cooper parachuted out and was never seen or heard from again.
Now a new book by a man who says he was Cooper’s best friend is claiming to reveal his true identity.
According to the book, “D.B. & Me: A Criminal, A Spy, My Best Friend,” Cooper was in fact ex-military paratrooper Walter Reca, and he lived out his life in Michigan following the infamous hijacking, and even became a “high-level covert intelligence operative.”
The publisher of the book, Principia Media, held an event in Michigan on Thursday to reveal Cooper’s identity. Carl Laurin, the author, says he's gathered evidence supporting his claim for more than a decade.
According to a news release from the publisher, Laurin made three hours of audio recordings with Reca in 2008, and additional evidence includes witness testimony, documentation related to the cash ransom, recollections of Reca’s late-life confessions, and even an article of clothing he supposedly wore during the jump.
At a press conference in Grand Rapids on Thursday, Laurin explained how he told Reca in 2000 that he suspected he was Cooper.
“Almost-daily discussions over a 14-year period and more than three hours of audio recordings” confirmed his suspicion, according to the release.
An online obituary repository lists a Walter R. Reca as having died in Oscoda, MI, in 2014.
Nice of alleged DB Cooper, actually Walter Reca , says she found confession letter from her uncle shortly before he died in 2014. Reca admitted to crime. pic.twitter.com/0GILIOxsKY— joelafurgey (@joelafurgey) May 17, 2018
Laurin described him as a “daredevil, determined, fearless, and tough as nails” according to Grand Rapids Magazine.
Fox News reported that Reca acknowledged his identity as Cooper in the recordings, saying he “never even had a second thought” over the years about the daring escapade.
The only evidence ever recovered in the case was $5,800 from the ransom found along the Columbia River, and FBI agents on the case have said in the past there was reason to believe Cooper made an ill-fated decision to jump.
An agent who took over the case in 2007, Larry Carr, said that year:
"We originally thought Cooper was an experienced jumper, perhaps even a paratrooper. We concluded after a few years this was simply not true. No experienced parachutist would have jumped in the pitch-black night, in the rain, with a 200-mile-an-hour wind in his face, wearing loafers and a trench coat. It was simply too risky. He also missed that his reserve chute was only for training and had been sewn shut—something a skilled skydiver would have checked."
An FBI release in 2009 said Carr believed it was “highly unlikely that Cooper survived the jump.”
Carr believed Cooper worked loading cargo planes, and so would have had operating knowledge of parachutes, but not enough to complete a jump in such difficult conditions safely.
According to the FBI, others in the past claimed to be Cooper, as well.
A 2007 bureau release on the case said a man named Duane Weber confessed he was Cooper on his deathbed, but was later ruled out by DNA testing. Two others identified at various times, Kenneth Christiansen and Richard McCoy, didn’t match Cooper's physical description.
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