Money Mystery Explained

By ERIC ULIS

For years people have pondered how three packets of DB Cooper’s ransom ended up buried on Tena Bar at a spot many miles from the FBI search area and flight path.

Upon reading through the FBI files and considering the evidence, I believe the explanation for how the money ended up on Tena Bar is really quite simple.

Let’s start with the notion that DB Cooper initially planned to jump from the jet shortly after taking off from Seattle. This is backed up in two ways.

First, Cooper initially demanded that the jet depart Seattle with the airstairs down, in other words, dragging along the runway. This was rejected by the pilots after significant debate with Cooper who ultimately relented and let the jet takeoff with the airstairs up, but demanded that they be deployed immediately upon takeoff.

Second, Cooper did not board the jet with any luggage. And, given that he couldn’t be certain that he wasn’t going to have to abort the skyjacking attempt until he actually boarded the jet, it seems likely that he had a backup plan, or a place lined up in Seattle, in case he had to simply walk off the jet in Seattle. Furthermore, if he already had a place lined up, he could also use this same place if he successfully skyjacked the jet and jumped in the outskirts of Seattle.

Needless to say, Cooper didn’t jump near Seattle. Why?

The answer to the above question begins with understanding that Cooper requested the ransom be delivered to him in a knapsack. However, this didn’t happen. Rather, the money was delivered in an open-top bank bag that did not possess a zipper, snap, drawstring, or any other method to secure the top. This meant that Cooper had to improvise and craft a solution to secure the ransom before he jumped. This took time.

Also, the bank bag was too full to properly secure. This meant that Cooper was going to have to remove some of the overflow packets before he secured the bank bag with shroud lines that he cut from one of the other parachutes.

Witnesses noted that Cooper placed some of the ransom into one of the reserve parachutes. Additionally, given that the dummy reserve was missing from the jet, it stands to reason that this was the reserve that witnesses saw Cooper placing the cash into.

By the time Cooper was ready to jump, his original plan of jumping in the outskirts of Seattle was no longer feasible given that his jump window had passed. Therefore, he needed to wait for another opportunity to jump, albeit not too far from civilization because he was going to need to get back to his pre-arranged location in Seattle.

After successfully jumping and landing, Cooper would have retrieved the overflow packets of cash from the dummy reserve and most likely placed them in his coat pockets. At this point he would have fled the area carrying the still-tied bank bag. Upon reaching Tena Bar, several miles down the road, Cooper would have buried the bag of cash in a hole along with the loose overflow packets. The idea being that he needed to figure a way out of the area and could come back later to retrieve the ransom.

Indeed, Cooper did return to retrieve the ransom most likely under cover of darkness during the May/June flooding event of 1972 when the money burial spot was under a couple feet of water. Of course, this would account for the bills picking up diatoms from that season alone. Additionally, given the conditions described above, it is very easy to see how Cooper simply wouldn’t notice that three of the overflow packets were accidentally left behind and reburied only to be discovered years later by Brian Ingram in 1980. And this only taking place after years of unmitigated erosion.