On the afternoon of November 24th, 1971 the sole successful piracy in history was committed.
D.B Cooper, officially unidentified today, leapt to an uncertain fate over southwestern Washington after collecting a $200,000 ransom and four parachutes during a brief stop at the Seattle-Tacoma airport.
After a 45 year active investigation the FBI called it quits in 2016, saying no definitive conclusion can be drawn thus far regarding D.B. Cooper’s true identity. Or could there be?
In 1988, a man by the name of Wolfgang Gossett was ordained a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Father Gossetts’s name wasn’t always Wolfgang – he changed his name, from William Pratt Gossett.
A Marine Corp, Army, and Air Force veteran who served in Korea and Vietnam, his military experience and training included advanced jump training and wilderness survival.
According to Galen Cook, an investigative lawyer since the 80’s deemed an authority on the D. B. Cooper case, the likelihood of Father Gossett and D.B. Cooper being one and the same are high. Telling the Beacon, he said
“The … evidence is really strong. I feel we’ve got the right guy. He had the level of skills and ability to plan the entire thing with military precision and to not only parachute from the plane but to survive.”
According to Cook, Gossett confessed to a couple people: his old boss, a retired Salt Lake City judge, and a close friend from when he worked in the public defender’s office there.
“He told his last wife, Elaine Hetschel, that he would write D.B. Cooper’s epitaph. There were others that said he always talked about D.B. Cooper. There was all this third-person narrative, but he never told the people closest to him, ‘I did the job.’”
According to Gossett’s family, becoming a priest was a move that “answered a spiritual calling that he’d always heard.”
“It’s an incredible story. The air pirate who became a priest and marries and buries people when he’s not out helping the FBI solve criminal cases. And in later life he becomes civic-minded by attending City Council meetings in Depoe Bay and becomes a late-life jogger who runs around town wearing his military parachute badge on his headband to remind himself of who he really is.”
The FBI officially closed their active investigation in July 2016. Closing the case came a short time after viable DNA samples were obtained belonging to Gossett, who passed in 2003, that could be compared to DNA samples left behind by D. B. Cooper on his tie clip in the plane that infamous night in the sky over Washington:
“There is not one link to the D.B. Cooper case, other than the statements made to someone.”