Charming D.B. Cooper suspect Sheridan Peterson dies at 94, spent years dedicated to political causes – OregonLive

Sheridan Peterson, long considered a suspect in the D.B. Cooper skyjacking case, died Jan. 8 in northern California, according to memorials website He was 94.

The California native served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and later worked as a technical editor at Boeing, the aerospace manufacturer based in Seattle.

He also was an experienced smokejumper. He loved skydiving and taking physical risks, even reportedly experimenting with homemade bat wings. These were keys reasons his name has flitted for years around internet message boards devoted to the D.B. Cooper case, the only unsolved skyjacking in U.S. history.

A man using the name Dan Cooper hijacked Northwest Orient Flight 305 out of Portland on Nov. 24, 1971. He parachuted out of the plane with $200,000 in ransom -- and disappeared. This led to the skyjacker becoming a folk hero. The case has inspired books and documentaries and even a feature film starring Treat Williams.

Phoenix entrepreneur Eric Ulis spent years trying to figure out if Peterson was the famous criminal, ultimately becoming 98% convinced he was.

Whether Sheridan Peterson was D.B. Cooper or not, he said Thursday in a statement to The Oregonian/OregonLive, may I suggest that he more than atoned for his lifes failings?

Ulis said that, through his investigation, he had learned to appreciate how deeply [Peterson] cared for those less fortunate. Sheridan helped establish freedom schools in the Deep South in 1965 during the Civil Rights battles. He then spent years in Vietnam during the Vietnam War assisting refugees. Later he would witness and speak out against the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. And it didnt stop there. Sheridan was very vocal about public policy until the very end.

Ulis believes Petersons experiences in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War radicalized him, prompting him to undertake the skyjacking.

FBI agents working the case showed an interest in Peterson soon after the 1971 crime. In the years that followed, Peterson often would be coy about whether he was in fact D.B. Cooper.

Actually, the FBI had good reason to suspect me, he wrote in a 2007 issue of Smokejumper, a magazine published by the National Smokejumper Association. Friends and associates agreed that I was without a doubt D.B. Cooper. There were too many circumstances involved for it to be a coincidence.

Those circumstances, Peterson wrote, included:

At the time of the heist, I was 44 years old. That was the approximate age Cooper was assumed to have been, and I closely resembled sketches of the hijacker. But what was even more incriminating was the photo of me simulating a skydiving maneuver for Boeings news sheet. I was wearing a suit and tie -- the same sort of garb Cooper had worn, right down to the Oxford loafers. It was noted that skydivers dont ordinarily dress so formally.

A paid obituary for Peterson, published in the Santa Rosa (Calif.) Press-Democrat on Sunday, stated that Petersons son Sheridan Jr. and daughter Ginger were born in Nepal under very astir conditions.

Peterson, when pressed by FBI agents, insisted he was in Nepal at the time of the skyjacking.

The FBI never detained or arrested Peterson in connection to the case. The federal law-enforcement agency didnt even interview him until 2004.

He was a charming guy, former FBI agent Mary Jean Fryar told The Oregonian/OregonLive in 2019.

Fryar and another agent questioned Peterson and took a DNA swab from him. (The FBI has never said anything about Petersons sample, even though it publicly ruled out other Cooper case suspects via DNA. The bureau has stated it believes the skyjacker, whoever he was, most likely died on the night of the heist.)

Peterson was interviewed last year for an episode of History Channels Historys Greatest Mysteries that was devoted to the D.B. Cooper case.

-- Douglas Perry


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Charming D.B. Cooper suspect Sheridan Peterson dies at 94, spent years dedicated to political causes - OregonLive

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