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Man who packed DB Cooper’s parachute 42 years before his own mystery murder was ‘invaluable’ to FBI, investigator says

MYSTERY continues to persist in the murder of an FBI consultant who provided the parachutes used by DB Cooper during the skyjacker’s infamous in-air heist, more than a decade on.

Earl Cossey, a veteran skydiving instructor, was found dead in his suburban Seattle, Washington home on April 26, 2013, having suffered a blunt-force trauma to the head.

King County Sheriff’s Office

Earl Cossey was murdered in the suburbs of Washington in April 2013[/caption]


Cossey worked with the FBI for years and served as the bureau’s go-to expert for any parachute-related questions[/caption]

His daughter made the tragic discovery after she went to check on Cossey having not heard from him for four days.

Investigators believe the 71-year-old was killed on April 23, though who fatally struck Cossey and why remains a complete mystery.

Police have never shared what weapon was used to claim Cossey’s life.

However, a critical clue would emerge within days of the murder when an envelope containing Cossey’s identification, bank cards, and casino membership was mailed to his home with an anonymous handwritten letter.

Detectives believe Cossey’s cards were stolen by his killer who either dropped them or intentionally discarded them.

They believe a Good Samaritan then happened across them and mailed them back.

That Samaritan has never been identified, but investigators said establishing where those cards were found could be crucial in helping to capture his killer.

Eleven years have passed without answers and a $3,500 reward for information remains unclaimed.

In a brief statement to The U.S. Sun, a spokesperson for the Kings Country Sheriff’s Office said the investigation into Cossey’s murder is active and ongoing.

“Unfortunately, we are not able to comment on the investigation,” added the spokesperson.

Investigators have stated emphatically that they do not believe Cossey’s murder had anything to do with the DB Cooper case.

Forty-two years before Cossey was killed, a brazen crook known by the alias DB Cooper hijacked a Northwest Orient flight over Portland on Thanksgiving Eve 1971, held the plane for $200,000 ransom, and parachuted out of the Boeing 727 with his bounty, never to be seen again.

Four parachutes were given to Cooper by authorities as part of his ransom – one of which was a dummy chute intended only for use in training.

The chutes were hastily supplied by a local skydiving center that had recently purchased them from Cossey.

The one Cooper apparently used was a military-issue NB6, a 28-foot nylon parachute with a conical canopy.


In the years following Cooper’s heist, Cossey became the de facto technical expert for the FBI on anything related to the skyjacker’s chutes.

He also became an outspoken proponent of the belief that Cooper was not the master skydiver that investigators initially believed he was, but, instead, a foolish amateur whose inexperience was evidenced by the fact he apparently decided to use the wrong parachute for his daring jump.

Cossey’s analysis helped shift the FBI’s early working narrative that Cooper likely survived the jump and remained at large to the belief he most probably died as a result of his own ineptitude.

Cossey was discovered dead by his daughter during a welfare check. He’d suffered a blunt-force trauma to his head
Kings County Sheriff’s Office

DB Cooper hijacked Northwest Airlines Flight 305 (above) on November 25, 1971[/caption]


FBI Special Agent Robbie Burroughs stands with the parachute found in North Clark County, Washington in 2008. It was later deemed not to be Cooper’s by Cossey[/caption]

Eric Ulis, an investigator who has been independently probing the Cooper heist for the last 14 years, said Cossey was an invaluable asset to the FBI.

Ulis told The U.S. Sun, “Earl Cossey was known for not being a straight shooter with the media. On occasion, he would fudge the facts about parachutes but he was always honest and forthright with the FBI.

“He was their go-to guy for identifying whether parachutes were related to the case or not.

“He was an interesting man, and I know it’s an unsolved murder, but from what I can tell and what police have said this has nothing to do with Cooper.

“This is just an incredibly unfortunate case where it appears he walked in on someone robbing him, or something like that.”

The DB Cooper Mystery

DB Cooper hijacked Northwest Orient Flight 305 on November 24, 1971, during a short trip between Portland and Seattle.

Shortly after take-off, Cooper handed a note to a flight attendant sitting behind him, informing her he had a bomb in his briefcase.

In exchange for the lives of the 36 other passengers and six crew on board, the mild-mannered hijacker demanded $200,000 in stacks of $20 bills and four parachutes.

When the flight landed in Seattle, the cash and parachutes were exchanged for all of the passengers and some of the crew.

Following Cooper’s instructions, the Boeing 727 was refueled and took off for a second time – this time in the direction of Mexico City.

But around 8pm, somewhere over southwest Washington, a light flashed up on the instrument panel in the cockpit, indicating the rear exit door had been opened.

With that, Cooper was gone, parachuting out into the stormy night sky with his ransom in tow.

Virtually all traces of Cooper vanished therein.

The only item left behind on Flight 305 by Cooper was a black, clip-on JCPenney tie with a gold pin.

Investigators later yielded a DNA sample from the tie and other items of evidentiary value, but they don’t believe the DNA sample belonged to Cooper.

The only other trace yielded of Cooper since came in 1980 when a young boy digging along the banks of the Columbia River in Tena bar unearthed $5,800 in $20 bills buried in the earth.

The serial numbers of the bills matched those issued to Cooper during the skyjacking but the discovery failed to bring any new leads.

Despite the lack of progress in the case, investigator Eric Ulis believes he can solve the case by the end of the decade.

“We’re dealing with a very small universe of people,” said Ulis of the remaining suspect pool.

“I know there are others who have combed through north of 100 men [who] worked for Crucible and other similar facilities but nobody checks the Cooper boxes like Vince Petersen.

“That doesn’t prove he was DB Cooper, of course, but it is compelling.

“Given time, I think I’ll come up with something that’s going to seal the deal one way or the other.

“But we are sniffing around the right neighborhood.

“There’s just no doubt about that at this point.”

Over the decades, as parachutes were sometimes discovered in the area of Cooper’s forecasted jump zone, the FBI sought Cossey’s help in identifying them.

Speaking to the AP in 2008, Cossey bemoaned that the FBI kept bringing him “garbage.”

“Every time they find squat, they bring it out and open their trunk and say, ‘Is that it?’ and I say, ‘Nope, go away.’ Then a few years later they come back,” he said.

Cossey also occasionally had fun at the expense of reporters.

Some who called him on April Fool’s one year were told the latest chute found was, in fact, one used by Cooper.

One reporter called him back and angrily said he could be fired for writing a false story, Cossey said. 

Another told him the newsroom was entertained by the prank.

“I’m getting mixed reviews,” Cossey said. “But I’m having fun with it. What the heck.”


Conspiracy and innuendo have continued to surround the circumstances of Cossey’s death for the last 13 years.

Fanatics of the Cooper case have theorized that perhaps the outspoken Cossey was silenced as part of a wider government conspiracy, suggesting the heist was an inside job.

Others have wildly suggested Cossey may have been killed by Cooper himself, or someone who knew him, as retribution for his remarks about the crook’s lack of skydiving prowess.

The identity of Dan ‘DB’ Cooper remains subject to fiercely contested debate 53 years on

Cossey once owned the parachutes used by Cooper during the heist[/caption]


The crew of Flight 305 speak to the media after the skyjacing[/caption]

But, like Ulis, Cossey’s family refuses to be drawn into such unfounded fantasies.

Cossey’s son, Wayland Cossey, declined to be interviewed for this story.

However, in earlier remarks, Wayland said his father’s death has “absolutely no relevancy” to his work with the Cooper investigation and he had no idea why someone would try to kill him.

“He was a man of peace,” Wayland Cossey said during a press conference in 2013. “He didn’t have any enemies.”

Earl Cossey was a parachutist and pilot and coached basketball and football at Leota Junior High in Woodinville.

His family had contact with him a day before he was killed, and everything appeared normal, Wayland Cossey said.

At the time, Wayland added that his family’s battle with grief was a day-to-day process.

Information about his father’s death would help that process, he said.

“He did not deserve what happened to him. My dad would have given everything on his person all his money to avoid his fate.”

“We’re hoping for closure and we have not received any,” added Wayland.

“There are more questions than answers at this point and that’s hard to deal with as a family member.

“He didn’t deserve this and those who did this deserve to be brought to justice.

“It would give our family great peace to know that.”

Anyone with information on Cossey’s slaying should call CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or the King County Sheriff’s Office at 206-263-2560.

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