Finally we have a name: Lynn Doyle Cooper. Or, as his niece Marla Cooper called him, “L.D.,” for short, kind of like ol’ D.B.
The release of this hyped up suspect’s name, coming on the heels of a disclosure earlier this week that the Bureau had their “most promising” suspect to date, and sent over physical evidence (a guitar strap) to the Bureau’s lab in Quantico for fingerprint testing.
Yesterday, that lead flamed out as Bureau scientists failed to find any fingerprints. Late yesterday, I was talking with an FBI source out of the Seattle field office about the burned out lead, and he mentioned that agents wouldn’t be surprised if the source started talking to reporters.
Voila! Here comes the Lynn Doyle Cooper story, given to ABC news this morning on Good Morning America, where I was a guest and talked a about the reason to take this claim lightly.
It would help to know more about this suspect’s background, but from what we know so far here is one reason to like Uncle L.D. and five quick reasons to doubt it.
What to like: The photo. It’s impossible to conclude anything from only one photo (suspect’s look different from different angles) but the dark tan skin of Uncle L.D. is similar to what all witnesses on the hijacked flight reported. Moreover, his facial features to my eyes bear a resemblance not to the first Cooper sketch (the so-called Bing Crosby sketch) or the second, but almost a combination of the two. I also like his wavy hair. In other words, not terrible. Actually, pretty good.
Now, here’s where the Uncle LD story get’s funky.
1.) Source issues. Initially, the FBI said the credibility of their lead was based on it’s source, namely a law enforcement official. I’ve recently learned that this law enforcement official was a retired police officer, who knew a “witness” who knew the hijacker’s story. Presumably, this “witness” is Marla Cooper. At the time of the hijacking, Marla Cooper, who claims she heard her long lost uncle confess to the hijacking, was eight years old.
2.) The Confession. In her interview with ABC this morning, Marla claimed that days after the hijacking she saw Uncle LD wearing a bloody white shirt. Then she overheard him talking about pulling off an airplane hijacking and their money problems were over. But if Uncle LD was bloody after the jump, wouldn’t he wash up first and not wait days later before cleaning up?
3.) Suspect’s age and experience. While we don’t know much if anything about the Uncle LD’s background, ABC reported that he was in his late 30’s and was a Korean war veteran. While some witnesses thought the hijacker was younger, most witnesses believed he was older, and in his mid-forties.
4.) One detail that wasn’t reported on the ABC news segment was where Marla claims her Uncle LD’s parachute came down. I learned the location she was claiming was Sisters Oregon, near Bend, which is WAY far off from the suspected Cooper drop zone near Ariel, in southwest Washington. I just Google mapped it, and the distance is almost 200 miles! [Update: In more detailed accounts of Marla Cooper's story, it is her grandmother's house in Sisters Oregon where she claims to have overheard her uncle confessing to the hijacking, not where she believes he allegedly landed.]
5.) Cooper mania. Every time there’s a flurry of news around the Cooper case, especially following the hijacking and wind up to the annual anniversary in the fall, suspects have a way of coming forward. When I looked into the case file, I found leads submitted about hundreds of Uncle LD’s, brothers, fathers, neighbors, jealous lovers.
Each motive was different, but what remains consistent is the leads keep coming in. There’s a reason why there’s been over a thousand suspects and persons of interest in the case. I found several with similar names: Merlin Gene Cooper, Daniel Louis Cooper, Russell Lee Cooper, Marvin John Dooper, and on.
It could be that Uncle LD is our guy. But proving it conclusively, especially considering the weak forensic evidence in the case, will be a burden that I’m not so sure Marla Cooper can overcome.