Did D.B. Cooper suspect once live in Fruit Valley?

Records show a man named Lynn D. Cooper resided there in 1969-70

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

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photoA house at 2611 Unander Ave., now a duplex, was home to a man named Lynn D. Cooper in 1969 and 1970.

(/The Columbian)

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With more tantalizing leads, stories and rumors in the news this week about legendary skyjacker D.B. Cooper comes this observation:

A man who had the same name as the suspected bandit lived in Vancouver’s Fruit Valley around the same time.

A Fort Vancouver Plywood worker by the name of Lynn D. Cooper lived with his wife, Phyllis, at 2611 Unander Ave. in Fruit Valley in 1969 and 1970, according to Polk’s Vancouver City Directory, which used to be published annually by R.L. Polk & Co. Cooper was not listed in Polk’s 1971 edition of the directory.

Lynn Doyle Cooper, a Navy seaman in the Korean War who died in 1999, recently was linked to the nation’s only unsolved hijacking by his niece in Oklahoma. The revelation has renewed public interest in the decades-old cold case.

D.B. Cooper has captivated local imagination ever since Cooper parachuted from a Northwest Orient jet with $200,000 in ransom money.

It’s believed that he bailed out with the money over a forested area somewhere near the Clark-Cowlitz county line. Local residents have long swapped stories about people they knew who resembled Cooper or shared the latest conspiracy theory about the case. Ariel tavern owner Steve Fisher used to hold an annual celebration of the Northwest’s criminal folk hero in that town each September.

In 1980, the intrigue intensified when an 8-year-old boy discovered about $5,800 near Frenchman's Bar on the Columbia River, about seven miles northwest of downtown Vancouver. Investigators identified the money by its serial numbers.

Whether the Cooper of Fruit Valley was the same man as the suspect now under investigation is unclear. The Fruit Valley resident had the middle initial of “D.” but it’s unknown whether that stood for “Doyle.”

If the hijacker lived in Fruit Valley, it might explain why he might have chosen to jump from the plane over Clark County on Thanksgiving Eve 1971.

Former neighborhood association president Lee McCallister, who has lived in Fruit Valley since 1948, said he doesn’t recall a Lynn Cooper on Unander Avenue.

“My guess is the guy (hijacker) knew the area,” McAllister said. “As an ex-paratrooper myself, you learn landmarks, even at night. He parachuted over an area he would be familiar with, that’s my theory.”

It’s also been observed that Cooper, or whomever he was, would have been familiar with the wood products industry. Perhaps he might have worked at a plywood mill?

No answers were immediately forthcoming.

The blue house at 2611 Unander has been converted into a duplex. Kelly Temple of Vancouver owns the property. A number listed under that name in the phone book has been disconnected.

Vancouver resident Ralph Olsen, who worked at Fort Vancouver Plywood Mill at the same time Lynn D. Cooper would have, said he doesn’t remember the man.

Lynn Doyle Cooper, suspected by his niece, Marla Cooper, of being the hijacker, was not believed to be married at the time of the skyjacking, but he could have been married beforehand, said Fred Gutt, a spokesman for the FBI in Seattle. Gutt said he was not authorized to comment further on whether the suspect had been married to a woman named Phyllis in 1969 and 1970.

The suspect under investigation died April 30, 1999, at age 67 and was buried at the Pilot Butte Cemetery near Bend, Ore., according to The Seattle Times, which obtained the man’s Oregon death certificate. According to that certificate, he worked as an engineering surveyor. The Times also reported his brother, Dewy Max Cooper, once worked at Boeing.

D.B. Cooper parachuted from a Boeing 727, a popular jetliner of the day.

Marla Cooper said she remembers her uncle arrived at the family home in Sisters, Ore., shortly after the hijacking, bloodied and bruised. She said she overheard Lynn and Dewy talking about having hijacked a plane.

The hijacker was described as in his mid-40s and wearing dark sunglasses. He boarded the plane at Portland International Airport with a ticket under the name of Dan Cooper. (A law enforcement official mistakenly called him “D.B. later on,” and the initials became part of the legend). He summoned a flight attendant and showed her a briefcase that appeared to contain explosives. He made a demand for $200,000 and parachutes.

Officials paid the ransom when the plane landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and passengers and two flight attendants were released. The hijacker then ordered the pilots to take off again and fly toward Reno, Nev., at an altitude of no more than 10,000 feet. Forty minutes into the flight, a signal light in the cockpit indicated the plane’s rear stairway had been extended. The money and Cooper were gone when the plane landed in Reno.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://www.twitter.com/Col_Trends; http://www.facebook.com/ColTrends; paris.achen@columbian.com. The Associated Press and Columbian Staff Writer Andrea Damewood contributed to this story.