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Body found at home of Cooper parachute packer

Skydiving instructor often consulted on case

SEATTLE – Detectives are investigating a homicide at a suburban home owned by the man who packed the parachutes used by infamous airplane hijacker D.B. Cooper more than four decades ago.

A woman called police Friday to report that she had gone to the home in Woodinville, northeast of Seattle, to check on her father and found him dead, said King County sheriff’s Sgt. Cindi West. The woman had not heard from him in several days.

The victim’s identity is not expected to be released until Monday, after it is confirmed by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office. But West said Saturday that detectives have ruled the case a homicide.

As first reported by KIRO-TV, King County property records show that the home is owned by Earl Cossey, 74, a former skydiving instructor who played a bit part in one of the Northwest’s most enduring mysteries.

On Nov. 24, 1971, a man calling himself Dan Cooper – later mistakenly identified as D.B. Cooper – hijacked a Northwest Orient plane from Portland to Seattle. At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, he released the passengers in exchange for $200,000 and four parachutes, and he asked to be flown to Mexico.

Somewhere near the Oregon line, Cooper leapt out of the plane. Despite intensive searches, no sign of Cooper ever emerged. Investigators doubt he survived and have never been able to determine his true identity. But a boy digging on a Columbia River beach in 1980 found three bundles of weathered $20 bills – Cooper’s cash, according to the serial numbers.

The parachutes provided to the skyjacker came from an Issaquah skydive center which had recently purchased them from Cossey. The one Cooper apparently used was a military-issue NB6, nylon, 28-foot with a conical canopy.

Over the decades, as parachutes were sometimes discovered in the area of Cooper’s jump, the FBI turned to Cossey to ask if they were the real thing.

“They keep bringing me garbage,” Cossey told the Associated Press in 2008, after the FBI brought him a silk parachute discovered by children playing at a recently graded road in Southwest Washington. “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.”

That didn’t keep Cossey from having fun at the expense of reporters who covered that discovery. He told some who happened to call him on April Fools’ Day that year that the chute was, in fact, Cooper’s.

One reporter called him back and angrily said he could get fired for writing a false story, Cossey said. Another said the newsroom was amused by the prank.

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