D.B. Cooper mugshots

This undated artist’ sketch shows the skyjacker known as D.B. Cooper from recollections of the passengers and crew of a Northwest Airlines jet he hijacked between Portland and Seattle on Thanksgiving eve in 1971. The FBI is no longer actively investigating the unsolved mystery of D.B. Cooper.

A documentary that explores a theory about the D.B. Cooper case with an Upper Kittitas County connection will premiere Saturday in Cle Elum.

The documentary features Cle Elum native Jeff Osiadacz, who said he had an encounter with a possible Cooper suspect in 1971 in Upper Kittitas County.

On Nov. 24, 1971, a man who had bought a ticket using the name Dan Cooper — and later was misidentified by the Associated Press as D.B. Cooper — hijacked a Northwest Orient Boeing 727 that had taken off from Seattle-Tacoma Airport. He parachuted out of the rear exit mid-flight with $200,000 in ransom money. Cooper was never found, although a small portion of the ransom money was discovered along the Columbia River near Vancouver in 1980.

Documentary creator Dirk Wierenga of Grand Haven, Michigan, said he was inspired to make the film after his company published a memoir by Carl Laurin about his relationship with a possible hijacker, a man named Walter Reca. He said he was skeptical about the story at first, but after listening to recorded conversations between the two and examining a written confession from Reca, he decided to proceed with investigating the case further. Reca died in 2014 in Michigan.

“We had a very compelling story,” Wierenga said. “We decided to invest heavily in both technology and forensics.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has investigated more than 1,000 suspects in the case, but nothing more than circumstantial evidence has been found linking anyone to the hijacking.

Wierenga said he acknowledges the theory of the hijacker ending up in Cle Elum differs from previous investigations that place the landing zone in the Washougal River area in Southwest Washington as well as the explanation for the money being found in that area in 1980. He said theories for the flight course deviation and location of the money are offered in the film.

“We give logical explanations for why the plane would be here,” he said. “We are open to any information comes along. Our feeling is that this may open up some memories from some people.”

Wierenga said the documentary took about 2 1/2 years to create. It is split up into four, 45-minute segments, and a there will be a break in the middle of the four segments during the screening. He said the documentary is inspired by Laurin’s memoir but is not based on it, although it does use the same characters.

Wierenga said because the FBI closed the investigation in 2016 and will not re-open it unless physical evidence in the form of a parachute or money tracked to the hijacking is found, he acknowledges the case likely will never be solved conclusively.

“D.B. Cooper has become (like) Sasquatch to the Northwest,” he said. “This is going to be like the (assassination) of JFK.”

Wierenga said he expects approximately 150 people to attend the screening, but if there is a higher turnout he is willing to stay and screen the film another evening.

The documentary screening is from 1-4 p.m., with a media question and answer session from 4:30-5:30 p.m., dinner at 6 p.m. and live music from Rusty Cage at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 and proceeds will benefit local fire stations.

Tickets are available at the Cle Elum and Ellensburg visitor centers, TheRealDBCooper.com and Eventbrite.

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