OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - An Oklahoma woman claims an uncle who planned something "very mischievous" over the holidays in 1971 was D.B. Cooper, the never-captured hijacker who jumped out of a plane with $200,000.
Marla Cooper of Oklahoma City - who was 8 years old at the time of the hijacking - told ABC News in an interview broadcast Wednesday that she is certain her uncle Lynn Doyle Cooper leaped from a Northwest Orient plane not far from her grandmother's home in Sisters, Ore. She said she made the connection after piecing together remarks made by her father in 1995 and her mother in 2009. She did not say why she chose to speak out now.
"My two uncles, who I only saw at holiday time, were planning something very mischievous. I was watching them using some very expensive walkie-talkies that they had purchased," she said on "Good Morning America."
When contacted later Wednesday, Marla Cooper referred an Associated Press reporter to a family friend who is scheduling interviews.
FBI agent Fred Gutt said Monday that the agency was following up on a "credible" new lead in the unsolved D.B. Cooper case. Gutt declined Wednesday to say whether Marla Cooper was connected to that lead, which focuses on a suspect who died more than 10 years ago. Marla Cooper did not say in her ABC interview when her uncle died.
"It is an unsolved crime and we are obligated to address that if new, credible information comes to us," Gutt said. "But it's definitely a low-priority matter because we primary have ongoing criminal activity today that has real threat to the community today."
Marla Cooper told ABC her uncles said they were going turkey hunting around Thanksgiving 1971, but L.D. Cooper came home claiming he had been in a car accident.
"My uncle L.D. was wearing a white T-shirt and he was bloody and bruised and a mess, and I was horrified. I began to cry. My other uncle, who was with L.D., said `Marla just shut up and go get your dad,"' she said.
Marla Cooper told ABC she heard her uncle say at the time, "'We did it, our money problems are over, we hijacked an airplane,"' and that just before he died in 1995 her father mentioned his brother and said, "'Don't you remember he hijacked that airplane?"'
In 2009, she said, her mother made a similar comment that raised her suspicions again. Cooper told ABC she contacted the FBI "as soon as I was sure that what I was remembering were real memories."
The FBI said Monday that a new lead came to the bureau after the tipster initially discussed the case with a retired law enforcement officer, who then contacted the agency. Gutt said only after the FBI contacted the tipster directly did the person speak with investigators.
Asked why she came forward, Cooper said, “there's a crime that's taken place that hasn't been solved and I'm the only one, as far as I know, who knows what happened.”
Marla Cooper did not discuss on ABC how or when she reached out to the FBI, but said she recently provided investigators with a guitar strap belonging to her uncle to be tested for fingerprints.
Investigators have tested a guitar strap from the suspect who is the subject of the new lead, Gutt said Wednesday, but found it wasn't suitable for fingerprint analysis. They are now working with family members to identify other items that can be analyzed. But the FBI doesn't have a timeframe for how long it will take to vet the lead, which is something they've known about for more than a year, Gutt said.
Federal investigators have checked more than 1,000 leads since the suspect bailed out on Nov. 24, 1971, over the Pacific Northwest. The suspect gave his name as "Dan Cooper" and claimed shortly after Flight 305 took off from Portland, Ore., that he had a bomb. Passengers were exchanged in Seattle for parachutes and money. In 1980, a boy found several thousand dollars in $20 bills from the ransom decomposing along the Columbia River.