Sheridan Peterson Biography, Wiki
Sheridan Peterson, long considered a suspect in the D.B. Cooper skyjacking case, has died.
The California native served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and later worked as a technical editor at Boeing, the aerospace manufacturer based in Seattle.
He also was an experienced smokejumper. He loved skydiving and taking physical risks, even reportedly “experimenting with homemade bat wings.” These were key reasons his name has flitted for years around internet message boards devoted to the D.B. Cooper case, the only unsolved skyjacking in U.S. history.
A man using the name Dan Cooper hijacked Northwest Orient Flight 305 out of Portland on Nov. 24, 1971. He parachuted out of the plane with $200,000 in ransom – and disappeared. This led to the skyjacker becoming a folk hero. The case has inspired books and documentaries and even a feature film starring Treat Williams.
Phoenix entrepreneur Eric Ulis spent years trying to figure out if Peterson was the famous criminal, ultimately deciding he was “98%” certain he was.
“Whether Sheridan Peterson was D.B. Cooper or not,” he said Thursday in a statement to The Oregonian/OregonLive, “may I suggest that he more than atoned for his life’s failings?”
Those “circumstances,” he wrote, included:
“At the time of the heist, I was 44 years old. That was the approximate age Cooper was assumed to have been, and I closely resembled sketches of the hijacker. But what was even more incriminating was the photo of me simulating a skydiving maneuver for Boeing’s news sheet. I was wearing a suit and tie – the same sort of garb Cooper had worn, right down to the Oxford loafers. It was noted that skydivers don’t ordinarily dress so formally.”
A paid obituary for Peterson, published in the Santa Rosa (Calif.) Press-Democrat on Sunday, stated that Peterson’s son Sheridan Jr. and daughter Ginger “were born in Nepal under very astir conditions.”
Peterson, when pressed by FBI agents, insisted he was in Nepal at the time of the skyjacking.
The FBI never detained or arrested Peterson in connection to the case. In fact, the federal law-enforcement agency didn’t even interview him until 2004.
“He was a charming guy,” former FBI agent Mary Jean Fryar told the Oregonian in 2019.
Fryar and another agent questioned Peterson and took a DNA swab from him. (The FBI has never said anything about the sample, even though it publicly ruled out other Cooper case suspects via DNA.)
Peterson was interviewed for a 2020 episode of History Channel’s “History’s Greatest Mysteries” that was devoted to the D.B. Cooper case.
Sheridan Peterson has died at the age of 94-years-old.
Ulis said that, through his investigation, he had “learned to appreciate how deeply (Peterson) cared for those less fortunate. … Sheridan helped establish freedom schools in the Deep South in 1965 during the Civil Rights battles. He then spent years in Vietnam during the Vietnam War assisting refugees. Later he would witness and speak out against the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. And it didn’t stop there. Sheridan was very vocal about public policy until the very end.”
Ulis believes Peterson’s experiences in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War “radicalized” him, leading to the skyjacking.
The FBI showed an interest in Peterson soon after the 1971 crime, and in the years that followed the suspect often was coy about whether he was in fact D.B. Cooper.
“Actually, the FBI had good reason to suspect me,” Peterson wrote in a 2007 issue of Smokejumper, a magazine published by the National Smokejumper Association. “Friends and associates agreed that I was without a doubt D.B. Cooper. There were too many circumstances involved for it to be a coincidence.”
D.B. Cooper disappeared from sight and into history, his true identity unknown.
Sheridan Peterson was chief among the suspects, with investigators pointing to his experience as a smokejumper, his love of skydiving and taking physical risks, and even reportedly “experimenting with homemade bat wings,” according to The Oregonian.
Peterson is not the first suspect to have passed away before the FBI could come to any final conclusion about the D.B. Cooper case.
Another suspect, Robert Rackstraw, died in 2019 at the age of 75.
Many amateur sleuths pointed to Rackstraw, but the FBI discounted him due to his age: He would have been 28 at the time, while witnesses said the suspect was 35 to 45 years of age.
Rackstraw once jokingly admitted to being the jumper, and codebreakers claimed that a letter sent by D.B. Cooper indicated Rackstraw was the culprit.
Another researcher claimed in 2018 to have determined that D.B. Cooper was actually William J. Smith, who may have taken the name from his deceased friend Ira Daniel Cooper.
Cause of Death
Sheridan Peterson, long considered a suspect in the D.B. Cooper skyjacking case, died Jan. 8 in California. He was 94.
Peterson died Jan. 8, according to Legacy.com, a memorials website. The circumstances of his death are not known. He is survived by his son and daughter.