By SCOTT COUCH, WZTV
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) - The 1971 D.B. Cooper skyjacking is the most infamous crime of its type in U.S. history, and it remains the only such case the FBI hasn’t been able to solve.
Cooper showed a Northwest Orient flight attendant what looked like a bomb. He said he’d blow the plane up if he didn’t get four parachutes, $200,000 cash in small bills and a plane to Mexico. After he got the money, Cooper jumped out of the plane, never to be seen or heard from again.
In 2016, the FBI officially closed the file on Dan Cooper, dubbed D.B. by reporters. Bill Rollins, the author of a book about how Cooper may have pulled off the perfect crime, has a theory that ties Cooper to Music City.
He believes Cooper is really Joe Lakich, a now deceased Army veteran who lived and died in Nashville. Rollins believes Lakich was motivated not by money but revenge and a desire to embarrass the FBI.
A few months before the Cooper hijacking, Lakich’s daughter Susan Giffe was murdered in another hijacking that originated in Nashville.
Her estranged husband George Giffe forced Susan onto a small charter plane in Nashville. His destination was the Bahamas. But when the plane stopped for gas in Jacksonville, the FBI was waiting.
Agents refused to give Giffe any fuel and then shot out the plane’s tires and one of its engines. That’s when Giffe shot and killed the pilot, Susan Giffe and then himself. Joe Lakich is quoted in news reports at the time saying he believed the case had been mishandled and the FBI had blood on its hands. The family sued the FBI for wrongful death.
In 2011, new lab tests revealed a clip on a tie Cooper discarded before jumping from the plane into a rain storm contained tiny particles of titanium, a rare and exotic metal in 1971. A team of citizen sleuths working in conjunction with the FBI concluded “Cooper” was not a dumb criminal as had been previously thought but instead an engineer or manager at some type of metal working facility.
Rollins, a professional engineer and inventor by trade, drew a line between the Cooper case and Joe Lakich’s family tragedy. He believes Lakich, who died in February of 2017, planned and carried out the Cooper hijacking to embarrass the FBI before returning to his life in Tennessee. Lakich outlived his children and two wives.
The FBI said it would reopen the case if one of the parachutes or some of the cash from the Cooper skyjacking is found. Rollins is working on a new book explaining his theory. He’s hoping to one day convince members of the Lakitch family to provide a DNA sample to compare with evidence in the Cooper case.
“I see that there is some possibility that Joe was involved in this thing," said Tom Pugh, a close friend of Susan Giffe and a pall bearer at her funeral.
At least one Lakich family friend told Fox 17 News they think Bill Rollins' theory may have merit.