Richard McCoy Jr.

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Richard Floyd McCoy Jr. (December 7, 1942 – November 9, 1974) was an American aircraft hijacker. McCoy hijacked a United Airlines passenger jet for ransom in 1972. Due to a similar modus operandi, law enforcement officials named McCoy as a suspect for the still-unidentified "D. B. Cooper", who committed his unsolved crime four-and-a-half months before McCoy.[citation needed]

Richard McCoy Jr.
Richard McCoy, Jr..jpg
McCoy's 1972 mugshot
Richard Floyd McCoy Jr.

(1942-12-07)December 7, 1942
DiedNovember 9, 1974(1974-11-09) (aged 31)
Karen Burns McCoy
(m. 1965)
Parent(s)Myrtle McCoy
Richard Floyd McCoy, Sr.
Criminal chargeAircraft piracy
Penalty45 years incarceration

Early lifeEdit

McCoy was born December 7, 1942, in the town of Kinston, North Carolina, to Richard Floyd McCoy Sr. (1916 - 2008) and Myrtle McCoy (1922 - 2020), who were first cousins. He grew up in nearby Cove City. In 1962 McCoy moved to Provo, Utah, and enrolled at Brigham Young University (BYU) before dropping out to serve a two-year tour of duty in the Army. He served in Vietnam as a demolition expert and pilot[1] and was awarded the Purple Heart in 1964.[citation needed]

In 1965, McCoy returned to BYU, where he met Karen Burns. They married in August 1965 in Raleigh. By 1971 they had two children, Chanti and Richard.[citation needed]

McCoy served another term in the Army on the condition he could go to Vietnam, where he was awarded both the Army Commendation Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross. Upon returning to Utah, he served as a warrant officer in the Utah National Guard and was an avid skydiver.[2]

McCoy taught Mormon Sunday school and studied law enforcement at BYU. His purported dream was to become an FBI or CIA agent.[citation needed]

Criminal careerEdit

Animation showing the same modus operandi as D. B. Cooper (click to view animation)

On April 7, 1972, McCoy boarded United Airlines Flight 855, a Boeing 727-22C (Registration: N7426U) en route from Newark, New Jersey, to Los Angeles, California, with 85 passengers and a crew of six piloted by Captain Jerry Hearn (1929-2013), under the alias "James Johnson" during a stopover in Denver, Colorado. The aircraft was a Boeing 727 with aft stairs (the same equipment used in the D. B. Cooper incident), via which McCoy escaped in mid-flight by parachute after giving the crew similar instructions as Cooper had. McCoy had obtained a $500,000 cash ransom, and carried a novelty hand-grenade and an empty pistol.[citation needed]

Police began investigating McCoy following a tip from a motorist. The driver had picked up McCoy hitch-hiking at a fast-food restaurant, where McCoy was wearing a jumpsuit and carrying a duffel bag. McCoy had also described to an acquaintance how easy it would be to carry out such a hijacking.[3]

Following fingerprint and handwriting matches, McCoy was arrested two days after the hijacking. McCoy was on National Guard duty flying one of the helicopters involved in the search for the hijacker. Inside his house, FBI agents found a jumpsuit and a duffel bag filled with cash totaling $499,970.[1]

McCoy claimed innocence, but was convicted of the hijacking[4] and received a 45-year sentence.[5] Once incarcerated at the Federal penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, McCoy used his access to the prison's dental office to fashion a fake handgun out of dental paste.[6] He and a crew of convicts (Joseph Havel, Larry L. Bagley, and Melvin Dale Walker) escaped on August 10, 1974 by commandeering a garbage truck and crashing it through the prison's main gate. Joseph Havel (1914-1996) and Larry L. Bagley (1938-2005) were captured three days later following a shootout after a bank robbery.[7]

Three months later the FBI located McCoy in Virginia Beach, Virginia. News reports stated that on November 9, 1974, McCoy walked into his home and was met by FBI agents Nick O'Hara, Kevin McPartland, and Gerald Houlihan;[8] he fired at them, and all agents opened fire, killing McCoy. Melvin Dale Walker (1939-1997) tried to run away in their getaway car but he was apprehended after a short car chase by FBI Agents Richard Rafferty (1925-2010) and Henry Bolin, Jr. (1933-2008).[9]

Lawsuits over Cooper allegationsEdit

1991 saw the publication of D. B. Cooper: The Real McCoy, by FBI agents Bernie Rhodes and Russell P. Calame (1921-2015). Both authors investigated McCoy's skyjacking case, and their book posits that Cooper and McCoy were really the same person.

After the book's publication, McCoy's widow filed suit against the book's authors and publisher, and her former attorney, Thomas S. Taylor. She claimed they misrepresented her involvement in the hijacking for which McCoy was convicted, and also misrepresented later events from interviews done with Taylor in the 1970s. She sought an injunction against publication and distribution of the book.[10]

During court proceedings, it was revealed that McCoy's widow was deeply involved in the hijacking. Her request for an injunction to prohibit further sales of the book was denied. However, an injunction to prohibit the sale of movie rights to the book – conditional upon the movie including references to four specific allegations in the book that she protested – was granted.[11]

Mrs. McCoy accepted settlements in 1994. The book's publisher, U. press, paid Karen McCoy $20,000. Taylor was ordered to pay her $100,000. The two authors' settlements are confidential.[12]

In 2006, a radio station in Utah did a series of interviews with FBI agents involved in the McCoy and Cooper cases, many of which were the last public interviews of the FBI agents before they died.[13]

Dan Gryder InterviewsEdit

On December 11, 2021, investigative journalist, commercial flight instructor and skydiver Dan Gryder released a lengthy documentary film in which McCoy's children (Richard McCoy III and Chante) admit that their father was D.B. Cooper and that their mom (Karen McCoy, d.2020) was complicit in both hijackings. Gryder's film also offers possible evidence for numerous errors or alleged cover-ups in the FBI's investigation, including an interview with Karen McCoy's sister (Denise) who originally gave a sworn FBI deposition but now admits that Richard and Karen McCoy were not home over Thanksgiving and that she "babysat the kids for 3 or 4 days over the holiday."[14]

Military awardsEdit


  1. ^ a b Staff (April 24, 1972). "The Real McCoy". Time. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved July 26, 2007.
  2. ^ "Skydiver Held as Hijacker; $500,000 Is Still Missing". The New York Times. Associated Press. April 10, 1972. p. 1. Retrieved July 27, 2007.
  3. ^ "Famous Cases: Richard Floyd McCoy, Jr. – Aircraft Hijacking". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Archived from the original on July 15, 2007. Retrieved July 26, 2007.
  4. ^ "Viet Veteran Convicted Of Colorado Air Piracy". The Washington Post. Associated Press. July 1, 1972. p. A3.
  5. ^ "45-Year Term Given Veteran In Hijack of Jet, $200,000". The Washington Post. Associated Press. July 11, 1972. p. A14.
  6. ^ The FBI Files episode "Flight From Justice – The Story of D.B. Cooper"
  7. ^ "4 Inmates Escape From Lewisburg". The New York Times. United Press International. August 11, 1974. p. 26. Retrieved July 26, 2007.
  8. ^ Hunsberger, Don (December 29, 2005). "Detective stories". The Villages Daily Sun. Retrieved July 26, 2007.
  9. ^ "Hijacker Shot Dead in Va. by FBI". The Washington Post. Associated Press. November 11, 1974. p. C2.
  10. ^ "Widow of Man Linked in Book to Skyjacker D. B. Cooper Sues Authors, Provo Attorney". Deseret News. Associated Press. January 18, 1992. p. B5.
  11. ^ Funk, Marianne (February 21, 1992). "McCoy's Widow Admits Helping in '72 Hijacking". Deseret News. p. B4.
  12. ^ Funk, Marianne (January 19, 1994). "HIJACKER'S WIDOW TO GAIN $120,000". Deseret News. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  13. ^ "Radio Interview with FBI's Russell Calame". YouTube.
  14. ^ "Pilot Says He's Solved D.B. Cooper Case". December 19, 2021.


External linksEdit

Video on YouTube