Part two of a two part story series: Carl Laurin, a DeLand Florida resident, believes that his friend, and former Oscoda resident Walter Reca was the man behind the infamous 1971 D.B. Cooper skyjacking. Since Reca’s passing in 2016. Laurin has been hard at work piecing together evidence to prove this. Laurin recently came out with a book titled “D.B. Cooper & Me. A Criminal. A Spy. My best Friend.”
CLE ELUM, OREGON - For Carl Laurin, putting together the background for his story on the D.B. Cooper skyjacking was like a jigsaw puzzle. He had his longtime friend, Oscoda native, Walter Reca on tape admitting to the heist. He knew firsthand from their time in the Michigan Parachute Club that the former military veteran could make such a jump from a Boeing 727. Still, he wanted something more to convince everyone else.
“I had known him since 1957 and to me, it was no great surprise that he pulled the DB Cooper skyjacking,” Laurin, who lives in DeLand Florida said. “I had done everything I could do here in Florida. I had papers about him all over my kitchen table. One day I just said to myself I have to put an end to this one way or the other.”
The part of Reca’s story that always stood out was the fact of him claiming there was an eyewitness to some of the night. According to Reca, he had landed about five miles outside the town of Cle Elum, Washington. He walked along the side of a road until he reached a café.
There, he phoned a friend to come give him a ride. Unsure of where he was, Reca asked a customer at the café to give his friend directions.
Reca called this man ‘Cowboy’, since he was wearing western attire, including a cowboy hat. He also noted that he had a guitar case with him and drove a dump truck. He suspected that he might be going to play in a band later that night. Aside from that, he had nothing else go on.
“I knew I had to go find Cowboy or I wouldn’t be able to take this any further,” Laurin said. “So, I bought a plane ticket and went out there. I went around town, asking if anyone remembered seeing this guy that was dressed like a cowboy and was driving a dump truck. I knew the odds were really terrible in me finding him, but I did it anyway.”
Fortunately for Laurin, his persistence paid off. A man who owned a gas station near Cle Elum said he believed he knew who the man he was describing. Laurin left his phone number and returned to Florida and waited for what he hoped would be a game-changing phone call.
A few days after being home he got that phone call from Jeff Osiadacz, known to Laurin and Reca as Cowboy.
“Who would have every expected a thing like this to happen around here,” Osiadacz, who still lives in Cle Elum said. “I was driving down the road and saw a guy walking alongside the road in the pouring rain with his coat up over his arm. I stopped to get a cup of coffee and that same guy walks in the door soaking wet and shiver and shaking, his coat still over his arm and asking where he was.”
Even though Osiadacz heard about the Cooper skyjacking later that night, he never thought the man in the café could have been him.
“I watched the news and they said that he jumped out over Oregon and he looked nothing like those composites, so I had no reason to put two-and-two together,” he said. “I did think it was strange that he was out walking with his coat up over his arms though. I thought maybe he was a French fry sort of a Happy Meal. I couldn’t give him a ride because I was in my garbage truck and I didn’t have a passenger seat. That’s why I had to give his friend directions. When I got up to leave he told me thank you and that he would pay for my coffee. So I just left.”
Osiadacz said he would think of that night from time to time, but thought of it only as an odd encounter and not much more. Fast forward to 2016 and Osiadacz was thrown right back into that night.
“One day I stopped at the gas station and the guy that works there said, there is a guy from Florida looking for you,” he said. “Even though I said I didn’t know anyone from Florida, he gave me the number. I was real hesitant to call, but I finally did. I was a little skeptical at who I was going to be talking to but when Carl started asking me questions about Reca… I got to thinking about it and I knew I remembered seeing somebody like that.”
It took a few phone calls and pictures but Osiadacz was convinced, the man he saw in the café that night was Reca.
“I turn 76 in September and even though it has been all these years, there is no doubt in my mind,” he said. “Carl once asked me, how I could remember that night, since it was so long ago. I can remember sticking my fingers in the Liberty Bell when I was three years old. I can remember what my grandfather’s house looked like when I was about three as well. I guess there are just some things that you always remember.”