Richard McCoy Jr.

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Richard Floyd McCoy Jr.
Richard McCoy, Jr..jpg
1972 mugshot of McCoy
Born (1942-12-07)December 7, 1942
Cove City, North Carolina
Died November 9, 1974(1974-11-09) (aged 31)
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Criminal charge Aircraft piracy
Criminal penalty 45 years incarceration
Spouse(s) Karen Burns McCoy
Children Chanti
Parent(s) Myrtle McCoy
Richard Floyd McCoy, Sr.

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.


Early life[edit]

McCoy was born December 7, 1942, in the town of Kinston, North Carolina, and 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.

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.

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.

Criminal career[edit]

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

On April 7, 1972, McCoy boarded United Airlines Flight 855 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.

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 escaped on August 10, 1974 by commandeering a garbage truck and crashing it through the prison's main gate.[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;[8] he fired at them, and an agent fired back with a shotgun, killing McCoy.[9]

Lawsuits over Cooper allegations[edit]

1991 saw the publication of D. B. Cooper: The Real McCoy, by FBI agents Bernie Rhodes and Russell P. Calame. Both authors investigated McCoy's skyjacking case, and their book posits that Cooper and McCoy were really the same person. They cited similar methods of hijacking, and a tie and Brigham Young University medallion[citation needed] with McCoy's initials on the back left on the plane by Cooper.

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 a settlement in 1994.[12]

Military awards[edit]



  1. ^ a b Staff (April 24, 1972). "The Real McCoy". Time. Retrieved 2007-07-26. 
  2. ^ Associated Press (April 10, 1972). "Skydiver Held as Hijacker; $500,000 Is Still Missing". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved 2007-07-27. 
  3. ^ "Famous Cases: Richard Floyd McCoy, Jr. – Aircraft Hijacking". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Archived from the original on July 15, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-26. 
  4. ^ Associated Press (July 1, 1972). "Viet Veteran Convicted Of Colorado Air Piracy". Washington Post. p. A3. 
  5. ^ Associated Press (July 11, 1972). "45-Year Term Given Veteran In Hijack of Jet, $200,000". Washington Post. p. A14. 
  6. ^ The FBI Files episode "Flight From Justice – The Story of D.B. Cooper"
  7. ^ United Press International (August 11, 1974). "4 Inmates Escape From Lewisburg". The New York Times. p. 26. Retrieved 2007-07-26. 
  8. ^ Hunsberger, Don (December 29, 2005). "Detective stories". The Villages Daily Sun. Retrieved 2007-07-26. 
  9. ^ Associated Press (November 11, 1974). "Hijacker Shot Dead in Va. by FBI". Washington Post. p. C2. 
  10. ^ Associated Press (January 18, 1992). "Widow of Man Linked in Book to Skyjacker D. B. Cooper Sues Authors, Provo Attorney". Deseret News. 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. p. B2. 

Further reading

External links[edit]