Does every Cooper story have to be packed with drama and behaviors which only exist on TV or in the movies? I mean really, who drives to Bonney Lake to change the brand of smokes? It is pure BS.
Excuse me for living...but it is NOT 'pure BS'.
This is what happened over the week that Decoded was filming in Bonney Lake, and how Helen Jones came to be a witness:
1) We shot a segment at the former Borders' books in Southcenter that was never aired. After that, I was off for a few days. The Decoded guys wanted me to drive up to Twisp one last time and see if I could get a sixth interview with Margie Geestman. They loaned me a hi-def video camera suitable for TV use and off I went.
2) I met with Margie at her ranch in Twisp. During my previous visit, I had left her a copy of Blast and she had read it. This time, I pressed her a bit harder and pointed to the evidence against her ex-husband and Kenny Christiansen. Unlike the other interviews, she finally admitted that Kenny 'could' have been involved along with her ex in the hijacking. I recorded her statements on video, and also with a digital voice recorder. (Decoded kept the video, I kept the voice recording. It was not used in the final version of the program, although I think they should have used it. They told me they just couldn't fit it in the 44 minutes of actual programming.)
3) One of the things that Margie told me was that a lady named Helen Jones had also known Christiansen for many years. I called Porteous and he verified that Jones was a known associate of Christiansen, but he didn't know how close they were, or how long they had known each other. He considered her a minor witness at best.
4) After I returned to Auburn, I located Jones. She lived in Sumner, and said she had known Christiansen from about 1967 until his death. She claimed to have pictures from the Geestmans' wedding in '68 showing the Geestmans and Christiansen together. She also mentioned that Geestman had been Best Man at the wedding of her friends Joe and Ann Grimes at near the same time. I didn't think much about this comment. I told her I was doing a bio on Christiansen's life and could she meet me at her house. She said yes, and we set a time for the next day. (A Saturday)
5) The next morning, she called me. "Why exactly do you want to talk to me about Kenny?" she asked. So I had to tell her. He was being investigated for the Cooper case. She 'went off' on me on the phone, telling me I had a lot of nerve insinuating that her friend Kenny could be a criminal. ('It's not nice to speak ill of the dead, you know'.) She was REALLY pissed off at me and I figured it was going to be a zero on the interview. However, she agreed to meet me anyway.
6) Nice ranch home near the White River: I pull up in the driveway and see a yellow Cadillac and a big Chevy pickup. Jones comes to the door and doesn't look happy, but lets me in. I had brought the photo displays mounted on white foam that I used at the Auburn Avenue Theatre. I gave her a copy of Blast. We sat down and talked about Kenny for a while. She finally stops me. "Can you leave me those displays for a while?" she says. "I want to read them." I tell her I can go into town for lunch while she examines them. She's very upset. So I leave for the hamburger joint downtown.
7) After I return, it's a completely different atmosphere. She will answer questions. "No pictures and no recordings," Jones says. I asked why. She was afraid of Bernie Geestman, she replies. "He's a crook, and that's why Margie divorced him." Okay, fine. No recordings. We speak for hours. She doesn't know if Kenny and Bernie were the hijackers. She shows me pictures of the Geestmans' wedding and I ask if I can take them and scan them at my office. She says yes...as long as I leave the photo displays as a sort of collateral. She hadn't read them all yet. I take the pictures and leave. We set another interview for the next morning.
8) Second Day: Jones and I sit at her dining room table all day. This time her daughter is there, who was about 13 or 14 in 1971 and also knew Christiansen. Between the two of them, they fill in what details they can about events over the week of the hijacking. Thanksgiving dinner, etc. and Kenny later admitting he was with Geestman over the time of the hijacking. This is the second witness who has said this about these men, and I already have Mrs Geestman admitting that Kenny and Bernie could have been the hijackers, after months of denials on Kenny. Interesting, since Mrs Geestman and Mrs Jones have not spoken for decades, yet both now give the same story on when the men went missing. But Mrs Jones adds something extra: She says she ran into Kenny six weeks after the hijacking down at the old Sumner Laundromat, and asked him why he missed Thanksgiving dinner at her house. Kenny says he was with Geestman. (Later, on Decoded, Geestman says he thinks Kenny could be the hijacker, which is a very strange thing to say when he was WITH Kenny over the hijacking.)
9) Jones says that some things she wondered about a long time ago are beginning to make sense. Like Kenny going from dirt-poor to 'doing quite well' by the next Thanksgiving. He did attend Thanksgiving the following year in '72 and said the airline was paying him very well. I asked her if she knew anything on how Kenny got his house for cash in Bonney Lake. She doesn't know the exact arrangements, but says he bought it from a couple she knew, Joe and Ann Grimes. She knows this because Bernie Geestman was the Best Man at the Grimes' wedding, she says. (Later, we were able to get a copy of the sale document on the adjoining lot to the house. The names match what Jones has claimed, and Porteous and I already knew that Kenny bought the lot and house from the same people, but until then, not their names) I ask her if she knows the brand of cigarettes Kenny smoked. Camels, she thinks. (I was disappointed in this answer, of course, but I said nothing.) I ask her if she could verify that Geestman owned a station wagon and Airstream trailer in 1971. She says yes. In fact, just after Thanksgiving in 1972, the year everyone actually showed up for dinner at her house, they had a fire. The fire was on Christmas Eve, '72. Geestman lent her family the trailer while the house was being rebuilt. Then, she says he sold it as soon as the house repairs were complete. She says it was sold to an out-of-state buyer who took it back to Arizona. (Geestman had the trailer sold the minute the house was finished, she said.) During the interview, she mentions casually that one of the things Kenny did after he first moved into his house was to change out the countertops in the kitchen. (Big deal, I think) I finally ask if she would be willing to appear on Decoded. No. She's afraid of Geestman. I take everything I have, the notes, etc and leave.
10) I'm due to appear at the Bonney Lake library for the final segment the next day. They've already filmed the segment at Kenny's old house with Rattenbury, but I haven't heard anything about how that went. I show up around 11AM at the library and everyone's having lunch. Pete Berg, the associate producer, comes up to me and says: "A lady named Helen Jones was here earlier this morning. She says she knew Kenny and had talked to you. We asked her to appear on the show, but she said she was afraid of Bernie." Okay, I ask, what did she want? "Just wanted to tell you that Christiansen smoked Raleigh cigarettes, not Camels. Do you know what she means?" Berg wasn't real familiar with the case details, so I told him the significance. "Damn," he said, "too bad we can't get her to go on the show." Then Berg tells me about the hiding spot they found in the attic of Christiansen's old house. Covered with a big piece of old Formica countertop. Holy crap, I think. I tell Berg about Jones saying that Kenny changed out the counters after he moved in. This has to be more than coincidence. I had a little time before filming, so I run over to Rattenbury's place and ask him if I can look up in the attic. I borrow his ladder, go up, take pictures...and put the countertop piece into a plastic bag and take it with me. (With permission) I go back to the library and we film the final segment in which I appear. Geestman is due up next, but the crew is afraid he won't talk if he sees me, although they offer to give me a mobile sound unit and let me listen in. I'm tired, so I pass on that and go home.
11) Later: Marisa Kagan tells me that Bernie wasn't very cooperative, and before he appeared on the show he first denied knowing Christiansen ('I thought he was a dishwasher') and that Geestman had called his sister Dawn and told her she should retract everything she said for the Blast book. Kagan got this from Dawn herself, when she called her to possibly appear on the show. Dawn tells Kagan that she was sticking by everything she said, but refuses to appear and testify against her brother. Kagan responds to all of this by sending Bernie Geestman twenty different photos showing he and Kenny Christiansen together. He agrees to appear.
That's pretty much the whole story. I still have the audio recording where Margie Geestman finally admits Kenny and Bernie could have been the hijackers, after five previous interviews where she pointed to her husband, but kept up a denial on Kenny.
I did not 'lead' people along. I merely asked questions. It is not my fault that Geestman lied, nor my fault that Jones said the things she did, some of which were confirmed by her daughter. Do I know if Kenny and Bernie pulled off the hijacking? Hell, no. Do I think the Seattle FBI should question these people? Hell, yes.
I know this post was sort of difficult to follow, but I tried my best on it. That's all I can say. LOL you think doing this was easy? I've also attached a pic of producer Marisa Kagan, who was pretty good at cutting through BS, especially from a guy like Bernie Geestman. Although I have never met her in person, I'm reasonably sure it's her. You can reach her via Facebook to verify some of the things I posted here.
(This post was edited by RobertMBlevins on Sep 30, 2012, 2:24 PM)