the Face of the Earth
Is it safe to say
that everyone at sometime in their life entertains the
fantasy to disappear? Young children while
angry with their parents say they are going to ‘run away
from home’. A little overnight bag often
gets packed to reinforce the threat. In high
school, a few of us fantasized about leaving life as we
knew it and hiding out in some far away place in
anonymity. Usually that idea surfaced around
The concept is deeply intriguing.
Many books have been written and read
about it. Someone, usually a man,
feels the desperate need to uproot
himself, his entire life, and change it
all. The books ultimately end with
the return to reality, but in real life,
theyre still searching for some who
pulled it off and got away. In
fact, the U.S. Marshals service has over
3,000 outstanding warrants for people on
the run for white-collar crimes.
Life in todays society contains too
many checks and records for the average
fellow to make a successful disappearing
act. Police, Marshals and bounty
hunters have an arsenal containing credit
card and cash trails, cell phone records,
bank account accessibility, not to
mention the experience to place
themselves one step ahead of the guy on
the run. To fake his own
death, then successfully disappear would
involve an incredible amount of planning,
much of which was done recently by a
private pilot named Markus Shrenker.
He had a good idea for the initial
disappearing act. It was partly
because he hadnt thought out the
entire aftermath and what the hiding
would involve that he got caught.
Besides that, there was one fatal error
in his plan to fake his own death.
Markus was an investment advisor/money
manager working in the state of Indiana .
When the economy hit the skids in
2008, his clientele and the authorities
evidently turned on him and he decided it
was time to hit the road. His
plan, and hes to be admired for
this, was to fly his Piper Meridian
toward the ocean in Florida , inform air
traffic control that he was having a
medical emergency, then jump out and
parachute to the ground while allowing
the aircraft to crash into the sea.
If everything went according to
his plan, the plane would never be found,
which would conveniently account for the
fact there was no body.
Markus had worked out many of the other
details quite well. Prior to the
day of departure, he parked a motorcycle
and a tent in a storage locker located on
his flight-planned route to his
fathers home town in Florida .
Once in the air, he radioed that
his windscreen had blown out, he was
badly bleeding and losing consciousness.
He then bailed out near Birmingham
, Alabama . Two U.S. military jets
intercepted the plane which was then on
autopilot. They reported no pilot
on board, no broken windows, but the door
was open. Markus had evidently
miscalculated his fuel quantity.
That was his fatal error. The
plane crashed before it got out over the
ocean, into a wooded area close to a
small town. Authorities
combed the wreckage and discovered
several clues as to what was really going
on. From a road atlas and camping
guide with pages torn out, they were able
to piece together the plan Markus had to
hold up at a campground while they looked
for him further south. Once they
located him, his laptop computer revealed
evidence of searches including how
to jump from an aircraft, and
requirements for a birth
certificate. Markus was
caught red handed.
He really had no choice but to
plead guilty to the charges of faking his
own death and intentionally crashing an
It was obvious that Markus had put a lot
of thought into his plan. It was
brilliant actually. Unfortunately,
like most other fugitives, he
hadnt thought of everything.
Most are caught because of their
inadequate preparations for life on the
run. A good supply of cash is the
most important resource. Some form
of identification and a purpose for
travel and accommodation is always
required. Theres often no
place to hide out, and no one to help.
Faking death is probably the
easiest part of the whole scheme.
Had the Meridian made it far
out to sea, things might have been
different for Markus. He would
have at least had a fighting chance to
pull it off.
This story of escaping by air brings back
memories, fond memories for most of us,
of D.B. Cooper. It was back in
1971 when a passenger with Northwest
Airlines parachuted from a Boeing 727 he
had hijacked, taking $200,000 in cash
with him into the dark and stormy night
somewhere over Washington state.
Despite hundreds of leads, no evidence
has surfaced as to his true identity or
whereabouts. The FBI has if
figured out that he did not survive the
jump, but this Dan Cooper case remains
the only U.S. hijacking that has not been
solved. Many say hes living
on a beach in Mexico , still enjoying the
money. Whether he lived or died,
we may never know. But his last
act was a good one! The
incident is high in the ranks of America
folklore and he did it in grand style,
risking his life in whats been
called one of the most daring crimes in
Cooper, or Barry Meek?
The writers of fiction have their work cut out for them
when they start a book about someone who fakes his death
and disappears, never to be heard from again.
I doubt I would have the imagination to come up with a
story wild enough, yet believable and possible, to have
a best-selling book to my credit. I’ll have
to rely on the stories of real-life, and the guys like
D.B. Cooper and Markus Shrenker to inspire and entertain
me. At the end of the day, truth really is stranger than