SAMANTHA HENRY, Associated Press
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) – A convicted killer who escaped a New Jersey prison in 1970 and hijacked a U.S. airliner two years later has been captured in Portugal after more than 40 years as a fugitive, authorities said Tuesday.
George Wright was arrested Monday by Portuguese authorities at the request of the U.S. government, the head of the FBI’s New Jersey office said.
Wright was convicted of the 1962 murder of a gas station owner in Wall, N.J. Authorities say Wright and three associates had already committed multiple armed robberies on Nov. 23, 1962, when Wright and another man shot and killed Walter Patterson, a decorated World War II veteran and father of two, during a robbery of the Collingswood Esso gas station in Wall.
He received a 15- to 30-year sentence and had served eight years when he and three other men escaped from the Bayside State Prison in Leesburg, N.J. on Aug. 19, 1970.
The FBI says Wright became affiliated with an underground militant group, the Black Liberation Army, and in 1972 he and his associates hijacked a Delta Air Lines flight from Detroit to Miami. After releasing the passengers in exchange for a $1 million ransom — the highest of its kind at the time — the hijackers forced the plane to fly to Boston, then on to Algeria, where the hijackers sought asylum.
Algerian officials returned the plane and the money to the U.S. at the request of the American government and briefly detained the hijackers. Wright’s associates were arrested, tried and convicted in Paris in 1976.
Wright was the last remaining fugitive.
In addition to the FBI, a cadre of law enforcement agencies worked on tracking and apprehending Wright, including the U.S. Marshals Service, New Jersey’s Department of Corrections, the Monmouth County prosecutor’s office and authorities in Portugal.
“This case should … serve notice that the FBI’s determination in pursuing subjects will not diminish over time or distance,” said Michael Ward, the agent in charge of the Newark division.