Fugitive New Jersey Murderer Caught in Portugal After 41 Years on the Run
NEWARK, N.J. – A man who escaped a New Jersey prison in 1970 and later helped hijack a US plane disguised as a priest, has been arrested in Portugal, the FBI and other federal and local authorities announced Tuesday.
After more than 41 years as a fugitive, George Wright was taken into custody under a provisional arrest request from the US, which is now seeking his return to serve the remainder of a 15 to 30-year murder sentence.
Wright was imprisoned in 1963 after entering a plea of "no defense" to charges that he shot and killed a World War II veteran and Bronze Star recipient during an armed robbery of a gas station in Wall, N.J.
After his 1970 escape from Bayside State Prison in Leesburg, N.J., Wright traveled to Detroit and became affiliated with the Black Liberation Army, the FBI said.
In 1972, Wright was implicated in the hijacking of Delta flight 841, along with two other men and two women. Upon landing in Miami, the five adult hijackers, who had brought three children with them, demanded $1 million for the 88 passengers on the flight.
The FBI said Wright was identified as one of the hijackers during the investigation. According to CNN, Wright was disguised as a priest and smuggled the handgun on board in a hollowed-out Bible.
CNN noted that they demanded the FBI agents deliver the ransom money dressed only in bathing suits.
The hijackers released the passengers and then forced the plane to fly to Algeria, where they sought asylum.
The money and plane were eventually returned to the US, the FBI said, but Wright and his associates were released after being held in Algerian custody for just a few days.
The four other hijackers were later arrested in Paris and convicted in French court, but Wright escaped captivity and remained on the run until now, the FBI said.
In a statement, Michael Ward, special agent in charge of the FBI's Newark division, said the arrest should "serve notice that the FBI's determination in pursuing subjects will not diminish over time or distance."
The arrest was jointly announced by the FBI, US Marshals Service, New Jersey Department of Corrections and the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office.