New Jersey Fugitive, On the Run for 41 Years, Arrested in Portugal

  • Share
  • Read Later

This arrest photo taken Feb. 15, 1963 shows George Wright while in custody for the 1962 murder of a gas station owner in N.J.

He escaped from prison and hijacked a plane. But he’s finally back behind bars – more than four decades years later.

When George Wright went on the lam in 1970, Richard Nixon was in the White House and gas cost 36 cents a gallon. But time caught up with him, and the authorities, well, they never forget. Wright, surely less spry and daring than he was as a 27-year-old fugitive, was arrested Monday in the Portugal resort town of Sintra, 20 miles outside of Lisbon.

Wright, now 68, was nabbed thousands of miles and four decades from the original scene of the crime: Farmingdale, New Jersey in 1962. He was convicted of murdering World War II veteran Walter Patterson during a gas station robbery and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

(LIST: Top 10 Notorious Fugitives)

But that jailhouse stint wouldn’t last long – he escaped in 1970 from Bayside State Prison in Leesburg, N.J., brazenly stealing the warden’s car to get away. Wright’s wild crime spree was just getting started as he sped off to Detroit, where he joined the Black Liberation Army.

The crime-laden saga continued in 1972, when Wright and four others hijacked a Delta flight heading from Detroit to Miami. The captors demanded a $1 million ransom to release the frightened passengers, after which they kept hold of the flight crew and flew to Algeria to request asylum. All of Wright’s accomplices were captured in Paris in 1976, and he remained the lone fugitive for another 35 years.

Wright remained off the grid until he resurfaced in recent years, allegedly attempting to contact relatives back in the U.S. That’s when authorities resumed their work to crack the surely cold case. “This case should … serve notice that the FBI’s determination in pursuing subjects will not diminish over time or distance,” said N.J. FBI agent Michael Ward. Police are asking for his extradition to the United States in order to return him to prison.

Nick Carbone is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @nickcarbone. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

LIST: Top 10 Most Wanted Captures