George Wright, a prison escapee who helped hijack Delta Flight 841 in 1972 before disappearing in Algeria, has been arrested after 41 years on the run.
The FBI located the fugitive, now 68, living near Lisbon in Portugal. The agency is seeking his extradition so he can serve the rest of a 15- to 30-year sentence for murder, CNN reports.
Wright originally landed in jail for shooting and killing a gas station attendant in a robbery in Farmingdale, N.J., in the 1960s. But in 1970, he escaped from Bayside State Prison in Leesburg, N.J., and hid out in Detroit, CNN reports. In July 1972, Wright and four members of the Black Liberation Army hijacked a Delta plane bound for Miami. Wright was dressed as a priest and carried a handgun in a hollowed-out Bible, according to CNN.
Once on the ground, the hijackers demanded that FBI agents dressed only in bathing suits deliver $1 million ransom to the plane. They wanted to be sure the agents were not carrying guns. The money was duly delivered by the scantily clad agents.
The hijackers allowed the 88 passengers off but kept the flight crew on board and ordered that the plane fly to Boston. With the addition of an extra navigator (wearing swim trunks and a shirt), the DC-8 was refueled there and flew on to Algiers.
The Algerian government let the hijackers stay but returned their $1 million ransom to the United States. All of Wright’s companions were tracked down and arrested in the 1970s, but Wright remained at large.
Finding Wright was among the top priorities when the New York-New Jersey Fugitive Task Force was formed in 2002, The Associated Press reports.
According to the AP:
The investigators started the case anew, he said, and for nine years never took a prolonged break from working on it.
They looked at reports from the 1970s, interviewed Wright's victims and the pilots of the plane he hijacked. They had age-enhanced sketches made and tried to track down any communications he may have made with family in the U.S.
The daughters of the man Wright killed told the Star-Ledger in 2004 that Wright’s freedom had left their psychological wounds unhealed, the Star-Ledger reports.
“This case should… serve notice that the FBI’s determination in pursuing subjects will not diminish over time or distance,” Michael Ward of the FBI’s Newark Division said in a statement, the Star-Ledger reports.