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Escaped killer and hijacker caught in Portugal after 40 years on the run

Bryan Alaspa's picture

George Wright was a man wanted for a crime committed in the 1970s that involved murder and hijacking a plane while dressed as a priest and he was captured by Portuguese authorities.

Wright had been convicted of the murder of a gas station attendant back in 1962. This was after he and accomplices had already committed several armed robberies in and around New Jersey. For that crime he received a 15 to 30-year sentence and served eight years of it. At that point he and three other men escaped prison.

According to the Chicago Tribune, once Wright fled his capitivity, he became affiliated with an underground organization known as the Black Liberation Army. By this time it was 1972 and he and several associates from that organization hijacked an airplane traveling from Detroit to Miami.

Wright was reportedly dressed as a priest and using the alias of Reverend L. Burgess when he boarded the Delta Airlines flight. When the plane landed in Miami, Wright and his accomplices demanded $1 million. That was the highest amount any hijacker had ever demanded at the time. They held 86 people on that plane during the incident.

Eventually the plane was flown to Boston. At that point an international navigator was brought on board and the plane was flown to Algeria. Once there the hijackers demanded asylum. They were taken in by the writer and activist Eldridge Cleaver. Eventually his accomplices were tracked down in Paris, tried and convicted. Only Wright remained free.

Investigators had started looking at his case again anew with the formation of the New York-New Jersey Fugitive Task Force in 2002. The address he was found at in Portugal was one of several possibilities that investigators had on their list.

New Jersey authorities are now working to get Wright sent back to New Jersey to face prosecution. As of right now he is in custody of Portuguese officials and it is unclear if U.S. authorities will get a chance to speak to him.

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