U.S. hijacker and convicted killer George Wright, on the run for 40 years, was caught in Portugal, authorities said Tuesday.
Wright escaped a New Jersey state prison in 1970, joined a black nationalist group that helped hijack a plane two years later, and has been on the run ever since.
Wright, 68, was caught outside his home in Portugal while walking to a local cafe, said Michael Schroeder, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service in New Jersey.
U.S. authorities are seeking his extradition so he can return to serve out the rest of 15- to 30-year sentence.
Can you imagine? Schroeder told the Los Angeles Times, as he envisions how surprised Wright must have been when Portuguese police caught him.
Officials in Portugal had Wright under surveillance and were working with U.S. law enforcement to apprehend him.
Wright was convicted of murdering Walter Patterson, a gas station worker and decorated World War II veteran, in Wall, N.J., on Nov. 23, 1962, during a robbery. Wright was arrested two days later and indicted in December. He entered a plea of no defense and was sentenced, according to The Star-Ledger of Newark.
In August 1970, Wright and three others escaped from Bayside State Prison in Leesburg, N.J. Two years later, he hijack Delta Flight 841 that was en route from Detroit to Miami, and when the plane landed the fugitive demanded $1 million in ransom in exchange for the passengers.
The hijackers forced agents to wear bathing suits to hand over the suitcase of cash on a Miami runway, so as to endure the agents were unarmed.
Tower recordings captured their negotiations.
Follow my instructions to the letter or someone will get hurt, a hijacker said.
We will follow your instructions explicitly, was the reply. The money's being packed in suitcases right now.
The money comes on first before any passenger gets off, the hijacker said.
The men are putting on their bathing suits and going over with the money now, the tower responded.
When the hijackers got the money, the passengers were let go, but the plane crew was held hostage and forced to fly to Boston to refuel. They then left for Algeria, where the hijackers were given asylum . Years later, some of them were caught in Paris.
The case went cold until 2002, when Wright began making contact with relatives in the U.S., according to NBC.
It read like a Hollywood script, Schroeder told the Los Angeles Times.