US fugitive hid in Portugal hamlet

September 28, 2011 4:59:33 AM PDT
Neighbors of a 1970s militant who carried out one of the most brazen hijackings in U.S. history say he lived for decades in their idyllic Portuguese hamlet near a stunning beach, married a Portuguese woman and has two children in their 20s.

George Wright, 68, worked odd jobs around Almocageme, 28 miles (45 kilometers) west of Lisbon, and was most recently employed as a bouncer at a nightclub, said two neighbors who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared being ostracized for speaking out.

Wright, taken into custody Monday at the request of the U.S. government, also spoke very good Portuguese, they said, adding that his children were now in their 20s.

A woman who answered the door at his home in Almocageme told an Associated Press correspondent she had no comment and then closed the door.

A fingerprint on a Portuguese ID card was the break that led a U.S. fugitive task force to Wright, who was arrested by Portuguese authorities and is being detained in Lisbon.

Wright was convicted of the 1962 murder of gas station owner Walter Patterson, a decorated World War II veteran who was shot during a robbery at his business in Wall, New Jersey.

Eight years into his 15- to 30-year prison term, Wright and three other men escaped from the Bayside State Prison farm in Leesburg, New Jersey, on Aug. 19, 1970.

The FBI said Wright became affiliated with an underground militant group, the Black Liberation Army, and lived in a "communal family" with several of its members in Detroit.

In 1972, Wright -- dressed as a priest and using an alias -- hijacked a Delta flight from Detroit to Miami. With him were several members of his communal group, including Wright's companion and their 2-year-old daughter.

After releasing the 86 passengers in exchange for a $1 million ransom -- delivered by an FBI agent wearing only swim trunks, as per the hijackers' demands -- the hijackers forced the plane to fly to Boston. There an international navigator was taken aboard, and the plane was flown to Algeria, where the hijackers sought asylum.

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