Wright remained at large, and his case was among the top priorities when the New York-New Jersey Fugitive Task Force was formed in 2002, according to Michael Schroeder, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service, who worked with New Jersey's FBI and other agencies on the task force.
The New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC) brought along all its old escape cases when the task force began operating, Schroeder said, and investigators started the case anew.
They reviewed 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.
An address in Portugal was one of several on a list of places they wanted to check out, but Schroeder said there was nothing about it that made it seem especially promising.
"It was another box to get checked, so to speak," he said.
That changed last week, when details started falling into place with the help of Portuguese authorities.
"They have a national ID registry," Schroeder said. "They pulled that. That confirmed his print matched the prints with the DOC. The sketch matched the picture on his ID card."
By the weekend, U.S. authorities were on a plane to Portugal. And Monday, Portuguese police staking out Wright's home found him.
Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney said Wright was arrested for purposes of extradition on the New Jersey homicide charge. He would serve the remainder of his sentence if returned to the U.S., she said.
Samantha Henry in Newark, Geoff Mulvihill in Trenton, New Jersey, Pete Yost in Washington and Karen Zraick, Rhonda Shafner, Barbara Sambriski and Judith Ausuebel in New York contributed to this report.
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