George Wright, America’s most elusive fugitive, ran for forty years. He ran from the cops after escaping from prison. He ran from the feds after the most brazen hijacking in history. He ran from the authorities on three continents, hiding out and blending in wherever he went. It was a historic run—and now that it’s over, he might just pull off the greatest escape of all
It’s past ten o’clock in the evening, a rude hour to knock on someone’s front door, but George Wright’s attorney has assured me that this is the best time. The TV cameras have gone away. The newspaper reporters have quit. For the man whose recent capture, after forty-one years on the run, ended one of the longest unsolved fugitive cases in criminal history, there might be some semblance of normalcy. So I stroll by moonlight through a wooden gate, down the cobbled entryway of a whitewashed cottage in a Portuguese village, and I knock.
There’s a faint padding of footsteps; a porch light flips on. I find myself suddenly anxious. Before my trip, I’d asked an FBI agent who helped orchestrate Wright’s arrest how it was possible for a man to vanish for four decades. The agent said that Wright was an intelligent and conniving con artist, probably a compulsive liar, who would not hesitate to use violence or charm or subterfuge to worm his way out of any situation. Perhaps, the agent hinted, he was a sociopath. In 1962, he participated in a robbery at a gas station in New Jersey, in which he left a man bleeding to death while he went out to dinner. Later he broke out of prison and worked with the Black Panthers.