Authorities say Wright and three associates already had committed multiple armed robberies on Nov. 23, 1962, when he and another man shot Walter Patterson, a decorated World War II veteran and father of two, during a robbery of an Esso station in Wall.
He received a 15- to 30-year sentence and had served eight years when he and three other men escaped from Bayside State Prison in Leesburg, Cumberland County, on Aug. 19, 1970.
The FBI says Wright became affiliated with the underground Black Liberation Army, and in 1972 he and his associates hijacked a Delta Air Lines flight from Detroit to Miami.
The group lived as a "communal family" in Detroit before the hijacking, according to Associated Press reports at the time.
News reports said Wright, then 29, dressed as a priest and using the alias "Rev. L. Burgess," boarded Delta Flight 841 on July 31, 1972, accompanied by three men, two women, and three small children.
When the plane landed at Miami, the hijackers demanded a $1 million ransom - the highest of its kind at the time - to free the 86 people on board. After an FBI agent delivered the money, the passengers were released, according to AP accounts.
The hijackers then forced the plane to Boston, where an international navigator was taken aboard, and the group flew on to Algeria, where the hijackers sought asylum.
The group was taken in by Eldridge Cleaver, the writer and activist who had been permitted by Algeria's then-left-wing government to open an office of the Black Panther Movement in 1970, after the country's president professed sympathy for what he viewed as worldwide liberation struggles.
Algerian officials returned the plane and the money to the United States and briefly detained the hijackers before letting them stay. Coverage of the hijackers' stay in Algeria said their movements were restricted, and the president ignored their calls for asylum and requests to return the ransom money to them.
Wright's associates were eventually tracked down, arrested, tried, and convicted in Paris in 1976.
Wright was the last remaining fugitive, and his case was among the 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.
The investigators started the case anew, he said, and for nine years never took a prolonged break from it.
They looked at reports from the 1970s, and 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 might have had with family in the United States.
The address in Portugal was one of several on a list of places they wanted to check out. But Schroeder said there was nothing 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 authorities there.
"They have a national ID registry," he said. "They pulled that. That confirmed his print matched the prints with the [Department of Corrections]. The sketch matched the picture on his ID card."
By the weekend, U.S. authorities were on a plane to Portugal. On Monday, Portuguese police staking out his home found him.
U.S. authorities are trying to have him sent back to New Jersey.