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Daughter appeals for killer’s extradition from Portugal

Published on 11/07/2012

The daughter of a gas station owner killed in 1962 on Wednesday demanded that Portugal extradite the man convicted over his murder after a court in Lisbon refused a US request.

George Wright, now 69, was convicted of fatally beating Walter Patterson when he stole $70 from his New Jersey filling station. He escaped prison in 1970 and has lived as a fugitive ever since.

A former member of the radical Black Liberation Army, Wright helped hijack a Delta Air Lines flight to Algeria in 1970 and did not re-emerge until he was arrested last year in Portugal, where he is married with two grown children.

Lisbon’s appeals court ruled in November that Wright — who now goes by the name Jose Luis Jorge dos Santos — had become a naturalized Portuguese citizen and therefore cannot be extradited.

Appearing before a government panel, Ann Patterson said that her father had served in Europe for four years during World War II, earning a Bronze Star for meritorious service, and worked up to 18 hours a day at his gas station.

Patterson, who was 14 at the time of her father’s murder, said that she and her sister were temporarily sent to a home for wayward girls as her mother was ill and died within months of losing of her husband.

“There is something wrong with sending the victims to prison while the criminals do not have to be incarcerated for their actions,” Patterson, who maintained her composure as others cried, told a hearing of the Helsinki Commission, a US agency that looks at human rights in Europe.

“George Wright cannot erase his life of crime. He is fraudulently a Portuguese citizen. Four aliases do not change the fact that he was born George Edward Wright in the United States of America and committed crimes during his years here,” she said.

Patterson voiced anger that Wright had not apologized and said that he was considering a book and movie on his life — which she called a “slap in the face.”

Patterson’s appeal won sympathy from US lawmakers of both major parties. The State Department said after last year’s decision that it was “extremely disappointed” that Portugal refusal to extradite Wright.

US authorities want Wright to serve the rest of his 15 to 30 year sentence. Wright has said that he is now a Portuguese citizen and has changed his ways.