SEATTLE -- Slain hijacker Glenn Kurt Tripp was a childish young man who may have tried to commandeer a plane because of the attention his first bungled skyjacking brought him, his attorneys said Friday.
Tripp, 20, was shot to death Thursday by an FBI agent inside the Northwest Airlines 727 he tried to force to Afghanistan by claiming he had a bomb inside a shoe box. The box held only crumpled paper.
'I don't think Kurt was capable of hurting anybody but himself, which is what he did,' said Jo-Hannah Read, who defended him after the first hijacking try.
On July 11, 1980, the 17-year-old Tripp used the same technique in trying to hijack another Northwest plane at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. He started out asking for $100,000 and two parachutes and ended up agreeing 10 hours later to leave the plane in exchange for a rental car, three cheeseburgers and a head start.
'Tripp was an extremely unsophisticated young man,' said Ron Kessler, another lawyer. 'He got a huge amount of attention. All of a sudden there were people who cared about him.'
King Couny Superior Court Judge H. Joseph Coleman put Tripp, who pleaded guilty to kidnapping and extortion, on 20 years probation and placed him in a home for the developmentally retarded in Stanwood, Wash.
Tripp, described during his trial as 'educable but mentally retarded' with a mental age between 9 and 12, was 'developmentally disabled ... like a child in many ways,' Ms. Read said.
'He wasn't capable of taking care of himself,' she said. 'The only explanation is that he reached a point of such despair.'
Tripp was one of 13 children from a poor family in Escondido, Calif. In a typewritten notebook found after the 1980 incident, Tripp wrote about being beaten as a child by his parents. He was living in Seattle at the time of the first hijacking.
Last October Coleman refused to let Tripp return to California because he had no concrete plans for employment and residency.
'He was very frustrated up here (in Washington) because he couldn't find work,' Ms. Read said. 'He felt real cut off. It seems to me Kurt would not have done something like this again unless he was really desperate.'
Tripp, who lived at Victoria Village Home for the Developmentally Disabled in Stanwood until December 1981, had two parole violations last year.
In February, he gave a false reports to his parole officer that someone was trying to kill him. Last April, he moved out of a court-approved home to live with an older woman who was a former employee of Victoria Village.
Coleman issued an order prohibiting Tripp from marrying the woman because he was 'easily influenced by older people.' The judge lifted the order in October, but the couple did not wed.
After pleading guilty in 1980, Tripp told the judge: 'I'm sorry for what I did. I want to start over again. I try to sleep at night and can't. It's hard. I think about all the people I scared.'
Family members in Escondido refused Friday to talk about him.