Canadian drug smuggler who hid in Avella dies

Ian Jackson MacDonald, who was known locally as Jack Hunter, died in Canada April 17

April 24, 2014
Ian “Whitey” MacDonald, also known as Jack Hunter, is shown in a 1980 photo and at the time of his arrest in January 2011. - Photos courtesy U.S. Marshals Service

Ian Jackson MacDonald, the infamous drug smuggler who avoided capture by federal authorities for decades while living in Avella under the alias of Jack Hunter, died of natural causes last week in Canada.

MacDonald died April 17 in a Winnipeg personal care home after battling cancer in recent years. He was 75.

MacDonald was a key player in a marijuana-smuggling ring in the 1970s and escaped from federal custody after his arrest in Miami in 1980 by faking a heart attack while awaiting extradition to his home country of Canada. He eventually assumed the name “Jack Hunter” and for years lived on an 18-acre horse farm with his second wife, Angela Hunter.

He was arrested in Florida in January 2011 while living at a winter home he shared with his wife there. MacDonald was returned to Canada and pleaded guilty in September 2011, spending a year under house arrest before being released to the personal care home. Since then, his family was petitioning both the American and Canadian governments to allow him to return to Avella.

Angela Hunter, who still lives in Avella, said she remained in touch with her husband, speaking to him on the phone daily and visiting several times. She sold the 18 acres and barn on their property after accumulating mounting legal bills over the years.

“It was difficult in the fact that they seemed to have it out for him up there,” she said. “The United States did not want Jack back here. It was so petty, it was ridiculous. Canada thought he was a big kingpin, and he certainly wasn’t because then we would’ve had more money to spend on lawyers.”

She said accusations against him were overblown, and she preferred to remember her late husband as a kind man who had put his drug-smuggling days behind him while living in Avella.

“He was a wonderful husband and father,” she said. “He had a very comedic side to him. He had a joyful nature to him.”

His arrest in 2011 shocked the Avella community and the people who knew him. He had operated a used appliance store in Wellsburg, W.Va., rented apartments and used to have a farm equipment business. He also helped operate the Heinz Hitch until selling his share in 1989.

Angela Hunter said many people in this area remained in touch with her husband during his last days.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Grove United Presbyterian Church in West Middletown.

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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