Few doubted that John McAfee was a genius. The company he founded in 1989 developed an antivirus software that earned him accolades as one of Silicon Valley’s first Internet entrepreneurs to hit it big. But as smart as he was, say those who knew him, he was equally eccentric. He employed Wiccans and was said to allow his employees to have sex in his office. And despite the huge success of his firm, he sold it for $100 million just a few years after starting it. “He has always been an odd, but brilliant, duck,” says a former tech industry friend.
But no one could have predicted the latest and strangest turn in the 67-year-old magnate’s life. Having moved to Belize in 2008-friends say he wanted to give back to the world by finding a way to create antibiotics from jungle plants-McAfee told Wired magazine Nov. 12 that police were hunting him down for the murder of his neighbor Gregory Faull two days earlier. “They will kill me if they find me,” said McAfee, who insists he’s innocent. So fearful is McAfee, who has a virtual arsenal in his beachfront Belize compound, that he has eluded authorities by hiding in taxis and even burying himself in the sand.
Yet police say they have not established a motive and just want to question McAfee. The only apparent clues: Back in October, Faull, a 52-year-old Florida contractor who was found shot at his villa, had filed a complaint, claiming McAfee’s security guards brandished guns and that McAfee’s 11 dogs were “vicious.” On Nov. 9 four of the dogs were found poisoned on McAfee’s property.
Those who know McAfee say his life in the coastal paradise had taken a bizarre twist in recent months. When journalist Jeff Wise interviewed him early this year, McAfee was shadowed by a bodyguard and boasted that he had “armed gangsters” working for him. “I began to fear for my life,” Wise said. In April, police raided McAfee’s home, suspecting that he was running a crystal meth lab (no charges were filed).
For now McAfee remains hidden, but there are those who describe the mogul’s efforts as irrational. “It strikes me that he is extremely paranoid,” Belize’s Prime Minister Dean Barrow said. “I would go so far as to say bonkers.”