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11/13/2012

Antivirus king's weird tale in Belize

John McAfee’s surname is synonymous with computer security. A company bearing his name is one of the world’s pre-eminent antivirus software concerns.

But McAfee doesn’t have much security these days – despite the pack of dogs and the small arsenal he keeps. He’s on the lam in Belize, a “prime suspect” in the murder of a fellow American whose body was found in a pool of blood Sunday morning.

The murder took place north of San Pedro Town on Ambergris Cay, where both McAfee and the victim, Gregory Viant Faull, have homes. The area is very popular with foreigners.

McAfee, who used to work for NASA’s Institute for Space Studies before starting his own antivirus company, retreated to Belize in 2008, only to see his $100 million fortune decimated by the global economic crisis. In Belize, when not hanging out with his 17-year-old girlfriend, the 66-year-old McAfee runs a start-up called QuorumEx.com that prospects for substances in Belize’s abundant fauna that might make for potent "paradigm-shifting medicines." It isn't clear if the company is even solvent anymore.

McAfee hasn’t had an easy go of it in Belize. He’s fought with his neighbors, particularly Faull, who complained that his dogs were running wild, barking at all hours and attacking people.

Last Friday night, someone came on McAfee’s property and poisoned the dogs.

Faull is a former contractor from the Orlando area who made a small fortune doing construction projects around Disney World and at other theme parks.

After he turned up dead on Sunday, Belizean police described McAfee as a “prime suspect.”

While McAfee went underground, he kept up a running conversation with Joshua Davis, a reporter with WIRED magazine, and Davis has kept up an account of what McAfee is telling him at both the magazine’s website and on his Twitter account @JoshuaDavisNow.

At one point, McAfee told Davis that he eluded police by burying himself in the sand with a cardboard box over his head so he could breathe. “It was extraordinarily uncomfortable,” he told Wired. “But they will kill me if they find me.” Here are some of Davis’s recent tweets:

2h McAfee says the police raided the house next door to where he was and he evaded them.

2h McAfee just called: He has changed locations. The police have not caught him yet.

3h McAfee says he is not armed. If the police shoot him, it's not because he has a weapon.

7h McAfee 7:05AM PST: "Power was just cut to the house I'm in. I think this is it."

7h McAfee at 5am: "The police have set up roadblocks across the country to catch me. I slept last night on a mattress infested with lice."

If McAfee has a persecution complex, he’s also got ways to protect himself. Click on the WIRED article to see photos of him posing shirtless with what looks to me like a shotgun. Faull was killed with a shotgun wound to his head. When police raided McAfee’s compound in May of this year, a television report said this is what they found: 7 12-gauge pump action shotguns; 1 12-gauge single action shotgun; 1 Taurus 9mm pistol and 1 9mm CZ pistol were found. Five air rifles with scopes that resembled sniper rifles were also found. Some of McAfee's bodyguards are known to be gangsters in Belize.

Click here and here to read Belize television website reports on the search for McAfee. A reporter for Gizmodo also has known McAfee for a long time. His recent article is titled: Secrets, Schemes, and Lots of Guns: Inside John McAfee's Heart of Darkness. The reporter, Jeff Wise, said on this posting this week that McAfee seems to be delving into bath salts, a mind-altering amphetamine that can cause a sustained psychotic state.

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Tim

This blog is written by Tim Johnson, the Mexico bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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