John McAfee, the Silicon Valley creator of an antivirus software that bears his name, was being sought Monday by police in Belize as a "person of interest" in the slaying of a fellow expatriate on an island where McAfee lived a high-profile existence, police said Monday.
McAfee's pursuit by police in Belize represents only the latest stunning twist in the saga of an entrepreneur who once had a fortune estimated at $100 million. Earlier this year, police looking for drugs raided McAfee's home on the Belizean island of Ambergris Caye, found him with a 17-year-old girlfriend and confiscated 10 firearms.
In San Pedro Town, the heart of the island, McAfee, 67, is "very well known," Mayor Daniel Guerrero told this newspaper. "He just gave a huge donation to the police force and donated a very huge boat to the coast guard. I know him as a good person. Now things are changing."
Late Monday, Wired Magazine reported that McAfee had called to declare his innocence and to say he hid from police somewhere in Belize by burying himself in 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."
On Sunday, a housekeeper discovered the body of McAfee's neighbor, Gregory Viant Faull, 52, in Faull's home. Faull was lying faceup in a pool of blood with an apparent gunshot wound to the rear of his head, said Belize police spokesman Raphael Martinez.
A laptop computer and iPhone were missing and a single Luger 9mm shell was found at the stairs leading up to the upper "flat" of the house, where Faull's body was found, Martinez said.
Police still had no motive for the shooting late Monday afternoon, he said.
Investigators have interviewed most of Faull's neighbors in the Mata Grande area six miles north of San Pedro Town and want to talk to McAfee, Martinez said.
"He is a person of interest," Martinez told this newspaper.
Martinez said Belize has seen more than 120 gang- and drug-related killings this year. But slayings are rare on the island, where Guerrero said Faull's killing is only the second in the past year. The previous killing was the result of a domestic dispute involving an American couple, the mayor said.
Guerrero said he knew both McAfee and Faull and that he lives near McAfee's compound of "one, two, three, four, five little buildings -- cottages."
"I honestly don't know if they were friends," he said.
On an island of 20,000 residents where Americans stand out, McAfee was particularly well known, Guerrero said.
"Just the name McAfee -- I remember him from the antivirus," Guerrero said.
Once a software engineer at Lockheed, McAfee developed his antivirus program and posted it on computer bulletin boards run from computers in his creaky one-bedroom farmhouse on Cheeney Street in Santa Clara before launching McAfee Associates in 1989. By 1992, untold thousands of individuals had downloaded his program and more than half of the companies in the Fortune 100 had purchased licenses to use it.
McAfee left the valley shortly after his company went public in 1992. In 2010, his company was bought by Santa Clara chipmaker Intel (INTC), which declined to comment on the revelations involving McAfee.
His multimillion-dollar fortune was mostly lost in the sour economy and he moved to Belize in 2008, according to a story published in the San Pedro Sun.
The boat he donated to the Belize National Coast Guard in 2009 was worth more than $1 million. In October, he was the first resident to offer help following a community meeting over concerns about escalating drug- and gang-related crime, Guerrero said.
In a story in the Sun three days before the discovery of Faull's slaying¿, Guerrero said McAfee had offered to "equip the police force in San Pedro with anything that he could at the time and is willing to give even more."
McAfee also was willing to let police officers use "five air-conditioned rooms at his establishment." His offer was surprising because police in April, looking for "drugs and illegal firearms," raided his home, confiscated 10 guns and temporarily detained him in handcuffs in a treatment that McAfee characterized as "brutal," according to a report in the Sun. He told Sun reporter Jorge Aldana that police detained him for 14 hours without food.
McAfee was home with a 17-year-old Belizean girlfriend at the time of the raid, the Sun said.
He was later released without being charged, although authorities were investigating whether antibiotics or antiseptics had been produced at the home without a license.
With only three main streets in the center of San Pedro Town, McAfee cut a well-known figure, Aldana said.
"McAfee mingles a lot and was mostly seen walking around town," Aldana said. "Everybody knows everybody in San Pedro."
Staff writer Steve Johnson contributed to this report. Contact Dan Nakaso at 408-271-3648. Follow him at Twitter.com/dannakso.
1989: Founded McAfee Associates of Santa Clara in 1989, an antivirus software firm bought by Intel in 2010. He previously worked as a Lockheed Data Systems engineer and founded the American Institute for Safe Sex Practices.
1992: Software company went public and McAfee left it a short time later.
2008: Moved to Belize after living in Colorado, where he reportedly taught yoga, sang Vedic chants and formed a short-lived Internet site called Tribal Voice.
April 2012: Arrested and released by Belize police, who seized guns from his home, and who found equipment to make antibiotics and antiseptics, which they are investigating.
Currently: Sought for questioning in shooting death of 52-year-old man, whose body was found Sunday near McAfee's home.