The Real John McAfee: Four Hours In Miami With A Wanted Man and Master Bulls**tter
|photo by Michael E. Miller|
|John McAfee on Lincoln Road|
For an instant, John McAfee is anonymous. He is haggard, sleep deprived, and a bit unhinged, but anonymous. For the first time in days, there are no cops, guards, or handcuffs. No TV cameras or tape recorders or questions. But he can't escape them forever. Dressed in the same dark pinstripe suit he's been wearing since his release from a Guatemalan jail two days ago, McAfee ducks into a small sunglasses shop in South Beach. "I need a disguise," he says.
McAfee slips on a pair of Ray Bans. The salesman has no idea who this overly tanned customer is. No idea that McAfee has been accused of running a heavily armed harem of sex, guns, and bath salts on a tiny tropical island in the Caribbean. And no idea that McAfee is a "person of interest" in a bizarre murder last month in Belize. But then McAfee starts to talk, and it is instantly clear something is not right.
"I need a pair of these," McAfee says, holding up the shades. "Women are always tying to stab me in the eyes with needles."
McAfee is currently the most wanted man in the world: coveted by newscasters, Belizean authorities, and mobs of fans from Central America to South Florida. Yet, for some reason he agreed to let me into the quiet center of the chaotic shit storm his life has become. During that time, I heard him plead his innocence, watched him blow well over $1,000, and witnessed him hit on half a dozen women.
All the while, he was jovial and relaxed - almost zen master like. Not the supposedly bath-salt-snorting maniac some media have suggested. And certainly not what you would expect from a murderer on the run, as others have painted him.
But not normal, either. Far from it.
My afternoon with McAfee began just before noon, when he sauntered out of the Beacon Hotel on Ocean Drive and chucked a red frisbee into a crowd of reporters and tourists. Then he launched into his self-defense.
"I want to make this clear for the hundredth time, I had absolutely nothing to do with the murder in Belize," he said.
McAfee laid out his version of events in a raspy roar: Marco Vidal, the head of the Belizean police's Gang Suppression Unit, had demanded $2 million this spring, he said. When he refused to pay, 42 soldiers stormed his property on April 30, "shot my dog in the head, held me in the sun, handcuffed with my hands behind my back for 14 hours, destroyed half a million dollars worth of my property, then they let me go with no charges." McAfee said his problems with the police escalated after he again refused to pay up. "Since then they've attempted to charge me with everything," he said.
The bizarre spat blossomed into an international murder mystery on Nov. 10 when McAfee's next door neighbor, a Floridian named Gregory Faull, was found murdered. The next day, Vidal told reporters that McAfee was the "prime suspect."
McAfee hid from Vidal's officers and escaped with Samantha "Sam" Vanegas -- one of his two teenage girlfriends -- and two Vice magazine reporters to the border with Guatemala. Along the way, he paid a taxi driver $500 just so he could smash his phone and ensure that they weren't being followed, McAfee claims. But the plot unraveled when the Vice reporter tweeted a photo without removing the pic's GPS tag. Within minutes, their location -- the pool at the Hotel and Marina Nana Juana in Izabal, Guatemala -- was all over the Internet.
Four dozen Guatemalan police arrived shortly before midnight and arrested McAfee on immigration charges. For a week, he sat in jail, eating "moldy beans and rice" and "readjusting the perceptions of my guards." Then, just as McAfee was about to be deported back to Belize - "where I would have been killed" he claims - he feigned a heart attack. He was taken to the hospital, and the ruse gave his Guatemalan lawyer time to negotiate McAfee's deportation to Miami. He was put on a commercial flight to MIA arriving late Wednesday night.
But none of this explains who the hell McAfee really is. For that, I had to spend the whole day with him.