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John McAfee, From Tech Pioneer to Murder Suspect

John McAfee, From Tech Pioneer to Murder Suspect

The bizarre events that have unfolded in recent days almost beggar belief: John McAfee, the tech entrepreneur who pioneered anti-virus software, has gone into hiding. He is a wanted man in Belize, the tiny Central American nation to which he retired in 2008.

McAfee, 67, had reportedly been tangling with Belizean authorities for months when his neighbor, fellow American expatriate Gregory Faull, was found murdered at home, shot once in the back of the head. Police immediately deemed McAfee a prime suspect and launched a manhunt for the eccentric fugitive.

A brief history of McAfee's unique life and career follows.

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1987: McAfee, a former NASA programmer and private-sector software designer, founds McAfee Associates, a company designed to fix computer bugs. He decides to create the company after his computer is infected with the Pakistani Brain virus.

1989: McAfee leaves Lockheed, where he had been working, to focus full-time on his company.

He offers his VirusScan anti-virus program as shareware -- individuals and companies can download a free trial of the software, but must pay for licenses and continued use.

McAfee publishes a book, Computer Viruses, Worms, Data Diddlers, Killer Programs, and Other Threats to Your System.

August 1992: McAfee incorporates his company in Delaware, forming McAfee Associates Inc. At this time the company has 26 employees.

October 1992: The company goes public, selling 2.6 million shares and raising more than $40 million.

1994: McAfee resigns from his company, possibly due to continuing controversy over his statements about the Michelangelo virus, a computer bug that caused a scare in early 1992 after McAfee told reporters it could affect as many as 5 million machines.

He cashes out his company stock, making him a millionaire many times over. He relocates from Silicon Valley to Colorado, where he builds a house on a 400-acre forest.

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Later that year, he founds Tribal Voice, a company that develops PowWow, an Internet messaging program that pioneers many of the features found in later chat programs.

1999: Tribal Voice, which faced fierce competition from larger companies AOL and Yahoo, is acquired by incubator CMGI. McAfee's stake in the company is sold for an undisclosed amount.

2003: McAfee buys 1,000 acres in Hawaii on the island of Molokai for $1.25 million.

2005: Although he had insisted that he bought the Hawaii property for his family, he sells some of the land for development for $2.85 million, ignoring protests by locals.

2008: McAfee retires to Belize, settling on Ambergris Caye, a tiny island 36 miles off the coast. He builds a fenced compound and staffs it with armed guards.

2009: The New York Times reports than McAfee's personal fortune, much of which was tied up in real estate and stocks, has fallen to about $4 million from a high of $100 million. He is said to be selling a property in New Mexico that he bought for the purpose of flying open-cockpit planes.

He also sells his remaining property on the Hawaiian island of Molokai for $1.58 million, well below the $3.7 million asking price for the beachfront estate.

February 2010: QuorumEx, a new venture by McAfee headquartered in Belize, launches. Its purpose is to develop commercial antiobiotics.

August 2010: Intel agrees to acquire McAfee Inc., the computer security company which still bears its founder's name, for $7.68 billion. The sale is finalized in February of the following year.

2012: One of McAfee's properties is raided by the Belize police force's Gang Suppression Unit and he is arrested, but not charged, on suspicion of making crystal meth and possessing unlicensed firearms. In the raid, he is reportedly pulled from the bed of his 17-year-old girlfriend.

May 2012: Joshua Davis of Wired begins an in-depth investigation into McAfee, gaining exclusive access to his residence in Belize and conducting numerous interviews with the reclusive millionaire in person and by phone. Davis's investigation is later published as a 13-chapter ebook.

November 2012: McAfee's neighbor, Gregory Faull, is found shot to death in his home. McAfee goes into hiding, knowing he is wanted by police for questioning in connection with Faull's death.

He launches a website, The Hinterland, to post communications while on the lam, including an approximately USD$12,000 reward offer for anyone who can identify Faull's killer. The blog is administered by cartoonist Chad Essley, who is creating a graphic novel of the same name about his "unusual friendship" with McAfee.

At the time of writing, McAfee, who protests that he is innocent of all charges, is still at large. His exact whereabouts are unknown.

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Brian Patrick Eha is a freelance journalist and former assistant editor at Entrepreneur.com. He is writing a book about the global phenomenon of Bitcoin for Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Random House. It will be published in 2015.

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