DANIEL GUERRERO promised during his campaign for mayor here to clean up San Pedro, the only town on this island, a 20-minute puddle jump from the mainland. But if he ever runs for re-election, don’t expect him to mention that vow.
“I meant clean up the trash, the traffic, that sort of thing,” he says. “I didn’t mean this.”
It started on Nov. 11, the morning that Gregory Faull, a 52-year-old American, was found dead, lying face up in a pool of blood in his home. He had been shot in the head. His laptop and iPhone were missing. A 9-millimeter shell was found nearby.
What happened next turned this from a local crime story to worldwide news: The police announced that a “person of interest” in the investigation was a neighbor, John McAfee, a Silicon Valley legend who years ago earned millions from the computer virus-fighting software company that still bears his name.
A priapic 67-year-old, with an improbable mop of blond-highlighted hair and a rotating group of young girlfriends, Mr. McAfee quickly melted into the island’s lush green forest. Then, for Belizean authorities, the real embarrassment began.
Asserting his innocence, Mr. McAfee became a multiplatform cyberdissident, with a Twitter account, and a blog at whoismcafee.com with audio links, a comments section, photographs and a stream of invective against the government and the police of Belize. He has done interviews on podcasts, like the “Joe Rogan Experience,” and offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of “the person or persons” who killed Mr. Faull. He has turned lamming it into a kind of high-tech performance art.
“I am asking all people of conscience to read this blog, especially the links in the ‘Background’ section,’ and see the ugly truth unfolding here,” he posted on Nov. 18. “Speak out. Write your congressmen. Write the prime minister. Do what you can.”
Before he went underground, Mr. McAfee led a noisy, opulent and increasingly stressful life here. He was known for the retinue of prostitutes who he says moved in and out of his house, and for employing armed guards, some of whom stood watch on the beach abutting his house. He also kept a pack of untethered dogs on his property who barked at and sometimes bit passers-by.
Two days before the murder, someone had poisoned a handful of those dogs. As it happens, Mr. Faull had complained about the animals, as well as the guards and the constant late-night inflow and outflow of taxis on the dirt path that runs behind his and Mr. McAfee’s homes — a path so tiny that it’s supposed to be off-limits to cars.
Mr. Faull had shown up at the town council office a few weeks ago with a letter decrying the din and the dogs, as well as Mr. McAfee’s guns and behavior. Nothing came of it.
“We were planning to meet with John McAfee and hand him the letter,” Mr. Guerrero said. “But it never happened. We were busy doing other work.”
In hindsight, that looks like a blunder. Mr. McAfee has since said on his blog that he had no choice but to flee because police and politicians in Belize are corrupt and eager to kill him. As proof, he has written at length about a late April raid that the country’s Gang Suppression Unit conducted at a property of his on the mainland, in a district called Orange Walk.
Some McAfee watchers have a different theory — namely, that he grew paranoid and perhaps psychotic after months of experimenting with and consuming MDPV, a psychoactive drug. These experiments were described in detail by Mr. McAfee himself, under the pseudonym “Stuffmonger” in a forum on Bluelight, a Web site popular with drug hobbyists.
So, here’s one hypothesis: Rich man doses himself to madness while seeking sexual bliss through pharmacology. Then shoots neighbor in a rage. Case closed, right? Ah, but those Bluelight posts were a ruse, Mr. McAfee would later blog, just one of the many pranks he has perpetrated over the years — part of a bet with a friend to see if he could create Bluelight’s largest-ever thread.
“I am indeed that same Stuffmonger,” he posted on Nov. 20. “I, however, do not do drugs, and I am no chemist. I am, however, a practical joker who does not mind investing months in a given joking enterprise.”
Joke or not, the posts and every element of his new renegade life have gone viral. Which is to say, the guy has done it again. Throughout his varied, occasionally confounding and hoax-filled career, the one constant has been a genius for self-promotion. Little of his adult life has gone unpublicized. The current inconvenience of hiding has simply altered his stratagems and given his usual winking and mischievous tone an angry, survivalist cast.
Since disappearing, he hasn’t merely evaded police officers sent to unearth him. He has taunted them. He has contended on his blog that when the authorities searched his house in the days after the murder, he hovered nearby in preposterous-sounding disguises, including that of a drunk German tourist in a Speedo and “a distasteful, oversized Hawaiian shirt” who would yell “at anyone who would listen.” He has also said he dressed as a stooped Guatemalan peddler “in ragged brown pants,” his cheeks stuffed with chewing gum, selling wares to tourists and reporters.
If you visit Mr. McAfee’s house, the charade sounds laughable, in part because the beach is all but abandoned. Nonetheless, the contention led Foxnews.com to post this headline: “John McAfee Reveals His Secret Hiding Place: His Home.”
Mr. McAfee has also used the blog to highlight the plight of Belize’s underclass. Or, rather, a narrow niche of the underclass: the poor and fetching young women whom he has slept with — including the one who is hiding out with him now, whom he calls Sam. The blog is Amnesty International meets Hugh Hefner as played by Jean Valjean, the unfairly hounded peasant of “Les Misérables.”
Except that nobody has accused Mr. McAfee of anything, other than being “bonkers,” as the country’s prime minister, Dean Barrow, put it to a reporter when the chase began. Mayor Guerrero sounds more patient, but his idea of boosterism surely doesn’t involve a murder, followed by a manhunt for a rich, tattooed, gun-loving, harem-tending, government-hating, media-savvy gringo, a word by which Americans of all races are known here.
Mr. Guerrero has offered to accompany Mr. McAfee personally to the police station here, to allay any fears of mistreatment. It’s an offer that he believes Mr. McAfee won’t accept.
“I think he’s living a movie in his mind,” Mr. Guerrero, “and he’s enjoying the movie.”