MIAMI BEACH/ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - U.S. software pioneer John McAfee signed autographs and posed for photos in Miami Beach on Thursday while the family of his murdered neighbor questioned why the eccentric millionaire would not answer police questions about the killing in Belize.
McAfee, 67, went into hiding after his American neighbor Gregory Faull was fatally shot in November in the Central American country. He made his way secretly to Guatemala but the authorities there deported him to Miami on Wednesday.
“I‘m shocked by this ... he’s running around footloose and fancy-free in Miami. How in the world can that be?” William Keeney, Faull’s stepfather, told Reuters on Thursday.
He said he would like to see restrictions placed on McAfee to prevent him from disappearing again and that he hoped Belize police would question McAfee in Miami.
“Why in the world is John McAfee working so hard not to meet with those people in Belize that are charged with the job of solving this crime. Why won’t he cooperate?” Keeney said.
Police in Belize want to question McAfee as a “person of interest” in Faull’s killing but authorities there say he is not a prime suspect. McAfee said he barely knew Faull and had “absolutely nothing” to do with his death.
Belize police say their country’s extradition treaty with the United States extends only to suspected criminals, a designation that does not apply to McAfee.
Speaking on Thursday outside a Miami Beach oceanfront hotel where he spent the night, McAfee said he had been awakened and rousted from bed in his jail cell in Guatemala.
“They said get dressed you’re leaving ... I was put on a plane and the next thing I know I‘m here in Miami,” McAfee told an impromptu news conference on the steps of the hotel. “There is no one here after me trying to shoot me. I‘m very happy being here.”
He said he had been forced to leave behind his girlfriend and would wait in Miami until she received a U.S. visa.
McAfee, an eccentric tech pioneer, made a fortune from the anti-virus software bearing his name and had lived in Belize for four years.
He said police in Belize were persecuting him because he refused to pay $2 million in bribes, and that the extortion attempt occurred after armed soldiers shot his dog, smashed up his property and falsely accused him of running a methamphetamine laboratory.
“I wouldn’t know how to make meth,” McAfee said. “First of all in Belize the Zetas (Mexican drug gang) run that trade.”
He added, “The margin in selling meth can’t be as good as the margin in selling software.”
McAfee said he was treated kindly in Guatemala, where he was jailed for a week for entering the country illegally. He said Guatemala had deported him “due to political necessity” because it did not want to jeopardize a pending treaty resolving a long-running land dispute with Belize.
McAfee also denied a local media report that Internal Revenue Service agents had questioned him upon his arrival at the Miami airport.
“I am not stupid enough to not pay taxes ... because you can’t escape them. I can escape from Belize, you can’t get away from the IRS,” he said.
Keeney, the murdered man’s stepfather, said he and Faull’s mother, Eileen Keeney, spent 10 days with their son at his Caribbean vacation home on the Belize island of Ambergris Caye where McAfee and Faull were neighbors, leaving two days before the murder.
Keeney said Faull, a 52-year-old construction contractor who owned a sports bar on the campus of the University of Central Florida in Orlando, seemed very relaxed and never mentioned any troubles or mentioned McAfee at all.
“We walked by his place maybe a half a dozen times or more ... and I never knew who lived there,” Keeney said.
Eileen Keeney said she is “barely” holding up after the death of her son.
“It has been very rough. I’ll do fine, and then a memory will hit me and it just devastates me,” she said.
McAfee has offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Faull’s killer. A spokesman for the Keeneys called that “a hollow gesture” and said if McAfee really wants to solve the murder he would meet with the Belize police and answer their questions.
Editing by Jane Sutton and Mohammad Zargham