Two years ago, Portland animator Chad Essley never could have imagined he would become the webmaster and primary public liaison for John McAfee, the reclusive millionaire and former antivirus software mogul now sought for questioning in a Belizean murder case. But that’s exactly what happened to the aspiring graphic novelist, who is currently at work on an illustrated account of his adventures with McAfee.
The relationship between the fugitive and the cartoonist began in 2010 on a private internet forum where an anonymous entrepreneur hired Essley to produce an animated web short for an antibiotic venture called Quorumex. The mysterious businessman soon revealed himself as McAfee, and the two struck up a friendship. When the news broke this April that a gang suppression unit had raided McAfee’s property in Belize, Essley was taken aback.
“After I [heard] about the first raid, I wrote [McAfee] saying, ‘Oh my god! They shot your dogs! I can’t believe that!’” said Essley. “I received a reply that said, ‘We’re fine. Things have calmed down. Time to come to Belize. Moneypenny will arrange the details.’”
Although Essley has done most of his professional work in the field of animation at his studio Cartoon Monkey, producing animations for clients that include Microsoft and Sesame Street, McAfee asked Essley to join him on his estate and document his life in a graphic novel. After spending nearly a month with McAfee this summer, the artist began work on The Hinterland, an illustrated first-person account of his time in Belize.
It doesn’t sound like much of a disguise, but John McAfee is doing his best to change his appearance as he continues to evade the police in Belize.
In a case that seems to get more bizarre by the day, the 67-year-old has continued to call me with semi-hourly updates. The latest disclosure: He claims to have dyed his hair, eyebrows, beard, and mustache jet black.
“I have modified my appearance in a radical fashion,” McAfee said, “I’ll probably look like a murderer, unfortunately.”
As Belizean police combed the property of expat antivirus pioneer John McAfee Sunday afternoon, McAfee was closer than they could have known. He’d seen them coming, and says he hid — burying himself in the sand with a cardboard box over his head so he could breathe. “It was extraordinarily uncomfortable,” he says, in an exclusive interview with Wired. “But they will kill me if they find me.”