Tech Guru John McAfee Found Liable in 2006 Death

Aerotrekking photo
McAfee’s aerotrekking operation in New Mexico (photo via

Antivirus pioneer John McAfee, who leapt to international attention when he went on the run after his next door neighbor was found murdered in Belize, has been found legally responsible for another man’s death in Arizona and ordered to pay $2.5 million in damages.

A civil court judge in Maricopa County, Arizona, found that McAfee was liable for the death of Robert Gilson, who died when the ultralight he was flying in crashed in a remote canyon in 2006. The pilot, 22-year-old Joel Gordon Bitow, who also died, was McAfee’s nephew. At the time of his death Bitow was the head flight instructor of a company that McAfee had established to promote the sport of “aerotrekking,” which involved flying very small aircraft at very low altitudes over remote and often rugged terrain. Aviation experts criticized the pastime as reckless.

McAfee succeeded in attracting nationwide media attention for his venture, with articles appearing in the Wall Street Journal, Popular Mechanics, and other publications. But after Gilson’s heirs filed a wrongful death lawsuit against him, McAfee reportedly sold all his US holdings and moved to Belize, where he said his lawyers had advised him that “a judgment in the States is not valid.”

McAfee’s absence from the US effectively caused the wrongful death case against him to slow to a snail’s pace. Then, in 2012, reports that McAfee had become heavily involved in psychoactive drugs and criminal gangs came to a head when police found that his neighbor, 52-year-old Gregory Faull, with whom McAfee had been quarreling, had been murdered with a single gunshot to the back of his head. Though no arrest warrant was issued for him, McAfee went on the run for three weeks, peddling his story to press and stoking a worldwide news frenzy as he moved about the country. Ultimately he crossed the border into Guatemala, where he was arrested and deported back to the United States. He did not attend the Gilson trial.

In addition to the Gilson case, McAfee is also facing a wrongful-death lawsuit in Florida over the murder of Gregory Faull.

At this point, McAfee can still choose to appeal the decision. If he does so and loses again, he can either pay the penalty (which will have grown with accumulated interest) or be subject to what’s called a “debtor’s examination,” in which his creditors will be able to subpoena his financial holdings. If that happens, light will at last be shed on one of the great mysteries of the unfolding McAfee saga: just how much money the software pioneer actually has.

“The Gilson family have suffered terribly over the years that it took to bring this case to trial and believes that the verdict provides some measure of justice. Unfortunately, Mr. McAfee has given no indication that he will voluntarily pay the judgment or even offer to settle,” said the Gilsons’ lawyer, Justin Green. “While we hope that he changes his mind, in the event that he does not we have committed to the Gilson family that we will use every legal means to collect on the judgment.”

Click below for the actual document issued by the presiding judge:

McAfee Judgment

21 thoughts on “Tech Guru John McAfee Found Liable in 2006 Death”

  1. What a waste of intelligence. As far as aerotrekking goes….you wouldn’t find me within a hundred yards of those little death traps.

  2. This is when I first started reading your stuff Jeff! When you went to New Mexico to check it out and in that article you talked about the accident with his nephew & Mr Gilson. Wasn’t it the fault of McAfee for not training his nephew and they went in a canyon they couldn’t get out of? I seem to remember something on the townspeople also wanting rid of him? Seems history repeated itself, but much harsher with the move outa the country. This was when I became such a fan of your instincts. He never expected you to ask real questions or doubt him! Thanks for the update.

  3. Thanks, Rhett! Whatever the legal issues, I think that it retrospect it was unwise to encourage low-time pilots to fly over rugged terrain at low altitude. It spoke to a lack of regard for consequences, which indeed turned out to be a running theme for Mr McAfee.

  4. There are tourist destinations that offer this type of entertainment. Please beware. No 30 min flying lesson, nor flying beside a “experienced” pilot in one of these contraptions is a guarantee of a exciting vacation.

  5. I used to work for a glider pilot (George Tweed) and also was friends with, and flew with, Bill Ivans, an early champion and friend of the first astronauts. We had a lot of glider activity off the cliffs at Torrey Pines, and also a lot of hang glider activity. I don’t remember any deaths there but both guys told me “Never fly in those hang gliders”.

    Sadly, Ivans was killed when his own motorized glider crashed, taking with him the curator of the Smithsonian Aerospace museum. The best analysis I found indicates that the wings of the German-built glider bent to the extent that the aerilons locked. This was not the government finding but was well proven in a soaring magazine.

    About gliding in general, when I went up with Bill, he let me do most of the flying . . in the mountains NE of San Diego. Staying in updrafts, and just managing the controls, is really hard physical work.

  6. Sadly, no one cares about the victims & our family, you just want to hear about Mcafee’s next devious act.

  7. Well, I’m glad that you at least received some justice from the court system. I do find it frankly shocking that people continue to give McAfee a forum at events like tech conferences, and that audiences are willing to buy into his self-promotion uncritically.

  8. I attended the SecureCIO conference thing in SF. It was an interesting, unbelievable speech and pretty much echoed exactly what the TC article analyzing his Defcon speech summarizes:

    I had very little information before attending regarding McAfee other than briefly overhearing about the escapades on local news when my wife was watching.

    Been reading a lot about him today and it is pretty shocking some of the stuff he has done.

  9. How on earth will any plaintiff ever collect on a court ordered judgment against McAfee? The guy’s assets are certainly banked off-shore and his whereabouts is anyone’s guess. Who’s holding the cards?

  10. If he doesn’t settle in the Gilson case, or successfully appeal, he’s going to be subject to something called a “debtor’s examination,” in which all his holdings will be revealed. I don’t know how easy it is to hide assets from that process.

  11. What an idiot you are. You got sucked into John’s affsirs when the GSU contacted you and told you they wete going to arrest John. What will you do when the truth comes to light next month and you look like an idiot and get arrested here in the States for conspiring with a foreign government against the intetests of America. John has all of your communications with the GSU on tape. You sound like an idiot conspiritor. I hope you like Jail. Good luck.

  12. I read somewhere that there was a reward for McAfee’s location. If that’s the case, and he’s as bad as you say, maybe it’s just a matter of time?
    As for the legal case, while I don’t know the details, I have a hard time believing anyone would knowingly allow his own nephew to participate in a (potentially) deadly sport without the best possible training. Don’t people have to sign a waiver for that kind of (completely insane) activity, stating they understand the dangers, and are making their own choice? No disrespect meant, just sayin’.

  13. Is there a way to put him in jail if he does not pay. I am a new friend to this family. Their dads death and the lack of closier has torn this family apart. Bob left a downs daughter to be taken care by her mom. Mom is so scared about who is going to take care of her.Hw is a possibility for not helping the family’s

  14. @Becki, Now that there’s another, even bigger, wrongful death judgement against him, hopefully there will be pressure for prosecutors to bring criminal charges.

  15. What a strange article to read, him having just months ago committed suicide, in a Spanish jail cell. He was 75. Ran for president!, 2015. And married the prostitute who was initially sent to spy on him and kill him. Fathered 47 children.


  16. I wouldn’t put too much stock in the idea that Janice was an assassin sent to kill him, or that he’d fathered 47 children. In his later years he really leaned into a self-mythology that his new fan base responded to, in which he was this super-free-living, larger-than-life badass who was constantly doing drugs, consorting with prostitues and tangling with drug gangs. This appealed to the same kind of insecure masculinity as you’ll find in fans of Trump and Joe Rogan. But it was a front. McAfee’s reality was so lonely and joyless that he killed himself.

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