The last time anyone saw the Air Force’s ‘most wanted man’ was 35 years ago, right here in Albuquerque. His friends and family thought he had been captured, but the Air Force said the Captain was actually living a double life.
“Very shocking. Very pleasant individual, it’s very shocking,” said neighbor, Steve Devine.
Air Force investigators say Captain William Howard Hughes Junior disappeared in 1983 and had been lying to everyone around him ever since.
Investigators say Hughes never reported back to his post at Albuquerque’s Kirtland Air Force Base. While he was stationed there, Hughes had a top security clearance and was working on the NATO program.
He was last seen withdrawing $28,500 from 19 different branches of an Albuquerque bank.
Investigators interviewed his friends, family and their sources abroad, but no one they talked to had any idea where Hughes had gone.
In December 1983, they labeled Hughes a deserter.
Through the decades, rumors about what had happened to Hughes had swirled. Some thought he was working for the Soviet Union, either as a traitor or a prisoner.
As investigators finally found out last week, it appears Hughes has been living a relatively quiet, double life just outside San Francisco.
“I feel betrayed. Like, what? You didn’t tell us. Your name’s not Tim? That’s how we know him, as Tim,” said June Dayao, another neighbor.
As it turns out, ‘Tim’ isn’t even Hughes legal, fake name. Investigators say the now 66-year-old created the identity of ‘Barry O’Beirne’ back in the early 80’s.
Investigators finally caught up with Hughes last week during a passport fraud investigation. They say his cover story quickly unraveled and he confessed his real identity.
They say he told them he was ‘depressed about being in the Air Force,’ left, and ever since has been living in California.
“I guess you never know a person unless you really dig deep,” said neighbor, Michael Tom.
Hughes is charged with desertion and could face up to five years behind bars. He is being held at Travis Air Force Base in California.
As of right now, Kirtland Air Force Base is not in charge of the investigation and could not comment on the case.