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Air Force captures deserter 35 years after he disappeared

Thirty-five years after being declared a deserter, Air Force fugitive Capt. William Howard Hughes Jr. was apprehended this week in his California home.

Hughes was arrested without incident by Air Force Office of Special Investigations special agents on June 6, according to OSI.

Hughes deserted from the Air Force in 1983 after returning from Western Europe, where he was on temporary duty.

The Air Force formally declared Hughes a deserter on Dec. 9, 1983. At the time, intelligence officers believed that Hughes was either captured by Soviet Union agents or had voluntarily defected to the Soviet Union.

In the 35 years since his desertion, interviews with his friends, coworkers and associates were not helpful in locating Hughes. Law enforcement agencies were also unaware of Hughes’ location.

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On June 5, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service conducted an interview on passport fraud with an individual who identified himself as Barry O’Beirne.

His cover blown because of inconsistencies in his story, the man revealed himself to be the missing Hughes.

According to Hughes, he left the Air Force because of depression and created the fake identity of Barry O’Beirne. Hughes had been living in California under that name since his desertion.

As a captain, Hughes was assigned to the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.

He worked on classified planning and analysis of NATO command, control and communications surveillance systems. Hughes had a Top Secret/Single Scope Background Investigation clearance.

Hughes, now 66, remains at Travis Air Force Base in California and is awaiting pre-trial confinement.

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