Investigators found Hughes' vehicle abandoned at the Albuquerque airport. When asked about why he disappeared, Hughes simply said that he was "depressed" about his post and wanted to leave. He said he had lived in California since then.
"On June 5, during a passport fraud investigation, the US Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service interviewed an individual claiming to be Barry O'Beirne". The interview was held with "Barry O'Beirne", but it didn't take long for officials to realize the man's true identity. Hughes's disappearance, in the eyes of some, fit right into the puzzle.
The missing airman's arrest follows Hughes having been involved in classified planning and analysis of NATO's control, command and communications surveillance systems during the Cold War.
Card said Hughes' family has been notified of his apprehension, but it is unknown whether they had been in contact with him or knew his whereabouts.
Hughes "was the "lead analyst" of the Command Control and Communication Surveillance Systems at the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M., which tests new space-related weapons systems", the Times said. He officially went missing in August of that year.
Captain William Howard Hughes Jr, now 66, was last seen withdrawing $28,000 from a bank in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the summer of 1983.
Last week, almost 35 years after he went missing, the Air Force finally found Hughes living in California under the fictitious name "Barry O'Beirne".
Hughes was apprehended at his California home. Back in 1984, his family said that Hughes had likely been kidnapped. "These include the apparent defection to the Soviet Union in 1983 of the U.S. Air Force's leading expert on rocket self-destruct procedures" - meaning Hughes.
" 'We do not feel he disappeared voluntarily, ' his sister, Christine Hughes, said in the article".
In the wake of those disasters, Los Angeles Times journalist Tad Szulc reported in July of 1986 that intelligence officers believed the rockets may have been sabotaged with Hughes' help.
A spokeswoman for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations told the Albuquerque Journal there's no sign Hughes leaked classified information or was involved with the Soviet Union, but that investigations are underway. An OSI spokesperson told the newspaper that there was no indication Hughes had given away any classified information. If convicted, the officer could face reduction in rank, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, confinement in a military prison for up to five years and a dishonorable discharge, FindLaw.com reports. But eventually the Air Force and Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had no evidence indicating any top-secret information had been leaked or that Hughes engaged in espionage.