Newport Beach police and the U.S. Marshals Service stepped up their search Wednesday for a millionaire real-estate investor who jumped bail following his arrest for allegedly killing his wife, announcing a $100,000 reward and a podcast series aimed at spreading word about the search globally.
Peter Chadwick, who is charged with the 2012 killing of his wife, went missing in January 2015 while free on a $2 million bond.
“Peter could be anywhere in the world,” Newport Beach police Chief Jon Lewis said. “He’s got the financial means to avoid the restrictions placed on his travel and he’s taken every opportunity to hide his tracks. We want to spread his picture and the story of his crimes far and wide. We want everyone to be looking for Peter Chadwick.”
The $100,000 reward for information leading to Chadwick’s capture was compiled by the city, U.S. Marshals Service and private donors.
“A $100,000 reward is going to make a difference,” Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told reporters at a news conference outside police headquarters.
Chadwick, now 54, was also added to the U.S. Marshals Service Most Wanted List, and Lewis announced the release of a six-episode “True Crime” podcast dubbed “Countdown to Capture,” which details the crime and Chadwick’s escape.
“Listeners will hear about Peter Chadwick’s crimes, his arrest, the beginning of the court proceedings and how he’s been able to escape justice so far,” Lewis said.
The first episode has already been released, and five more — each about 15 minutes long — will be released over the next two weeks, he said.
Chadwick called police in October 2012 alleging that a handyman killed his wife, Quee Choo Lim Chadwick, and then kidnapped him and forced him to drive to Mexico to dump her body, according to Craig McCluskey of the U.S. Marshals Service.
But San Diego police arrested Chadwick four miles north of the Mexico border, after noticing he had scratches on his neck and “dried blood on his hands,” according to McCluskey. Investigators subsequently found a “crime scene” at the Chadwick home, and after questioning Chadwick, he led detectives to a San Diego gas station trash bin where his wife’s body had been dumped, McCluskey said.
“Chadwick admitted that he made up the story about the handyman killing his wife,” McCluskey wrote.
Chadwick was released Dec. 21, 2012, on $2 million bond. He surrendered his British and American passports and agreed to live with his father, “a wealthy investor,” in Santa Barbara, McCluskey wrote in a federal arrest warrant affidavit.
Chadwick failed to appear at a court hearing in January 2015, and when Newport Beach detectives went to his father’s home, they were told the defendant was not living there and no one knew where he was, McCluskey wrote.
Chadwick’s family later told investigators that Chadwick had informed them he was going to Seattle and left in a cab, McCluskey said.
“At the residence, I saw several books with titles indicative of a person wanting to flee a jurisdiction, including, while not verbatim, titles such as `How to Change Your Identity,’ `How to Live on the Run Successfully’ and `Surviving in Mexico,”’ McCluskey wrote in the affidavit.
Chadwick called for a cab at 11 a.m. Jan. 9, 2015, and was taken to the Santa Barbara airport, McCluskey said.
“Video from the airport showed Chadwick leaving the airport in a different taxicab six hours later wearing different clothing,” McCluskey wrote. “According to phone records later obtained, Chadwick’s cellphone was turned off on Jan. 9, 2015, and was later found in a trash dump.”
An arrest warrant was issued Feb. 11, 2015.
Bank records indicate Chadwick drained $600,000 from a bank account in mid-January of that year, McCluskey said.
One of the defendant’s three sons told investigators in February 2015 that his father had been planning to flee since Nov. 28, 2014, McCluskey said. The son told investigators his father planned “to exit the United States via the Mexico or Canadian international borders, by driving there and walking across,” McCluskey said.
Chadwick’s son said his father had “a large sum of money at his disposal and would establish himself in a foreign country by obtaining a place to live and getting a menial job,” McCluskey wrote.
Investigators believe Chadwick fled with “several million dollars in assets, as well as large amounts of available cash,” McCluskey wrote.
Before he became a fugitive, Chadwick would frequently visit China, Malaysia, Canada and Thailand, McCluskey said.