When Newport Beach police and the U.S. Marshal’s Service offered a $100,000 reward last fall for the capture of millionaire fugitive Peter Chadwick, accompanied by a podcast about the alleged wife killer who vanished in January 2015, they received thousands of tips.
“We had leads that looked promising. However, there was only one that panned out,” Newport Beach police Chief Jon Lewis said at a news conference Tuesday to discuss Chadwick’s apprehension Sunday night after four years on the lam.
Chadwick was found in Mexico, in a residential duplex in a community of American expatriates near Pueblo, when the tip was shared with local police, said David Singer, the U.S. Marshal for the Central District of California. He had “numerous” fake IDs on him when he was arrested, according to Singer.
Authorities said they could not reveal the tipster’s identity at this time.
The reward announcement and podcast series released last September generated tips as intended while putting “more pressure” on Chadwick, who had left a trail of breadcrumbs indicating he fled to Canada to throw investigators off course, Singer said.
“They have to keep moving,” he said of fugitives who feel the heat. “You’re always looking over your shoulder and have to outdo who you think is following you and that’s when you make mistakes.”
Chadwick, 54, initially used a vast sum of money he took with him in his flight to stay at “high-end” resorts and hotels, according to Lewis. But at some point when hotel clerks began asking for passports and other identification, he had to adjust his living standards to more “modest” hostels and other inns, the chief said, adding that Chadwick used such aliases as Paul Cook, Paul Craig and John Franklin.
“We believe he never intended to return from Mexico,” Lewis said, “or intended to return to raise his three boys.”
Singer alleged that Chadwick received some “assistance” from family members, and Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said the case was being reviewed to consider whether further charges are warranted or anyone could be charged with aiding and abetting the accused killer.
“Today is sweet. We apprehended a fugitive on America’s Most Wanted List,” Spitzer said. But “let’s not forget it’s bitter. There’s a victim, a loving wife of 21 years, a mother of three kids.”
Chadwick called police in October 2012 to claim that a handyman killed his wife, Quee Choo Lim Chadwick, who was known as Q.C., and then kidnapped him and forced him to drive to Mexico to dump her body, according to prosecutors.
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 the Marshals Service.
Investigators later found a crime scene at the Chadwick residence, and after questioning the victim’s husband, detectives were led to a gas station trash bin in San Diego County where his wife’s body had been dumped.
Chadwick allegedly admitted to investigators he made up the story about the handyman being the culprit.
When he was released on Dec. 21, 2012, on a $2 million bond, he surrendered his British and American passports and agreed to live with his father in Santa Barbara, according to a federal arrest warrant.
When Chadwick skipped a January 2015 court date, Newport Beach detectives went to his father’s home and were told the defendant was not living there and no one knew where he was, according to the Marshals Service.
Chadwick’s family later told investigators that Chadwick told them he was going to Seattle and left in a taxi. Authorities said Chadwick called a cab at 11 a.m. on Jan. 9, 2015, and was taken to the Santa Barbara airport, where video footage showed him leaving the airport in a different cab six hours later wearing different clothing, according to the Marshals Service. His cellphone was turned off the same day and was later found in a trash dump.
Bank records showed he withdrew $600,000 from an account in mid-January 2015, according to the Marshals Service.
One of his three sons told investigators in February 2015 that Chadwick had been planning his flight since Nov. 28, 2014, and 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,” according to the federal arrest warrant affidavit.
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