A plea deal was discussed in court Friday for a multimillionaire who jumped bail while pending trial for allegedly killing his wife in their Newport Beach home.
Peter Chadwick, 57, is expected to plead guilty to killing his 46-year-old wife, Quee Choo Lim Chadwick, who was known as Q.C., on the morning of Oct. 10, 2012, in their home over a dispute regarding a possible divorce and related financial issues.
Chadwick was expected to enter the plea on Friday, but he is in quarantine in jail, so the hearing was rescheduled for Thursday.
“We are prepared to enter a plea and (Senior Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker) has the Tahl form,” Chadwick’s attorney, Robert M. Sanger, told Orange County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Menninger. The Tahl form is used for defendants in plea deals that resolve cases before trial.
Court records from a Dec. 10 hearing offer more indications of the plea bargain. At last month’s hearing, the attorneys “discussed their ongoing negotiations with” Menninger, according to court records. Probation Department officials were ordered then to prepare a “pre-plea report” and were ordered not to “discuss the facts of the case with the defendant.”
Chadwick was captured in August 2019 in a residential duplex in a community of American expatriates near Pueblo, Mexico, after seven years on the run.
Newport Beach police and the U.S. Marshals Service officials said Chadwick was nabbed thanks to one of thousands of tips generated by a $100,000 reward and a podcast about the case.
According to David Singer, the U.S. Marshal for the Central District of California, Chadwick had “numerous” fake IDs on him when he was arrested.
The reward announcement and a podcast series released in September 2018 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.
Chadwick initially used a vast sum of money he took with him in his flight to stay at “high-end” resorts and hotels, according to Newport Beach Police Chief Jon 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.”
Neither Chadwick nor his wife arrived to pick up their sons, then 8, 10 and 14 years old, from school the afternoon she was killed.
Another student’s parent drove the children home and then requested that Newport Beach police conduct a welfare check when the Chadwicks could not be found. A subsequent search of the home revealed blood and signs of a struggle inside, according to police.
Sometime between the morning of the murder and the following morning, Chadwick drove to San Diego and called police, telling them that a handyman killed his wife and then kidnapped him and forced him to drive to Mexico to dump her body, according to authorities.
San Diego police, who arrested Chadwick four miles north of the Mexico border that day, noticed he had scratches on his neck and dried blood on his hands, according to the Marshals Service.
Chadwick allegedly admitted to investigators that he made up the story about the handyman being the culprit. After questioning him, detectives found the victim’s body in a gas station trash bin in San Diego County.
When he was released on Dec. 21, 2012, after posting $1 million bail, 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 cell phone 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.