SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — For four years, millionaire murder suspect Peter Chadwick was nowhere to be found though his image was everywhere — in widespread media coverage, on the U.S. Marshals’ most wanted fugitive list and a police-produced podcast about his case.
All the attention and hundreds of tips paid off, authorities said, when the 55-year-old real estate investor from Newport Beach was arrested by immigration authorities in Mexico on Sunday and deported to the United States where prosecutors hope he will stand trial.
While Chadwick left leads for law enforcement to make it look like he fled to Canada after skipping a court appearance, law enforcement officials said they believe he has been in Mexico all along. At first, Chadwick — who had several aliases and fake IDs — stayed at high-end resorts but when he needed to show a passport he moved to more modest hostels and residences such as the duplex where he was arrested in an expat community near Puebla, officials said.
“We believe Peter Chadwick has been in Mexico since his disappearance,” Newport Beach Police Chief Jon Lewis said at a press conference Tuesday.
Chadwick is charged with strangling his wife Quee Choo Chadwick, known as “Q.C.” in 2012. Newport Beach police began investigating after Peter Chadwick failed to pick up his children after school. Inside the family’s upscale home, authorities said they found a broken vase, drops of blood on the floor and Q.C.’s cellphone and wedding ring.
The next day, Lewis said, Peter Chadwick told authorities that a handyman had killed his wife and kidnapped him and fled with her body. Peter Chadwick quickly became the suspect, however, and her body was found a week later in a trash bin in suburban San Diego.
Peter Chadwick was released on $1 million bail and at first attended court appearances. When he vanished from his father’s California home in 2015, police said he had drawn large sums of cash and researched how to change one’s identity.
Last year, the U.S. Marshals added Peter Chadwick to the most wanted fugitive list and a $100,000 reward was announced for tips leading to his capture. Newport Beach police wrote and produced a six-episode “true crime” podcast about the case in the hopes of intensifying the search.
Authorities on Tuesday declined to pinpoint a specific tip that led them to Peter Chadwick but said they received leads from around the world.
Craig McCluskey, supervisory inspector with the U.S. Marshals Service, said authorities narrowed Peter Chadwick’s whereabouts to Mexico late last year. After he was taken into custody, Chadwick told authorities he had learned Spanish while on the run, McCluskey said.
“He studied how to be a fugitive,” McCluskey said.
Chadwick was born in the United Kingdom but is a naturalized U.S. citizen, and authorities said both his U.S. and U.K. passports were seized when he was released on bail.
He is expected to appear in court in Santa Ana on Wednesday. Orange County prosecutors are asking that he be held without bail.
By AMY TAXIN
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