Southern California

Millionaire Fugitive Charged in Death of His Wife is Captured in Mexico

Peter Chadwick failed to show up for a 2015 court hearing after he was charged in the death of his wife at their Newport Beach home in October 2012

A Southern California millionaire charged in the 2012 killing of his wife traveled around Mexico and used several aliases and fake IDs to stay at resorts and high-end hotels during part of his four years on the run, investigators said Tuesday.

"Hundreds and hundreds" of tips eventually led to Peter Chadwick, who was arrested late Sunday in Mexico and is now in the hands of U.S. authorities.

Chadwick, a wealthy 54-year-old real estate investor from Newport Beach, was likely in Mexico from the time he disappeared four years ago, staying at luxury hotels and resorts before turning to more modest accommodations. He was captured Sunday near Puebla, located southeast of Mexico City, police said. 

"He may not have had his passports, but Peter Chadwick had the means to hide anywhere in the world," said Newport Beach Police Chief Jon Lewis.

He eventually began staying in hostels, working odd jobs, using a variety of aliases and fake IDs and never staying in the same location for long, Lewis said. Investigators said it appears he was found Sunday in a residential duplex, but did not provide further details about the arrest. 

Chadwick had been initially arrested and charged in the death of his wife at their Newport Beach home in October 2012. Her body was found in a trash bin in San Diego County.

Chadwick had claimed wife Quee Chadwick was kidnapped and killed by a handyman, according to the US Marshals Service, which placed him on its 15 Most Wanted Fugitives list. The agency said Chadwick claimed he was kidnapped and forced to drive to Mexico to dump his wife's body.

After his release on a $1.5 million bond as he awaited trial, Chadwick failed to appear for a January 2015 court hearing. He had surrendered his British and American passports and agreed to live with his father, "a wealthy investor," in Santa Barbara.

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, according to a previous statement from the US Marshals Service.  At Tuesday's news conference, investigators said Chadwick had help from family members, but did not say whether they will face charges. 

A fugitive task force found his bank accounts worth millions of dollars had been cleared out. Investigators also learned of books that Chadwick had read about how to change identities.

The ensuing search for Chadwick became the subject of a podcast series. Lewis said the series likely helped the investigation, but "old-fashioned police work" led to his capture. 

"What this podcast did was generate awareness," Lewis said. "It generated leads for us.

Craig McCluskey, supervisory inspector with the U.S. Marshals Service, said the search narrowed to Mexico late last year. After he was taken into custody, Chadwick said he had learned Spanish during his time 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. 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.

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