Orange County Fugitive murder suspect
Peter Chadwick and his late wife, Quee Choo Lim Chadwick. Photo credit: Screen shot, “48 Hours,”

A plea deal was discussed in court Friday for a multimillionaire arrested in San Diego who then jumped bail and was sought for years while awaiting trial for allegedly killing his wife.

Peter Chadwick, 57, is expected to plead guilty in the 2012 strangulation of his wife, Quee Choo Lim Chadwick, 46, known as Q.C. The motive, authorities said, was a dispute over a possible divorce and related financial issues.

Chadwick, who had been expected to enter the plea on Friday, is in quarantine in jail, so the hearing was rescheduled for Thursday.

“We are prepared to enter a plea,” Chadwick’s attorney, Robert M. Sanger said before Orange County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Menninger.

Court records from a Dec. 10 hearing offer more indications of the plea bargain.

Attorneys then “discussed their ongoing negotiations with” Menninger, according to the documents. Probation Department officials were ordered to prepare a “pre-plea report” and 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.

Neither Chadwick nor his wife arrived to pick up their sons, then 8, 10 and 14 years old, from school the afternoon of Oct. 10, 2012. Authorities believe he killed her that morning.

Another parent drove the children home and then requested that Newport Beach police conduct a welfare check when the couple could not be found. A subsequent search of the home revealed blood and signs of a struggle inside, according to police.

Sometime in the 24 hours after Quee Choo’s death, Chadwick drove to San Diego and called police, telling them that a handyman killed his wife, 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 same 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. After questioning him, detectives found the victim’s body in a gas station trash bin in Lakeside.

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.

But Chadwick skipped a January 2015 court date and Newport Beach detectives went to his father’s home. The family said the defendant was not living there and no one knew where he was, according to the Marshals Service.

His relatives later told investigators that Chadwick told them he was going to Seattle. 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 facility in a different cab six hours later wearing different clothing.

His cell phone was turned off the same day and was later found in a trash dump. Bank records also showed he withdrew $600,000 from an account later that month.

One of his three sons told investigators in February 2015 that Chadwick had been set on fleeing since late 2014. He 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.

According to David Singer, the U.S. Marshal for the Central District of California, Chadwick had “numerous” fake IDs on him at the time of his arrest.

The reward announcement, along with the “Countdown to Capture” podcast series released in September 2018, led to tips and put “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 the vast sum of money with which he fled 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 hostels and modest inns, the chief said. 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.”

– City News Service