While requesting a hold on a bench warrant for Peter Gregory Chadwick at Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach, from where he went missing after allegedly murdering his wife, a veteran Orange County homicide prosecutor expressed concern … for the multi-millionaire defendant.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy, who earlier this week revealed he is leaving the office after 26 years to join a private law firm, told Judge Robert Gannon Jr. on Jan. 16, 2015, that the warrant should be delayed to give Chadwick’s defense lawyer more time to locate his client.
Murphy, who had routinely helped put killers away and throw away the keys for decades, told hizzoner that Chadwick, who had been staying with his father in the Santa Barbara area while awaiting trial, seemed “despondent,” raising fears he had killed himself.
“No one has heard from him in several days, including his children, which is unusual,” an alarmed Murphy told reporters after the hearing.
As it turns out, the hanging prosecutor had nothing to fear, because Chadwick was not suicidal while on the lam, he was living the high life in luxury hotels and resorts in Mexico.
Authorities are now saying that because Chadwick’s passport had been seized before he split, he eventually began staying in hostels and other low-end lodgings, worked odd jobs, used fake IDs and moved around often.
Until late Sunday.
The Newport Beach Police Department last September marked the sixth anniversary of Chadwick’s disappearance by launching a podcast aimed at capturing him. Tips indicated he was in Mexico, and more recent chatter supplied an exact location.
Local authorities near Puebla, which is southeast of Mexico City, apprehended Chadwick in a residential duplex before turning him over to U.S. law enforcement on Monday.
He’s now lounging in Orange County Jail, and heading into a scheduled court hearing in Santa Ana today, Murphy’s office will be asking that Chadwick be held without bail.
What’s ironic is the 54-year-old real estate investor from the United Kingdom had originally been held without bail following his arrest for the murder of his wife Quee “Q.C.” Chadwick.
In early October 2012, a neighbor heard the 46-year-old mother of three scream inside the Chadwick estate on Almanzora in the gated Newport Coast community. Police were not alerted then, but they were around 7 p.m. on Oct. 10 of that year, when the couple’s children had not been picked up from school. Police went to the Almanzora home and discovered blood and evidence of a struggle.
Cops revealed a search was under way for the Chadwicks and their champagne-colored 2003 Lexus SUV. Around 5:30 a.m. the next morning, Peter Chadwick contacted San Diego Police by phone to say he needed assistance along the 905 freeway, near Tijuana.
Following an initial investigation, during which Q.C. was not located, the San Diego authorities contacted their Newport Beach counterparts, and the police agencies worked together on the case.
Taken into custody, Chadwick told Newport Beach police a house painter who’d been invited into his home to give an estimate for interior work killed his wife in their master bathroom. Chadwick added he was then forced by the painter to drive his wife’s body to San Diego County and dispose of it.
Investigators did not believe the story because of scratches and bite marks on Chadwick that were consistent with a violent struggle. Surmising he murdered his wife at their estate and disposed of her body elsewhere because of a dispute over a possible divorce and other money-related issues, Chadwick was charged on Oct. 15, 2012, with special circumstances allegations that allowed for him to be held without bail. He pleaded not guilty.
Three days later, Quee Chadwick’s decomposed body was found in a San Diego County dumpster.
In December 2012, the OCDA concluded its prosecutors could not make murder for financial gain stick, so the special circumstances allegation was ditched and bail was re-set at $1 million.
Chadwick posted a bond and was released from custody pending his trial. Since he is innocent until proven guilty, he was allowed to reunite with his children.
After the defendant’s disappearance, Murphy’s suggestion that a bench warrant be delayed eventually changed to the U.S. Marshals Service placing Chadwick on its most-wanted list.
“Books he left behind showed that he had researched how to change his identity and how to live off the grid,” Newport Beach Police Chief Jon Lewis said upon Chadwick’s capture. “He may not have had access to his passports, but we knew that he had the means to hide anywhere in the world.”
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.