On October 10, 2012, Peter Chadwick strangled his wife, Quee Choo, "Q.C." Chadwick to death in their mansion in Newport Beach. The case garnered further media attention when Peter was able to skip bail and flee, and remained on the run for nearly 5 years until he was caught in 2019.
Peter and Q.C. were college sweethearts. They had 3 sons together in their 21 years of marriage, and lived in a beautiful gated community in Newport Beach, California. They were enjoying their wealth and raising their sons.
Peter came from a wealthy family. Originally from Britain, he had dual citizenship in the United States. Q.C. also came from an affluent family, and was not originally from the U.S. As such, while friends said that she did very much love Peter, she also depended on him to get through the hurdles of adjusting to a country that she thought was a bit strange. Friends believed that Peter liked being depended on.
But the picture-eqsue life came crashing down one day when neither parent showed up to pick their son up from the bus stop. Investigators began searching for the missing parents, not having any idea that they would uncover a murder and eventually be involved in a manhunt.
Police checked in with friends and relatives, even calling hospitals to check if they had turned up there. "All attempts to locate them were a dead end," Lt. Bryan Moore said. The boys slept at a friend's house while investigators continued to search, checking out the Chadwick home for clues.
In the master bathroom, they found broken glass around the bathtub. And then, disturbingly, they found some blood at the bottom of the tub. They noticed the door to the safe was ajar, and realized that it was more than just a welfare check situation at this point... but perhaps some foul play.
"Q.C. was the one with all the personality," one neighbor, Heidi said of her now missing neighbor. The neighborhood was shocked to hear that the Chadwick's were missing. "My first impression of her was that she was a completely devoted mother," said Karen Thorp, one of Q.C.'s friends.
"He almost seemed painfully shy when we first met him," Karen said of Peter, noting that she never felt like she got to know him very well.
In the years before she disappeared, friends said that Q.C. stopped being as dependent on her husband as she began to evolve into her own person. She wasn't very insecure anymore, and her self-confidence was palpable.
So the police were left with a seemingly happy couple with wonderful children and a wealthy way of life who had vanished out of nowhere. But that changed the following day when San Diego authorities received a 911 call from none other than Peter Chadwick.
From a gas station, Peter called and said that somebody had broken in and killed his wife, and they had left in a pickup truck. During the 911 call, he referred to her only as "my wife", never by her name. He said that the killer was named Juan, and he had been hired to do some painting work at the house. Peter told authorities within minutes, he heard screaming. He found Juan in the master bathroom strangling and drowning his wife.
He said he was being held at knifepoint, and thus he did not intervene to rescue his wife, and stood there while he continued murdering her. Allegedly, Juan ordered him to help get her body out of the tub and wrap it in a blanket. Then, the 2 men and his wife drove off in the night toward the border. Eventually, Juan dropped Peter off at a gas station and drove off, allowing him to make the call.
Police arrived at the gas station quickly, but they immediately began to find holes in Peter's story. First, he claimed that Q.C. was killed at around 11 the previous morning, but surveillance footage showed his SUV leaving over 2 hours after that. And, there was no sign of Juan.
Additionally, Peter had scratches on his neck and arms, and a bite mark on his forearm. He claimed it had come from a scuffle with Juan, but the police were not convinced.
He also had a packed bag with all male clothing inside of his car. Police were, obviously, not convinced that Peter wasn't involved. Why would he pack an overnight bag if he left in such a hurry with his wife's killer and her body wrapped in a blanket?
Karen did not believe him for a second. "I don't even think the 911 operator bought it," she said, referring to when the 911 operator asked him if he was on any medication when he called, confused why if it happened at 11 the previous morning, he wasn't calling until 5 am the next morning.
"Peter was, kind of all over the map. His story was very disjointed. He'd go through the range of emotions, crying - however, the officer never saw a tear - to moments of anxiety and just complete quiet," Lt. Moore said. He also thought it strange that he never once asked about his kids.
PETER IS ARRESTED, AND THE MURDER IS INVESTIGATED
Just 6 hours after Peter made the 911 call, he was arrested for murder. Which is how you know your story is really bad.
"It was almost like he wasn't surprised that we were putting the handcuffs on him," Lt. Moore said of his demeanor. He wasn't defensive, angry, sad, or emotion in any way as most people are when they are, you know, BEING ARRESTED FOR THE MURDER OF THEIR WIFE.
While Karen believed that the murder was a reaction to Q.C.'s desire to become more independent and do more things on her own. But Moore believes that it was a bit more sinister. In the home, they found a handwritten piece of paper that had Peter's search history on it that looked like it had been written out by Q.C. The terms included, "torture, Chinese sex massage, abortions costs in Orange County".
Further digging revealed that there may have been some talks of divorce, and that thee was a chance he was visiting prostitutes. The couple's sons had no idea that there was turmoil in the relationship. When Peter pleaded not guilty, they were living more than 50 miles away at their uncle's home, their father in jail and their mother presumably dead.
7 days after the initial 911 call, the detectives received a tip that they said they could not discuss, but a tip that led them 100 miles into the remote wilderness in south San Diego County. Immediately upon arriving, they were sure they'd never find her given the vastness of the space. But then, they saw a dumpster on a barren mountainside. And inside of it, they found Q.C.'s items, her purse, her ID, $10,000 in cash... and Q.C.'s body, wrapped in a blanket.
The medical examiner performed an autopsy, where they determined that there had been a violent struggle that resulted in strangulation and possible drowning.
Peter sat in jain for 2 months before bail was set for $1 million, a price that was easy for him to pay. He had no criminal background and roots in the community, as well as 3 sons. He surrendered his passports, and he was free to go. They knew they had to keep eyes on him, but had no reason to keep him.
2 years passed. He moved to Santa Barbara in a swanky town up the coast with his father. His sons went to boarding school. The case against him built, the police confident with their case against him. He made his court appearances as necessary and was fully cooperative.
A VANISHING ACT
But then, one day over 2 years after being let out on bail, Peter disappeared. His attorney called and said he wasn't sure where he was. The prosecutor said that they didn't keep as close an eye on him because they didn't think he would abandon his sons.
Originally, they thought he may have died. Peter's father claimed that he was suicidal, and they spent some time working that angle. But eventually, they realized that Peter had simply fled. And by then, he was long gone. He had been reading books about how to disappear and change identities.
The search for Peter Chadwick became an international manhunt led by the U.S. Marshals. But even though they were confident that they would eventually catch him, they knew that, realistically, he had a head start, he had the knowledge needed to get away, and he had the financial means necessary to do whatever he needed to do.
Investigators, and friends of Q.C., believed that Peter had help. "I didn't think this case was gonna turn into what it did. But I think one reason that it did is not because Peter's smart. It's not because he was savvy. It's not because he outsmarted us. It's because he's getting help. I think once we cut him off from his source of help that he's gonna make a mistake and we're gonna catch him," said Marshal Craig McCluskey.
Karen hoped that whoever was helping him would grow a conscience and turn themselves in.
"A fugitive, he has to be lucky every single day of his life. We only have to be lucky once," McCluskey said.
After 5 years of hunting for the killer, everything changed. On August 4, 2019, Peter Chadwick was picked up by Mexican federal police in Puebla, south of Mexico City.
McCluskey believes that an episode of 48 Hours that aired before he was captured had something to do with his being caught. He did not know the U.S. Marshals were after him, and they believe that if he saw the episode, that he may have gotten stressed and made a mistake.
He used make fake IDs and aliases while on the run. He stayed at fancy hotels at the beginning, but without a passport with his fake name on it, he had to start staying in more discreet locations that would accept cash with no identification. They confirmed that he was in communication with people close to him, and was receiving help and money from them, but the details are still unclear.
Though Peter admitted it was getting tough to keep up with the lies, it did not appear that he ever intended to return home from Mexico. He never planned to stand trial for his wife's murder, and come back to his children that he abandoned.
"They've really, they've continued to flourish in spite of this tragedy," Karen said of the couple's sons.
Unsurprisingly, Peter Chadwick was denied bail his second time around (go figure). No date has been set for his trial, but he will await the trial behind bars.
This case is one I've never heard of, and one that has an extremely small amount of information online. First and foremost, my heart goes out to Q.C. Chadwick. To be murdered by your husband, let alone your husband of over 20 years, is brutal. Especially if she was murdered because she stumbled upon his misdeeds in their relationship. She certainly died terrified and angry and sad at the hands of her husband, and my heart aches for her.
I also feel so terrible for their sons. To go from thinking both of your parents are missing, to finding out that their dad had murdered their mom, to losing their dad for 5 years when he fled and abandoned them with no plan to return home, to having their dad behind bars again awaiting trial for the murder of their mother... oof. Karen said that Q.C. had raised them beautifully, that they were smart, capable boys. I imagine with a mother like that, they'll be strong enough to get through it... but boy, I would not blame them if they struggled.
Rest in peace, Q.C. I will keep up to date on this case to see when Peter Chadwick will go to trial. I hope he spends the rest of his days behind bars.