SANTA ANA (CNS) - A multimillionaire who jumped bail while awaiting trial for killing his wife in their Newport Beach home a decade ago pleaded guilty Wednesday to second-degree murder and was immediately sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
In the negotiated plea deal with prosecutors, Peter Chadwick, 57, waived all his custody credit and will have to serve at least 85% of his sentence before getting a parole hearing.
Chadwick choked up and cried as he admitted killing his 46-year-old wife, Quee Choo Lim Chadwick, who was known as Q.C., on the morning of Oct. 10, 2012, in their home over a dispute regarding a possible divorce and related financial issues.
"I just want to express that I am truly sorry," Chadwick said.
He said his wife was a "wonderful person" and that he "destroyed" his family.
"I destroyed everything," he said. "So I deserve whatever the court decides."
Chadwick said he hoped his sons and his wife's family can "somehow carry on remembering what kind of a person she was. Such a great person, so loving and she cared for everyone. I am sorry for what happened."
The victim's brother said in a statement read aloud in court by Senior Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker that when his sister immigrated to the United States for college in the late 1980s she lived with him at the time.
"When I moved to Southern California in 1998, she followed me to move too. Since 2001, we have had family vacations every year. We regularly got together since we were the only two immediate family members living in the U.S."
He said he felt "guilty" because he gave his "blessing to marry Peter when she asked me for the opinion. I lost more than 10 pounds the first four weeks following her death."
He also described the hardships of gaining guardianship of Hardwick's sons, who remained in their Newport Beach schools when their father was arrested. The boys lived with their uncle and aunt in Pasadena and had to commute to Orange County for classes.
"We drove them to school every day, which involved a 1.5-hour commute one way and then still needed to go to work," he said. "It put a lot of stress on everything. There were regular parent-teacher meetings on top of this, plus other school activities."
His own daughter, who was in high school, wanted to quit her after- school activities to better help care for her cousins, he said.
After Chadwick jumped bail and was a fugitive for years he was caught and that disrupted their lives again, the brother said.
"It was all over the news and media with reporters knocking at the door again like it was when it first happened," he said.
The victim's youngest son, who was in high school at the time, had to be taken out of boarding school and get counseling, his uncle said. "Thank God he got better and managed to finish his high school diploma and got into college."
The victim's sister said in a statement also read aloud in court by Walker that she continues to struggle with her sibling's death.
"QC was chatty, inquisitive and compassionate and we would speak on the phone almost every day," she said. "Family was the most important thing to her. She would go to extraordinary lengths to do anything to help us. She looked after my family as I would hers. It was her who would initiate and spend countless hours planning our annual family reunions. We still feel her loss every year at these events, an emptiness that cannot be filled."
The victim's sister said she was "always there for me, through my darkest moments, too. She was my main support after our mum passed away and when one of my children required multiple surgeries as an infant."
She said she would "never understand how after hurting her, Peter was so barbarically able to dump her body as if she was a worthless piece of trash."
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 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.
According to David Singer, the U.S. Marshal for the Central District of California, Chadwick had "numerous" fake IDs on him when he was arrested.
The reward announcement and a podcast series released in September 2018 generated tips as intended while putting "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 a vast sum of money he took with him in his flight 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 more "modest" hostels and other inns, the chief said -- adding that 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."
Neither Chadwick nor his wife arrived to pick up their sons, then 8, 10 and 14 years old, from school the afternoon she was killed. Another student's parent drove the children home and requested that Newport Beach police conduct a welfare check when the Chadwicks could not be found. A subsequent search of the home revealed blood and signs of a struggle inside, according to police.
Sometime between the morning of the murder and the following morning, Chadwick drove to San Diego and called police, telling them that a handyman killed his wife and 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 day, noticed he had scratches on his neck and dried blood on his hands, according to the Marshals Service.
Chadwick 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 San Diego County.
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.
When Chadwick skipped a January 2015 court date, Newport Beach detectives went to his father's home and were told the defendant was not living there and no one knew where he was, according to the Marshals Service.
Chadwick's family later told investigators that Chadwick told them he was going to Seattle and left in a taxi. 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 airport in a different cab six hours later wearing different clothing, according to the Marshals Service. His cell phone was turned off the same day and was later found in a trash dump.
Bank records showed he withdrew $600,000 from an account in mid- January 2015, according to the Marshals Service.
One of his three sons told investigators in February 2015 that Chadwick had been planning his flight since Nov. 28, 2014, and 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.