Here's a reality of the American justice system: Poor schlubs accused of murdering their wives on even pencil-thin evidence get bails set so high that they remain in jail for years before their trials begin. Rich clucks accused of murdering their wives on even super-solid evidence make their bails and get released before trial. Take the case of U.K.-born millionaire Peter Gregory Chadwick, who allegedly murdered his wife in their Newport Coast home in October 2012, made his $1 million bail that December and is now AWOL.
Let us go back to where this all started:
Around 6:30-7 a.m. on Oct. 9, 2012, a next-door neighbor heard Quee “Q.C.” Chadwick screaming inside her multi-million-dollar home on Almanzora in a gated Newport Coast neighborhood. The neighbor did not report it at the time, figuring Ms. Chadwick was momentarily frustrated. (Turns out the couple had been arguing over divorcing.)
About 7 p.m. the following evening, neighbors contacted the Newport Beach Police Department because the Chadwicks' three boys had not been picked up from school that afternoon. A look through the Chadwick home indicated a struggle had taken place, including the discovery of blood. Suspecting foul play, cops launched a search for Peter Chadwick and his 46-year-old wife.
At 5:30ish the morning after that, Mr. Chadwick contacted San Diego Police by phone to say he needed assistance along the 905 freeway, near Tijuana. He told officers a man murdered his wife and forced him to load her body into his champagne-colored 2003 Lexus SUV. Around 3:30 that same afternoon, a woman's body was found in a dumpster in the East San Diego County community of Lakeside. On Oct. 19, she was positively identified as Quee Chadwick.
Her husband was arrested, but from behind bars he told Newport Beach Police investigators that a man invited into his home to give an estimate for interior painting murdered Q.C. in their master bathroom. Detectives said at the time they didn't buy it because by then they had caught the suspect lying–and caught a glimpse of scratches and bite marks on him consistent with the kind of violent struggle that took place in his Newport Coast home.
Initially held on $1.5 million bail, Chadwick pleaded not guilty at his arraignment, when besides first-degree murder he faced a special circumstances allegation of murder for financial gain that led a judge to have the defendant held without bail. That would have pleased prosecutors who considered the wealthy Chadwick a flight risk.
However, in December 2012, veteran homicide prosecutor Matt Murphy, who seldom if ever loses cases, informed the judge that there was not enough evidence to make the special circumstances allegation stick. Chadwick's bail was lowered to $1 million, and he bailed out. (Soon after I was contacted by horrified neighbors who wondered how Chadwick could legally be alone with his children in his Newport Coast home–the murder scene. Innocent until proven guilty, folks.)
Judge Robert Gannon Jr. at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach put a bench warrant for Chadwick's arrest on hold Jan. 16 to give defense attorney Robert Sanger one more chance to reach his client. City News Service reporter Paul Anderson reports that at a pre-trial hearing Wednesday, Sanger told Gannon, “I've lost contact” with Chadwick.
Murphy informed Gannon Jr. that Chadwick, who had been staying with his father in the Santa Barbara area while awaiting trial, was reported to be “despondent” by family members, raising fears he killed himself. “No one has heard from him in several days, including his children, which is unusual,” Murphy said to a gathering of reporters that included Anderson after the hearing.
The prosecutor also raised the possibility that Chadwick skipped, although Newport Beach Police were holding his passport and other travel-related documents to prevent him from leaving the country.
Gannon issued an arrest warrant for 50-year-old Chadwick, who faces 25 years to life in prison if he is ever convicted. Anyone who spots him or knows where he is–dead or alive, one presumes–is instructed to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Anthony Sosnowski at 714.347.8492.
As for the bail that had been put up by 101 Bail Bonds Inc., Gannon asked the attorneys from both sides to return to court Feb. 11 to discuss what to do about it. They are worried that a forfeiture of bail would hurt the Chadwick children more than anyone else. The judge could rule that the bail bonds company receive its deposit back, saving the rest of the money for the children who would inherit their father's estate, according to Murphy.
One senses that's what Q.C. would want.
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.