'American Nightmare'? Inside the Life of Millionaire Family Before Dad Allegedly Strangled Mom

Chadwick remains on the run more than three years after vanishing while he awaited trial in the strangulation death of his wife, Quee Choo, authorities say

In January 2015, as he awaited trial for murder in the strangulation of his wife, millionaire Peter Chadwick disappeared.

His vanishing act, police believe, was no accident.

Chadwick, already free on $1 million bail, had turned off his phone before he failed to appear in court. What’s more, $600,000 had been drained from a bank account of which he was the executor and, just as troubling, investigators found the following books in his home: Surviving in Mexico, How to Change Your Identity and How to Live on the Run Successfully.

More than three years later — and close to six years after the body of his wife, 46-year-old Quee Choo Chadwick, was found in a Dumpster outside San Diego — Peter, 54, remains on the run, California authorities tell PEOPLE. They think he is likely living abroad.

“Here is a guy next door, and in one part he is an American success story and the other part he is an American nightmare, using his intelligence and wealth to avoid capture,” says Joe Pirooz, a Long Beach Police detective assisting the U.S. Marshal’s search.

Pirooz believes Peter, a British-born real estate investor, “was planning this as soon as he was captured.”

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Peter Chadwick and Quee Choo
Peter and Quee Choo Chadwick. Courtesy Heidi Neal
Peter Chadwick
Newport Beach Police Department

According to friends, the Chadwicks appeared like a perfect, placid pair, married for 21 years and raising three sons in a $2.5-million mansion in the Newport Beach area.

While Peter worked, Quee Choo, a Malaysia native affectionately known as “Q.C.,” was a “doting” stay-at-home mom.

“They seemed happy,” Quee Choo’s friend and neighbor Heidi Neal tells PEOPLE.

Yet investigators say there were simmering tensions, as Quee Choo discovered several affairs Peter had before she died.

Those who knew the family also describe possible conflicts behind closed doors: Quee Choo, while hospitable and kind, ran the household with precision, writing out instructions and schedules for Peter and their kids. By contrast, Peter seemed to be “docile” and “extremely quiet.”

“I think he snapped,” Newport Beach police Detective Sgt. Ryan Peters tells PEOPLE.

Police were first called to the couple’s home on Oct. 10, 2012, when neither parent picked up their youngest sons from their private school in Huntington Beach. At the Chadwick home, officers found an open safe in the downstairs office and a broken red vase and blood splatter in an upstairs bathroom.

the Chadwick's home. Newport Beach Police Department
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Things took a grim turn the following day, when San Diego police received a 911 call from Peter from a pay phone at a local gas station. He claimed that a house painter he hired — named “Juan” — killed Quee Choo in the couple’s bathroom.

Police didn’t buy it. In a subsequent interview, detectives noticed scratches on Peter’s neck and dried blood on his hands, and he refused to answer questions about Quee Choo’s death. Authorities concluded that Juan the painter did not exist.

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Peter was arrested on Oct. 11, 2012, and charged with murder, to which he pleaded not guilty. He posted bond after two months in jail and surrendered his passports. Then in early 2015, he was gone.

As authorities continue to search for him, Neal says it is frustrating that there is still no resolution to the case. Of Quee Choo, she says, “Nobody deserves this, especially a sweet, caring person like she was.”

Pirooz says the marshals’ hunt is far from over: “As long as there are leads and information to check on, they will do it.”

If you have seen Peter Chadwick or have any information about his whereabouts, call the U.S. Marshal’s tip line at 1-800-336-0102.

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