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Newport Beach Police Deploy A Podcast In The Hunt For A Suspected Killer

Cover art for NBPD's podcast Countdown to Capture (Courtesy of the Newport Beach Police Department)
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By Lita Martinez & Emily Henderson with Lori Galarreta

Newport Beach police are getting in on the true-crime podcast craze by creating their own narrated series about an active investigation. It's called Countdown to Capture, with six episodes planned for release over the next two weeks.

The new podcast details the case against Peter Chadwick, a millionaire real-estate investor accused of killing his wife, Quee Choo Lim Chadwick, in 2012. When Chadwick was arrested in San Diego, he told police that a handyman murdered his wife, then forced him to drive to Mexico to dump her body.

Chadwick later posted a whopping $2.1 million bond in 2015, but never showed up to court. He's a naturalized citizen who was born in the U.K., but even with both passports suspended, authorities say that if he's still alive, it's likely that he fled the country.

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The wanted poster for Peter Chadwick, issued by the U.S. Marshals Service (Courtesy U.S. Marshals/Newport Beach Police Department)

He's now on the U.S. Marshals Most Wanted List, and authorities are offering up to $100,000 for information leading to his arrest.

Newport Beach Police Chief Jon T. Lewis said at a news conference on Wednesday that he hopes the podcast will help spread the word about the case, noting that because of Chadwick's financial resources, he could be anywhere in the world.

It's not the first time the department has turned to new media to highlight an unclosed case. Over the summer, the department's official Twitter account marked the 45th anniversary of the murder of Linda O'Keefe by live-tweeting the 11-year-old's final hours.

You can think of Countdown to Capture as an audio-only version of America's Most Wanted, but without the dramatic reenactments. And instead of John Walsh as host, it's narrated by Newport Beach Police spokesperson Jennifer Manzella.

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Manzella opens the series with this disclaimer:

"I'm not a reporter, and I'm not a true-crime enthusiast. And I'm certainly not a disinterested third party. I am the spokesperson for the Newport Beach Police Department, the agency that investigated this murder, and arrested Peter Chadwick: an agency that is very interested in where he is now."

Needless to say, this new podcast didn't go unnoticed in the KPCC newsroom -- we are, after all, audio professionals, and we made a true-crime podcast of our own. James Kim from our on-demand team listened to the first two episodes and weighed in:
"You can tell that the people involved in this project are fans of podcasts," he told me. "There's opening and ending music. The people behind the show are trying to incorporate storytelling elements into the podcast. And the sound quality is fine."

Will it be the next Serial? Is it a Portlandia sketch? You be the judge:

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But while it's not unheard of for police departments to produce their own on-demand media (the LAPD also has a podcast series), Countdown to Capture is about an open case, something that Manzella acknowledges in the prologue episode.

"I'll be sharing as much information as I can, without compromising our investigation," she adds, "because catching Peter Chadwick is one thing. Putting him on trial and getting a conviction: that's the ultimate goal."

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However, it's unclear whether the podcast will ultimately help or hurt investigator's efforts to do so. Talking about an active case is already a balancing act for law enforcement: giving up too much information could tip off a suspect or accomplice.

Manzella told KPCC's Take Two there's plenty of information about Chadwick's case out there already, and the details were vetted through the department's chain of command. "We're not actually saying a lot that hasn't already been said about the case," she said, "we're not concerned about it compromising our investigation."

On whether the podcast could hurt Chadwick's prospects of getting a fair trial, Manzella said, "We're not trying to convince anybody of Chadwick's guilt, that's not the purpose of the podcast."

She said the department is confident that its investigation can get them a conviction.

"We're not trying to do a trial by podcast," she said. "We're trying to run a manhunt."

If you have information about the case, you can call the Newport Beach Police Department tip line at (800) 550-6273.