Killed at sea?
The body of Pegye Bechler has never been found, but what really happened on that boat?
The couple set out on a romantic beach trip
husband in the DOCK
Pegye Bechler, 38, and her husband Eric, 30, appeared to have the perfect life.
Living in a luxury house in Newport Beach, California, they’d made their fortune opening a retirementservices company.
Hugely successful, they splashed out on two Porsches, and converted their basement into a disco for parties.
Their three children enjoyed the designer lifestyle, too.
And, on 7 July 1997, four days after Pegye’s birthday and close to their sixth wedding anniversary, the couple set out on a romantic beach trip.
As a special treat, Eric rented a boat. But, hours later, tourists on a nearby boat heard screaming… ‘My wife! My wife! My wife!’ A visibly distressed Eric was in the water, the boat floating nearby.
But Pegye was nowhere to be seen.
Eric said he’d been on a body board, while Pegye was steering the boat.
He claimed that, when a rogue wave caught him unexpectedly, he was taken under the water – and that, when he came to the surface, the boat was circling and Pegye was gone.
The police and coastguard were called, and helicopters and boats searched the ocean for 15 hours over two days. But the search proved fruitless, and Pegye was presumed dead.
Heartbroken, her family began to mourn – but, without a body, they couldn’t have a cremation or burial. So, instead of a funeral, they held a candlelit memorial on the beach, which Eric attended, scattering rose petals on the sand alongside Pegye’s relatives and friends.
Afterwards, life ticked over, and the circumstances surrounding that fatal day became part of history.
But Pegye’s family always suspected her tragic, untimely death was not as it seemed.
They wanted justice for Pegye, and found it hard to believe she’d drowned in such calm waters.
Sporty, she’d completed numerous triathlons, and was a strong swimmer.
But the family had no evidence to prove that Eric was responsible for their precious Pegye’s tragic demise.
That was until one of Eric’s former girlfriends came forward to say he’d admitted killing his wife…
Police opened the case and arrested Eric on suspicion of the first-degree murder of Pegye.
When the trial began in late 2000, it attracted mass attention from the public and the media.
Prosecutors said Eric had told a girlfriend he’d bludgeoned Pegye with a dumbbell before throwing her body into the sea, anchored with heavy weights.
But his defence argued there was no physical evidence of this – not even a speck of blood on the boat.
Then the seemingly flawless relationship between Eric and Pegye began to unravel in front of a worldwide audience.
The court heard that the couple had suffered marital problems after the
sale of their business.
Initially taken on as managers, they were soon fired, leaving the family without an income.
As a result, their finances dive-bombed, increasing the strain on their relationship.
Prosecutors claimed that, even before Pegye’s death, Eric had enquired about her $2million lifeinsurance policy.
Perhaps he was just making sure the family had security?
But a close friend of Eric’s stood in the witness box and testified that, three months before Pegye’s death, Eric had confided in him that he was thinking of killing her.
However, he had brushed it off at the time as little more than a meaningless comment in the heat of a dispute.
Eric denied that this conversation ever took place. Three months after the death of his wife, Eric met Baywatch star Tina New through a work colleague. They’d clicked instantly, and had become close in a matter of weeks. Within three months, Tina had moved in with Eric at the home he’d once shared with Pegye. She said Pegye had come up in conversation a number of times, and she’d asked Eric how he knew his wife wasn’t still alive. He’d replied, ‘I know. I was there.’ Tina became suspicious, and contacted Orange County Sheriff’s investigators, who fitted her with a recording wire. As the couple dined out in a restaurant one night, Tina – secretly wearing the device – made a recording of Eric confessing to the murder. That’s when Eric Bechler was arrested. But, in court, he claimed he’d told Tina the story to live up to the ‘bad boy’ persona she desired. ‘I felt she was attracted to that type of person. I wasn’t enough of a risk for her. It was a sick thing to do. I just agreed to satisfy her fantasy,’ he added. Was Eric Bechler so desperate for a second chance at love, he’d made up a disturbing lie about murdering his own wife? And was Tina New a reliable witness? She had a previous conviction herself – for stealing a woman’s identity to gain access to her cash. During the trial, a witness from Balboa Boat Rental was brought to the stand in court.
He claimed the company had a policy against body boarding and towing, and that he didn’t spot a body board when he checked the boat before it was taken out.
A six-week trial ended with seven days of emotional deliberations, during which Eric continued to maintain his innocence, buoyed by his family and supporters from across the world.
Meanwhile, Pegye’s family sat in the public gallery, awaiting the verdict, desperate for justice and for answers.
So, what conclusion did the jury reach?
Did Eric Bechler plot to kill his wife in the shallow hope of cashing in her lifeinsurance policy? Or was her death, as he insisted, just a tragic accident?
He told Tina he’d murdered pegye
They had it all But things began to turn sour for the young couple Pegye’s family and friends take photos into the courtroom the story so far: was, I n July 1997, Pegye Bechler Eric, according to her husband was towing driving a speedboat which Then, Eric him along on a body board. under the said, a wave dragged him But water, and Pegye disappeared. Or had Eric was he telling the truth? got rid of his wife for good?
pegye: Triathlete and swimmer ERIC BECHLER: Truth or lies?