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November 29, 2022
Bradley Dawson, 38, of Tennessee, appeared in the High Court of Lautoka last week where he pleaded not guilty to the murder of his wife, Christe Chen, 36.
Christe Chen's beaten body was discovered in a pool of her own blood in the bathroom of a 5-star hotel on Turtle Island, part of the Yasawa Group archipelago, in Fiji on July 09, 2022, where the two were spending their honeymoon together. The couple wed in February in 2022, in what friends and loved ones described as a “whirlwind romance.” Chen and Dawson met in November 2021 and married in February 2022, approximately one month after Dawson had officially divorced his previous wife.
It was later confirmed that Chen had been violently beaten to death on July 08, 2022, where her body lay in the hotel before being discovered by the hotel butler. The autopsy results detailed multiple traumatic injuries including head trauma and injuries to the face.
Mr. Dawson was apprehended and arrested while attempting to flee to the island of Matacawalevu in a kayak on July 09, the same day his new bride’s body was found by hotel staff. He was charged with one count of murder, a charge which he recently denied in court.
Some reports state that residents of Viti Levu, in the town of Nadi, tipped off police to his whereabouts.
When asked why he had attempted to flee, Mr. Dawson told police that he had “freaked out” about the situation. He told police that it wasn’t out of character for him to go out on walks alone at night and claimed that Christe Chen was alive when he left the suite that night after their drunken bust-up.
When apprehended, Dawson had on his person; his passport, $1000, several credit cards, his driver’s license and Christe Chen's visa card and driver’s license.
Dawson was officially arrested on suspicion of his wife’s murder on July 10, 2022.
Although Dawson denied the murder charge, he described a violent altercation between himself and Christe that took place on the night she died. He admitted that the pair had gotten into a fight while drunk during a beach party, leading to a toilet being cracked and a window smashed. He described Christe Chen bleeding on the floor of the hotel bathroom, in the spot where her dead body would be discovered. Later, from his jail cell in Fiji, Dawson told reporters that he and Chen had not had any physical fight prior to the fatal drunken altercation in their honeymoon suite where Chen was killed.
Noises coming from the 5-star suite that night were described as the tripping and crashing of what sounded like an intoxicated individual as well as, later, a woman’s scream, and finally, an eerie silence.
Chen’s family attorney, Ronald Gordon, has speculated that the argument may have transpired after Christe discovered Dawson had stayed on the island with his ex-wife.
Witness accounts of the couple’s behavior on the night of Chen’s death seem to differ, with some reporting that the couple seemed happy, and others reporting that they noticed the newlyweds had been arguing during dinner.
Following his admission of guilt, Bradley Dawson refused to sign a statement, a factor that his lawyer, Iqbal Khan, has used to defend the position that his client did not admit guilt.
Khan is reportedly working on getting the statement removed from the official records regarding the case.
The suspect claims the victim’s death was accidental, however, the victim’s family disagrees, pointing out that the violent nature of the victim’s injuries suggest otherwise. Chen’s family argues that her death was not accidental, nor caused by a “push,” but rather a brutal assault, which they suggest is supported by the nature of Chen’s injuries.
Dawson had actually been to the resort before, with his previous wife, around two years prior to the trip with Christe Chen. Following the news of Chen's murder, Dawson's ex-girlfriends gave statements to media outlets describing him as possessive, manipulative, jealous and threatening. One ex-girlfriend, Kristen Baker, who dated the suspect in college, added that Dawson had always had an obsession with Fiji and always wanted to go. The resort in which Dawson and Chen were staying is said to cost thousands of dollars per night.
Baker told People Magazine: "when he (Dawson) drinks he becomes someone else. He would black out and do stuff that he didn't know he did the next day. He’s very manipulative and always wanted to have a lot of money, to travel and live extravagantly."
Dawson requested pre-trial release; however, his request was rejected by Judge Riyaz Hamza during a hearing at the Lautoka High Court.
Christe Chen worked as a pharmacist at a Kroger in Memphis, Tennessee, and Bradley Dawson was worked in IT for a non-profit before he was suspended following the news of his arrest.
Dawson said of Chen: “What I can say is I am so sorry for the situation we are all going through now. We were supposed to have amazing holidays, and I lost my wife. Just thinking she is not here anymore is so painful. I am thinking of her all the time. We were supposed to have an amazing life.”
Dawson's petition for release was denied and he could spend up to three years in a Fiji jail while awaiting trial.
January 17, 2023