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Newlywed husband accused of murdering pharmacist wife in Fiji pleads NOT guilty

The newlywed husband accused of murdering his pharmacist wife in their luxury bungalow on a private island in Fiji has pleaded not guilty.

Bradly Dawson, 39, from Tennessee, appeared in the High Court in Lautoka over the killing of Christe Chen, 36, on July 9 to deny the charges on Wednesday.

His lawyers also claimed he never confessed to the attack – despite police’s claims – and called for him to be granted bail.

They claimed Fijian law favored bail and argued the court should not use the seriousness of the charge to decide if he should be sprung before trial.

Dawson allegedly battered Chen to death in the secluded $3,500-a-night Turtle Island Resort bedroom just two days after they checked in.

A medical examiner ruled the death a murder and found she suffered a traumatic brain injury caused by a brain bleed, severe traumatic head injuries and multiple traumatic injuries to her body.

Her cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head but her body was so badly injured she was not able to be embalmed.

The newlywed husband accused of murdering his pharmacist wife in their luxury bungalow on a private island in Fiji has pleaded not guilty

The newlywed husband accused of murdering his pharmacist wife in their luxury bungalow on a private island in Fiji has pleaded not guilty

Bradly Dawson, 39, from Tennessee, appeared in the High Court in Lautoka over the killing of Christe Chen, 36, on July 9 to deny the charges on Wednesday

Bradly Dawson, 39, from Tennessee, appeared in the High Court in Lautoka over the killing of Christe Chen, 36, on July 9 to deny the charges on Wednesday

His lawyers also claimed he never confessed to the attack - despite police's claims - and called for him to be granted bail

His lawyers also claimed he never confessed to the attack – despite police’s claims – and called for him to be granted bail

Dawson claimed he used a kayak to paddle 1.2 miles from Turtle Island Resort to Matacawalevu Island in the dead of the night on Saturday, July 9. The kayak has never been found

Dawson claimed he used a kayak to paddle 1.2 miles from Turtle Island Resort to Matacawalevu Island in the dead of the night on Saturday, July 9. The kayak has never been found

Dawson indicated on Wednesday morning in the court in Fiji he would plead not guilty to murder.

Defense lawyer Iqbal Khan also argued before Judge Riyaz Hamza his client had not confessed to the murder allegations.

The bail hearing is ongoing as State counsel Alvin Singh reminded the court domestic violence situation forces Fijian court to not favor bail.

Meanwhile Dawson has asked the court through his lawyers to be released into the home and care of fellow US citizen John Beiger.

Beiger, a pastor who has a home in Legalega has lived in Fiji since 2011. He faces at least three counts of rape and had spent two weeks in Natabua Remand Centre.

Earlier in proceedings, the lawyers argued over whether Chen’s family lawyer could appear on her behalf to ensure justice was served.

According to the summary of facts drawn up by police, Dawson initially confessed to the offence but remained silent after he sought legal advice.

A post mortem examination conducted on Ms Chen confirmed she died from traumatic brain injury as a result of severe traumatic head injuries which were caused by blunt force trauma to the head. She also suffered multiple other traumatic injuries to the rest of her body.

Bradley Dawson, 38, is accused of murdering Christe Chen, 36, on July 9 at the secluded $3,500-a-night Turtle Island Resort

Bradley Dawson, 38, is accused of murdering Christe Chen, 36, on July 9 at the secluded $3,500-a-night Turtle Island Resort

Pictured: Dawson is seen being led back to a prison van while handcuffed to another prisoner earlier this month

Pictured: Dawson is seen being led back to a prison van while handcuffed to another prisoner earlier this month

Chen's death was ruled a murder by the medical examiner who found that she died from a traumatic brain injury caused by a brain bleed, severe traumatic head injuries, multiple traumatic injuries to her body

Chen’s death was ruled a murder by the medical examiner who found that she died from a traumatic brain injury caused by a brain bleed, severe traumatic head injuries, multiple traumatic injuries to her body 

Christe Chen Dawson, 39, married Bradley Robert Dawson, 38, in February but delayed their honeymoon to the tropical paradise until July

Chen and Dawson, who met in November 2021, married after a whirlwind romance three months later. She was found dead just two days into their honeymoon at the elite private resort, which her parents – who were regulars there – had paid for

Police documents record that Ms Chen was found motionless on the floor of the toilet in their bure by their concierge or House Mama.

Witnesses at the resort said the couple had been part of a social event on July 9 where guests and staff interacted over Kava and cocktails.

Around midnight they said they saw them return to the hotel and heard loud sounds that sounded like ‘someone was drunk and unable to control themselves.’

Moments later the witnesses heard ‘a loud scream, a big loud bang and silence.’

Bradley was apprehended from Matacawa Levu Island on July 11, opposite Turtle Island Resort where he is reported to have left via Kayak after his wife’s death.

Dawson and Chen married in February after a whirlwind romance, three months after they first met, and her parents had paid for the honeymoon. 

The night Chen died, she and Dawson had attended a party – dubbed ‘family fun night’ – with island staff and other guests on the beach where both were ‘very drunk’. Witnesses exclusively told DailyMail.com that tensions arose between the couple when Dawson started acting inappropriately with someone else at the party. 

‘They were enjoying themselves and drinking quite a lot but towards the end they looked troubled,’ the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.

It’s understood the couple then left the party and their argument continued on the beach before they headed back to their private bungalow about midnight, where the fight continued.

‘Not long after that, guests in the bungalow next door said they heard arguing, a loud scream, and then silence,’ a source told DailyMail.com.

Chen's body was so badly beaten that she was unable to be embalmed and her parents had to cremate her before bringing her ashes back to the United States. She is pictured with Dawson

Chen’s body was so badly beaten that she was unable to be embalmed and her parents had to cremate her before bringing her ashes back to the United States. She is pictured with Dawson

The couple's personal butler found Chen's body squashed and slumped between the tiny space between the toilet and the wall, badly beaten and covered in blood. The lid of the toilet's cistern was cracked

The couple’s personal butler found Chen’s body squashed and slumped between the tiny space between the toilet and the wall, badly beaten and covered in blood. The lid of the toilet’s cistern was cracked

Turtle Island Resort is on a small island of the same name off the coast of Fiji's mainland. The resort is known for being one of the most luxuriest in the island paradise

Turtle Island Resort is on a small island of the same name off the coast of Fiji’s mainland. The resort is known for being one of the most luxuriest in the island paradise

Dawson vanished after Chen's body was discovered by hotel staff.

Dawson vanished after Chen’s body was discovered by hotel staff.

Chen and Dawson are pictured together on an earlier vacation at a Sandals resort

Chen and Dawson are pictured together on an earlier vacation at a Sandals resort

DailyMail.com revealed that Chen was found bloodied on the bathroom floor by a personal butler around midday. She had suffered multiple traumatic injuries to her body and shoulders, lacerations to her face and blunt force trauma to the head, according to a post-mortem exam report.

A source told DailyMail.com that the lid of the toilet’s cistern was cracked and broken. The couple’s personal butler found her body squashed and slumped between the tiny space between the toilet and the wall, badly beaten and covered in blood, according to sources. 

A lawyer for Chen’s family, Ronald Gordon, told DailyMail.com that her body was so badly beaten that she was unable to be embalmed and her parents had to cremate her before bringing her ashes back to the United States. He added that she suffered such deep lacerations to both sides of her head, near her eyes, that the embalming fluid would have leaked.

On the night Chen was killed, Dawson was seen walking the length of Turtle Island in the early hours of the morning by the night watchman, before he went back toward the private bungalow.

Dawson left his GPS watch and mobile phone in the bungalow, but took his wallet and passport before fleeing across the water, 1.2 miles away to a secluded beach on Matacawa Levu Island. Gordon said it suggested that he’d been headed toward the mainland – which is about a two or three hour boat ride away – in the hopes of fleeing Fiji.

Remote Turtle Island Resort is located on a private island off the coast of Fiji

Remote Turtle Island Resort is located on a private island off the coast of Fiji

Monoa Ratulele, told DailyMail.com that when he encountered Dawson, he was bruised and bleeding from his palms and feet, injuries that may have been caused from falling onto nearby coral. Dawson also'appeared disturbed' so Ratulele offered him water and help

Monoa Ratulele, told DailyMail.com that when he encountered Dawson, he was bruised and bleeding from his palms and feet, injuries that may have been caused from falling onto nearby coral. Dawson also ‘appeared disturbed’ so Ratulele offered him water and help

But Dawson never made it that far, and he was discovered – with cuts and bruises – about 3pm on July 10, by a local man as he walked toward the island’s village. Manoa Ratulele, 49, told DailyMail.com that Dawson told him that he used a kayak to paddle to the island between 2am and 3am on Saturday morning after having a fight with Chen.

The kayak Dawson claimed he’d traveled on has never been found, according to Chen’s family lawyer.

By the time Dawson emerged, he had been missing 36 hours and police had been on the hunt for him since the couple’s personal butler found Chen dead and covered in blood on the bathroom floor, and raised the alarm with Turtle Island Resort management.

It’s understood a manager, who had been at the same party with the couple the night before, called Fiji Police Force in the nearby city of Lautoka, just under an hour from Nadi International Airport.

Local Matacawa Levu Island man, Ratulele, told DailyMail.com that when he encountered Dawson, he was bruised and bleeding from his palms and feet, injuries that may have been caused from falling onto nearby coral. Dawson also ‘appeared disturbed’ so Ratulele offered him water and help.

‘At first he kept refusing food and water and insisted he was ok, but I insisted he had some water and after that he said – Please, I need to call the police,’ Ratulele said, adding that Dawson was drunk.

‘He didn’t tell us he had killed his wife but I could still smell alcohol on him. He continued to repeat that ‘we had a fight’ and offered no start or end to that story, just kept saying ‘we had a fight’.’

Ratulele said he was alarmed because the entire Yasawa group of islands are littered with resorts and tourists are often seen on the beaches which cradle the azure blue waters the area is known for – but guests of Turtle Island Resort are rarely seen wandering off the island.

A local man from Matacawalevu Village discovered Dawson walking on the beach

A local man from Matacawalevu Village discovered Dawson walking on the beach 

‘I was a bit alarmed because these are very wealthy people, we don’t find them on our beaches. We get backpacking snorkelers and surfers but not people from Turtle Island. They are a rarity around here. These are millionaires and they are never far away from minders from the resort,’ he told DailyMail.com.

A team of three police officers soon arrived on Matacawa Levu Island to take Dawson back to Turtle Island and then to Lautoka on Fiji’s main island Viti Levu, where he was charged with murder. Once he engaged a lawyer, Dawson refused to provide DNA samples to officers.

Representatives for Turtle Island Resort confirmed the incident in a statement to DailyMail.com, saying: ‘We can confirm that an incident took place between a couple at the Island on July 9th, which has resulted in a tragic outcome and charges being laid.

‘We cooperated fully with the police who conducted a thorough investigation and have now left the Island.

‘Out of respect for those impacted and given it is an open legal matter, we cannot provide any further comment at this time. We are deeply saddened by the event and send our sincerest condolences to Ms. Chen’s family and friends.’

Chen’s family lawyer, Ronald Gordon, told DailyMail.com that they will take civil action against Dawson if he is not held criminally liable for her death and have not ruled out legal action against Turtle Island Resort. He added that he will also oppose any bail application.

‘The family will follow the proceedings to ensure justice is served for Christe given the horrific injuries she endured,’ he told DailyMail.com on Tuesday.

Chen’s parents arrived in Fiji days later after being informed of her death by the State Department in a midnight phone call. It’s understood they also viewed her badly battered body in the Lautoka morgue before she was cremated.

Last week, Dawson’s lawyer, Iqbal Khan, told DailyMail.com that his client was too distraught to talk for days after he was charged with Chen’s murder.

‘Something surprising happened,’ Khan said. ‘Bradley’s okay now but he was really distressed when it happened. Last week he was in a desperate condition but he’s picking up now. It is a horrendous thing to happen on your honeymoon.

Before their ill-fated honeymoon, Chen and Dawson shared a new $250,000 home on Elzey Avenue in the Cooper-Young area of Memphis.

Chen worked as a pharmacist at Kroger while Dawson worked as an IT professional for Youth Villages, a non-profit which helps children. She had previously worked as a baker in Colorado before moving to Tennessee to pursue studying pharmacy, and then settle down.

The nonprofit where Dawson worked said he has been suspended pending further information.

Turtle Island Resort has maintained tight-lipped about the brutal murder, but told DailyMail.com: ‘We can confirm that an incident took place between a couple at the Island on July 9th, which has resulted in a tragic outcome and charges being laid.

‘We cooperated fully with the police who conducted a thorough investigation and have now left the Island.

‘Out of respect for those impacted and given it is an open legal matter, we cannot provide any further comment at this time. We are deeply saddened by the event and send our sincerest condolences to Ms. Chen’s family and friends.’

After Chen’s death, a friend, Rena Schomburg, told DailyMail.com that she was an only child and used to travel with her mom on extravagant trips and post pictures of them to social media.

She described her friend as ‘super-sweet, kind, would do anything for anybody, outgoing, generous, and so fun’.

Schomburg said she never met Dawson, but suggested that Chen might have met him through marathon running.

‘She didn’t have a bad bone in her body,’ Schomburg said.

Another friend, Matt Koenig, told DailyMail.com he was shocked about her murder.

‘Christe was caring, funny, generous, the kind of person who can make friends with anyone,’ he said. ‘It’s a hard day.’

Before traveling to Fiji, Chen eerily told a neighbor how excited she was to be spending her honeymoon in paradise.   

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11166647/Newlywed-husband-accused-murdering-pharmacist-wife-Fiji-pleads-NOT-guilty.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Newlywed husband accused of murdering pharmacist wife in Fiji pleads NOT guilty

Andrew Kugle

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