Tennessee man, 39, accused of beating his new bride to death on Fijian honeymoon is denied bail

The newlywed husband accused of murdering his pharmacist wife in their honeymoon bungalow on an exclusive private Island in Fiji has been denied bail awaiting trial.

Bradley Dawson, 39, appeared in the High Court in Lautoka on Wednesday afternoon (local time).

He is accused of killing Christe Chen, 36, on July 9.

Dawson, from Memphis, allegedly beat Chen to death on the secluded $3,500-a-night Turtle Island Resort just two days after they checked in for their honeymoon. 

Her brutally beaten body was found slumped in the small space between the toilet and the wall of the bungalow’s bathroom.

Bradley Dawson is seen on Wednesday arriving for his bail hearing in Lautoka, the second-biggest city in Fiji

Dawson is accused of murdering his new wife, Christe Chen, on July 9

Dawson is accused of murdering his new wife, Christe Chen, on July 9

The Tennessee businessman was denied bail by the judge on Wednesday

The Tennessee businessman was denied bail by the judge on Wednesday

Dawson's lawyers suggested he remain in the home of a U.S. citizen who lives in Fiji while awaiting trial - but the man is accused of rape, and the judge said the agreement was unsatisfactory

Dawson’s lawyers suggested he remain in the home of a U.S. citizen who lives in Fiji while awaiting trial – but the man is accused of rape, and the judge said the agreement was unsatisfactory

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

On Wednesday, Dawson’s lawyers asked the court to allow him to live in the home and care of a fellow US citizen, John Berger, as he awaited trial.

Berger, a pastor who has a home in the district of Nadi, has lived in Fiji since 2011. 

He met Dawson when the pair spent two weeks together behind bars, in the Natabua Remand Centre. Berger is accused of at least three counts of rape.

Judge Riyaz Hamza denied his request, saying that it was ‘highly unsatisfactory’ to propose Dawson stay in the custody of another person accused of a crime. 

The defense team had proposed two women as guarantors, both of whom were described as Dawson’s family friends. Yet Hamza said Dawson’s team had not satisfactorily provided proof of a long term relationship between Dawson, Berger or the two guarantors. 

A medical examiner ruled Chen’s 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 body was so badly injured she was not able to be embalmed, and she was cremated before her parents took her ashes home to the US.

At a court appearance two weeks ago, Dawson pleaded not guilty as he denied confessing to her murder at the time of his arrest. Police said Dawson made a statement, but later walked it back when he sought legal advice.

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, and 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, and multiple traumatic injuries to her body 

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

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

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

In the unsigned statement produced in court two weeks ago, Dawson allegedly told police that on the night of Chen’s death they were both at a beach party with staff and other guests at the resort.

‘Christe started to have some shots and I went to have some kava (a traditional Fijian drink), and dance to the entertainment. 

‘Then Christe and I went back to the bure (cabin).

‘On the way back, we argued about something, which I could not recall because we were really drunk.’

He added that the pair then changed for bed, and when he tried to hug her she got angry and questioned whether she wanted to be with him.

‘Our argument moved to the toilet … and that was when Christe pushed me and that was when I lost it and we had a scuffle. It just seemed like it was bad.

‘The back of the toilet broke, the glass of the window broke and the toilet was a mess. When the scuffle was over, Christe was in the bathroom next to the toilet. She was hurt and she was sitting down with blood and a cut on her face,’ Dawson allegedly told cops, according to the unsigned statement read in court.

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.

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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. 

Monoa 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.

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

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.

Ratulele, from nearby Matacawa Levu Island, 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.

‘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.

When news of Chen’s brutal killing emerged, 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 would have opposed 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.

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.

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 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

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.

After Chen’s death, a friend, Rena Schomburg, told DailyMail.com that she was an only child and used to travel with her mother 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 by 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 told a neighbor how excited she was to be spending her honeymoon in paradise.

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