Her new husband, Bradley Dawson, was arrested after attempting to flee the country by kayak
On July 7, 2022, newlyweds thirty-six-year-old Christe Chen and thirty-eight-year-old Bradley Dawson checked into the luxurious all-inclusive Turtle Island Resort.
Christe’s parents were regulars at the elite, private resort, and they paid for their daughter and son-in-law to spend their honeymoon there. They thought the azure beaches and the breathtaking scenery would help solidify the foundation of the couple’s lifelong commitment. But little did they know it would be where their daughter would meet a tragic end at the hands of her husband.
Chen worked as a pharmacist in Memphis, Tennessee, while Dawson worked as an IT professional for Youth Villages, a non-profit which helps children. Christe and Bradley met in November 2021 and married three months after a whirlwind romance.
And before their ill-fated honeymoon, they shared a new townhome on Elzey Avenue in the Cooper-Young area in Memphis.
On the night of July 9, Christe and Bradley were enjoying themselves at a party on the beach with the resort staff and other guests. Witnesses later said they appeared to be “very drunk” and that tension rose between them when Bradley started dancing and acting inappropriately with another woman at the party.
Christe argued with her husband over this. They left the party, and their argument continued on the beach till they reached their private bungalow, where their fight continued. Guests in the bungalow next to theirs said they heard arguing, banging, a loud scream, and then silence.
The following day, the couple failed to come down for breakfast. While this isn’t unusual, a housekeeper checked the room. There, she found the bloodied and battered body of Christe Chen on the bathroom floor.
The post-mortem exam later reported that she had suffered multiple traumatic injuries to her body and shoulders, lacerations to her face, and blunt force trauma to the head.
On the night of the murder, a night watchman saw Dawson walking on the beach before he went back to the private bungalow. He left his GPS watch and mobile phone there and took his passport and wallet before fleeing via a kayak across the water, 3 miles away, to a secluded beach on Matacawalevu Island. From there, he wanted to head for the mainland by boat, hoping to leave Fiji. But he never made it that far.
Manoa Ratulele, a local man from Matacawalevu, found Dawson wandering on the beach on July 10, around 3 p.m. Ratulele said that Dawson appeared disturbed and was bruised and bleeding from his palms and feet, injuries he stated had come from falling onto a nearby coral reef.
Ratulele offered Dawson water and help, and he started rambling about how he used a kayak to paddle to the island between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. after fighting with his wife.
However, the kayak Dawson claimed he’d used to travel to the other island had never been found.
Before being found by Ratulele, Dawson had been missing for thirty-six hours, and police had been on the hunt for him since Christe’s body was found.
A team of police officers soon arrived on Matacawalevu island to take Dawson into custody. He was taken to Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu, where he was charged with murder.
Dawson maintained that Christe’s death was an accident. He told the police that he got into a drunken fight with his wife in their bungalow, which escalated to a physical confrontation, resulting in a shattered window and a cracked toilet.
He said to the police, “Christe was next to the toilet. She was hurt. There was blood and a cut on her face.” Then, he told them he “freaked out” and fled using a kayak. He claimed that when he left Christe, she had been fine. However, that doesn’t match the evidence, and it certainly doesn’t explain why he was found miles away with only his wallet and passport.
In an interview with Good Morning America, an ex-girlfriend of Dawson said that he was often jealous and controlling and that, on one occasion, he pushed her. They broke up, and Dawson married another woman in 2019. That marriage ended up in divorce, which was finalized this past January, one month before he met Christe.
If convicted, Dawson faces life in prison. He had a bail hearing set for September 14. He has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting further court dates, but his lawyer has stated it could take up to two years for the Fiji government to prosecute. He is being held in jail while he awaits trial.