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A Tennessee man accused of killing his bride during their South Pacific honeymoon is speaking out from behind bars.
Bradley Dawson, 38, is charged with murdering his new wife, Christe Chen, 36, at the couple’s Fiji honeymoon resort on the night of July 8. The Memphis, Tennessee-based couple checked into the tiny luxury Turtle Island Resort on Fiji’s Nacula Island — part of the Yasawa archipelago, where the movie "Blue Lagoon" was filmed — just two days before Chen was found dead in their honeymoon suite.
He was arrested after allegedly fleeing that night to the nearby island of Matacawalevu, and is being held without bail until trial.
In an exclusive jailhouse interview with ABC News on Tuesday, Bradley Dawson said he and his partner “never had any physical arguments in [their] relationship.”
He added that Chen was his “everything” and that he has been “praying every day” since his incarceration.
“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,” Dawson stated. “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.”
Bradley Dawson claimed through his lawyer that Chen’s death was an accident. Her family's lawyer, Ronald Gordon, previously told Fox News that Chen’s “horrific injuries” could not be explained away so easily.
He said that Chen died of multiple blunt force trauma wounds to her head and face, according to ABC Jackson, Tennessee, affiliate WBBJ-TV.
“It doesn’t look like it was an accidental pushing, and she fell and hit her head, and something happened,” Gordon stated. “We’re of the view that she was repeatedly assaulted, but that remains something that will come out in the criminal proceedings.”
A woman who was also staying at the Turtle Island Resort — which can accommodate up to 14 couples at any given time — told Fiji authorities she saw the couple on the night of the alleged fight but said they appeared to be in good spirits.
Other witnesses allegedly heard the newlyweds arguing at a dinner the night Chen was killed. Dawson admitted to ABC News that he and Chen did have a drunken argument that evening.
Some time that evening, the woman who said they seemed fine at dinner reportedly heard “loud banging sounds” from the couple’s suite, according to a police report obtained by ABC News.
“It was as if someone was drunk and unable to control themselves inside,” the woman told police. “And then we heard a loud scream followed by a big, loud bang, and after that, there [was] complete silence.”
Resort staff confirmed to the news outlet that someone had lodged a noise complaint that night.
According to Dawson, he chose to board a kayak after the fight and leave the resort for a neighboring island in an alleged attempt to deescalate the situation.
“I just wanted to give her some space,” Dawson told reporters, implying Chen was still alive when he left. “It was normal for me to take a walk.”
Dawson would have had to have kayaked more than 3 miles in the Pacific Ocean to reach Matacawalevu from the resort.
Chen’s family lawyer, Ronald Gordon, told Fox News Dawson left his GPS-enabled watch but took his passport and wallet with him when he left to kayak and ultimately ended up on Matacawalevu.
A housekeeper found Chen’s body the following day when the newlyweds failed to show up for breakfast. Fox News reported she was found dead in the hotel bathroom.
Dawson was arrested two days later on the west coast of Fiji’s mainland, Viti Levu, in the town of Nadi, according to ABC News. His location was reportedly given away by indigenous residents on a nearby remote island after Dawson allegedly tried to flee.
Fiji authorities said Dawson initially confessed to the murder before lawyering up.
Dawson was an IT specialist for a non-profit organization that works with children until his recent suspension in light of the allegations. He appeared for a preliminary bail hearing at the Lautoka High Court on Wednesday, where Judge Riyaz Hamza rejected requests for Dawson’s pretrial release.
Dawson’s defense lawyer, Iqbal Khan, argued the case could take two years, asking, “why should he remain inside for that long?”
Judge Hamza also denied a request by Gordon to have the Chen family as a formal party in the case, which could allow relatives less restricted access to the evidence presented in the trial. They can still attend hearings.
According to ABC News, a bail hearing was moved to Sept. 1 due to a technicality with Chen’s postmortem report, which has yet to be finished.
Chen graduated from the University of Tennessee and worked as a pharmacist in a Memphis-area Kroger. She was a noted Community Pharmacy Resident at the university’s Health Science Center, having received awards in pharmaceutical science.
Neighbors told Fox News they hadn’t heard the couple argue in the past. The relationship had been a “whirlwind romance,” with some of Chen’s friends claiming they hadn’t met Dawson until the couple married in February. The couple embarked on their honeymoon five months later.
The Turtle Island Resort is a 5-star luxury destination with sweeping views, offering rooms at several thousand dollars per night, according to their website.
The resort sent a statement to ABC News in July, calling the safety and concern of their guests their highest priority.
“We cooperated with the authorities during the investigation, and the police left the island over a week ago,” they stated. “We continue to send our condolences to Ms. Chen’s family, friends, and colleagues.”
The resort had also served as a vacation destination for Dawson and a previous wife just two years ago, according to Fox News. It's unclear why the couple divorced, but Good Morning America reported the divorce wasn't finalized until the month before Dawson married Chen.
His college ex-girlfriend told the program that, when they dated in 2005, the romance was "definitely intense and fast" but that, after they became serious, Dawson was "very verbally, verbally manipulative and threatening and jealous" and that he'd pushed her down and chased her.
Gordon said Chen’s family might seek a wrongful death lawsuit against Dawson in the future. If convicted, he faces life in prison.
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