On Feb. 18, Bradley Robert Dawson and Christe Chen got married after what one acquaintance described as a “whirlwind romance.” The next day, they threw an intimate party for about 20 people at a historic inn in their hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.
“Thank you to all the amazing vendors who helped us put this gorgeous little ceremony in just 26 days,” their wedding planner wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post. “Thank you to Brad & Christe for trusting #BellaBaxterEvents with your special day.”
But just over five months later, Dawson sits in jail, accused of murdering his new bride while on their South Pacific honeymoon.
“How tragic,” Joelle Scholl, who sold Chen her wedding dress, told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. “Our brides are like family.”
Dawson allegedly killed Chen on July 9 at a luxury resort in Fiji’s Yasawa Islands, the Fiji Sun reported. He was uncooperative with authorities after Chen’s death, said police, who asked a judge to order Dawson to submit to a DNA test after initially refusing, according to the outlet.
Iqbal Khan, Dawson’s lawyer, did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Tuesday. No further details have been released about the circumstances of Chen’s death or how she died, but Khan confirmed to local Fox affiliate WHBQ-TV that Chen’s remains were discovered inside the newlywed couple’s hotel room. Dawson, who is charged with one count of murder, “maintains his innocence,” according to Khan.
Chen, 36, trained as a pastry chef, and once owned a bakery in Denver, according to her LinkedIn profile. She then went back to school, and graduated from the University of Tennessee Health Center’s College of Pharmacy last year, subsequently getting hired on as a pharmacist at a local Kroger supermarket.
She was a standout student, receiving an academic award of excellence in 2021 for her “superior verbal and written [clinical] communication skills.”
Dawson, 38, worked as an IT specialist at Youth Villages, a Memphis nonprofit, Connie Mills, a spokeswoman for the organization, said in an email.
In a statement released to the media, Youth Villages—which provides services to at-risk youth—said it had suspended Dawson pending further information.
“It is our understanding Ms. Chen was his wife, and our condolences go out to her family,” the statement said.
The pair’s decision to tie the knot took many by surprise, according to one person who knew Chen professionally.
The person, who asked not to be named in this article, told The Daily Beast that he just found out about Chen’s death “a day or two ago” and said that everyone who knew her is “just still trying to absorb” the news.
“It was some kind of a whirlwind romance,” the person said, noting that there was no way anyone could have spotted any potential red flags about Dawson because few in Chen’s circles ever met him prior to the wedding.
At their wedding reception, guests dined on Caesar salad with parmesan croutons to start, followed by petite filet steak or sautéed shrimp in brown butter, according to video from the event obtained by The Daily Beast. There was wedding cake for dessert, and the happy couple seemed to be over the moon.
“Yesterday, Christe & Brad were given a gorgeous Spring day to celebrate their nuptials amongst their closest family and friends at the beautiful James Lee House,” the photographer they hired for the event posted on her Instagram page, which was taken down on Tuesday. “Christe and Brad’s joy radiated all over their faces and was so much fun to capture on camera.🤍”
On July 13, Dawson appeared before Magistrate Sekonaia Vodokisolomone in Lautoka, Fiji’s second-largest city. Vodokisolomone ordered Dawson detained, and set a date for him to appear in the island’s High Court on July 27.
A team of investigators has been sent to the area, according to the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation.
If convicted, Dawson faces life in prison.