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FIRST ON FOX: The Tennessee man accused of murdering his bride during their honeymoon at an exclusive resort in Fiji returned to court Wednesday, with his lawyer asking the judge to grant bail based on details that include health concerns and his mother’s financial dependence on him.
Bradley Dawson, 38, was charged with murder in July after Fiji police found his wife, 39-year-old Christe Chen, brutally beaten to death in the cottage at the Turtle Island Resort, which is located on its own private island, where the movie “Blue Lagoon” was filmed. At the time of his arrest, police found him with more than $1,000 cash in his wallet, his passport, driver’s license and credit cards belonging to both himself and his deceased wife.
Prosecutors said Chen suffered a “brain bleed” on July 9 and confirmed in court the claims of Chen’s family attorney, who previously said she died of severe traumatic head injuries and multiple traumatic injuries to her body.
Dawson pleaded not guilty and his defense attorney Iqbal Khan is contesting unsigned statements Dawson made to police, known in Fiji as a “caution interview,” in which he allegedly confessed to killing Chen. After the interview, he declined to sign the document and, through his attorney, has maintained that he is innocent.
Khan, however, told the judge that Dawson “has a strong defense case” and noted that his client has no prior criminal record in Fiji or any other country.
Dawson was photographed walking into the courthouse wearing a short-sleeved button-down shirt and blue shorts, a different outfit from the red shirt he’d worn on his two previous appearances before the Lautoka High Court.
Judge Riyaz Hamza is expected to rule on the bail application on Sept. 14, and another hearing is set on Sept. 26 as prosecutors and the defense wrangle over the unsigned caution interview.
Prosecutor Alvin Singh and attorneys for Chen’s family had opposed bail for Dawson, who they argued is indeed a flight risk after he allegedly ditched his GPS watch and phone at the resort and fled with just his wallet and passport in the hours after Chen’s brutal beating death. Khan said the state is already in possession of Dawson’s passport, that he consented to surrendering it and that he has no other passports or travel documents.
The medical examiner found “multiple blunt force injuries around her head and face,” Ronald Gordon, her family’s lawyer, previously told Fox News Digital. When her parents visited her in the morgue, he added, her mother “was inconsolable because of the injuries.”
The bail application states Dawson “is not in good health and has been prescribed certain medications, which he needs to consult his medical practitioner to take advice on his medications.” Khan argued that bail will allow Dawson to both consult with his doctors over the phone and to speak with his mother, who fully depends on him and “will mentally suffer” if he is remanded once again.
The application states that Dawson resides in “Middle Town,” New York, rather than the Tennessee home he shared with Chen, and notes his employment as an IT professional for the Memphis-based nonprofit Youth Villages.
Khan also argued that the trial may not begin until as late as 2024 and that holding him without bail until that time “would be a substantial miscarriage of justice.”
If released on bail, Khan said Dawson would agree to stay in Legaaelga, Nadi, with an American family friend.
Singh told the court that Dawson’s American family friend is currently facing sex crime charges and said that the two “sureties,” or sponsors, of his bond application have only loose ties to the defendant and only met him on the day of Chen’s alleged murder.
“We have evidence to believe that applicant had fled the resort in a kayak on the night of July 9 and he was arrested on a nearby island called Matacawalevu Island on July 10,” Singh told the judge. Matacawalevu Island is “some distance” from the resort with an open sea in between.
On the morning after the crime, local resident Manoa Ratulele spotted Dawson on Matacawalevu. He told Fox News Digital that the first thing Dawson told him when he found him on the beach was to “call police.”
Dawson was wearing a brown T-shirt and shorts and appeared disheveled, he said.
“He looked like he just woke up,” Ratulele said.
According to authorities, a woman who was staying at Turtle Island at the same time as the couple, said Dawson and his wife appeared happy the evening of the alleged fight. The vacationer said she later heard “loud banging sounds” from the couple’s room, according to the police report.
Dawson and Chen married in February after just a few months of dating and moved into a new home in Memphis, but Gordon said Dawson had previously traveled to Fiji with an ex-wife just two years ago.
Tim Tava and Fox News’ Stephanie Pagones contributed to this report.