Warning: gruesome details.
In Seattle on Tuesday, police formally lodged aggravated first degree murder charges against Dr. Louis Chao Chen, who left Duke in July after a two year fellowship. The 39 year old endocrinologist -- still hospitalized with injuries that have never been publicly disclosed -- was ordered held without bond.
Washington State has the death penalty for this degree of murder. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg has not yet decided whether to seek execution in the case. The alternative, upon conviction, is life in prison without possibility of parole.
Chen is scheduled for arraignment August 29th. The prosecutor must announce his intentions on the death penalty within 30 days.
Chilling details in court papers: Chen's husband of at least 11 years, 29 year old Eric Cooper, had been stabbed more than 100 times and had wounds to his face, neck, chest, back and hands. An adopted boy -- son of both men -- named Cooper Chen, nearing his third birthday, was also killed. Both may have been dead for three days.
Eric Cooper was sprawled in the living room, clad in boxers. Cooper Chen, also stabbed, his throat slashed, was in the bathtub.
There are also new details about how this was discovered: Chen's sister, becoming concerned she could not reach him, called the manager of a swank high rise apartment where Chen had rented the penthouse after arriving from Duke.
The manager knocked on Chen's door. The doctor spoke with him briefly from behind the closed door and said he would contact his sister.
There was another concern too. Chen missed an orientation meeting at his new position at Virginia Mason Medical Center. He did not answer his phone, and a personnel manager -- a nurse -- went to his apartment.
The property manager and Medical Center representative knocked on Chen's door. This time he opened it, and slumped as he did.
"The defendant was wearing no clothes," a detective said in court documents. "He was covered in dried blood, his right eye was swollen shut, and he was holding a box in front of himself."
The box was actually a meat cleaver with blood on it. Following instructions from the 911 operator, the nurse kicked this away from Chen and into the kitchen.
A butcher knife and a knife blade broken off from the handle were found in the living room. Three knives with reddish-brown stains were found on the bed of the master bedroom.
Chen -- semiconscious when police arrived -- was asked by the first cop who was administering first aid, "Who stabbed you and your partner?" Chen replied, "I did."
As for the timing of the violence, no one in apartment building in Settle saw Chen, Cooper or their son for three days. And electronic access cards hadn't been used for three days either. The timing has yet to be confirmed by results of autopsies.
✔✔✔✔✔✔ The following is all based on reporting by The Seattle Times newspaper.
Chen and his partner shared a consuming desire to have a child.
Before going to Duke for a fellowship, Dr Chen was at the VA Hospital in Minneapolis, and laid plans for a child through a surrogate. This corrects an earlier report that the child had been adopted out of abject misery in SouthEast Asia.
Rather, the child was conceived with Chen's sperm and an egg from an anonymous Taiwanese woman. The child was carried to term by a surrogate mother from Oregon. The child -- born nearly three years ago -- was adopted at birth, and the gay couple gave him their names: Cooper Chen.
Quotes in the Seattle Times: "They loved that baby. They adored him," said a friend who had gone to medical school with Chen and is now a physician in Massachusetts. "It was one thing they always agreed on, and it was really very sweet."
The couple met when Chen -- from Taiwan -- was attending the University of Chicago School of Medicine 12 years ago. Cooper was 17, a high schol senior from Tinley Park, Illinois. A Cooper relative says he ran away from home to be with Chen; he was "head over heels in love with that man and followed him everywhere."
"He was a gay kid from a small-town high school," the Massachusetts physician said of Cooper. "He felt isolated. ... It was the kind of town where Chicago was the big city, but you didn't go there that often."
Chicago: with Chen studying for his MD, Cooper worked on his GED high school diploma.
San Diego: The couple moved so Chen could do a residency in internal medicine at the U of California.
Seattle: Chen changed his speciality to physical medicine and rehab at the U of Washington School of Medicine.
Back To San Diego: Chen changed his mind again about his specialty, returning to San Diego to complete his training in internal medicine.
Minnesota: Chen got a faculty appointment at the U of Minnesota and was an attending physician at the VA Hospital. Cooper earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota. The couple adopted their son.
Duke: Chen got a prestigious two-year (not three year) clinical fellowship in endocrinology. Chen loved his work, Cooper stayed at home with the baby, "very sweet, very nice and extraordinary" with their son. Cooper started an on-line flavored tea company that went nowhere. He made plans to go back to school to become a nurse. Cooper's interests included theater, non-Western cuisine and celebrity gossip, a friend said.
Duke has clamped the lid -- instructing everyone not to talk to reporters. Before this, Chen's supervisor, Dr. Mark Feinglos, praised him as "outstanding."
New job, Seattle: before moving, friends saw the couple's relationship eroding. But no hint of violence. They rented a high rise penthouse in the best neighborhood. And Chen -- after years in the closet -- came out and told his family about his husband and son.
"They completely accepted him, and his mother was excited to meet the child," said one friend. "She was coming out to Seattle to help them take care of him."
The plan: Chen and Cooper would separate amicably, Chen would rent a second apartment nearby, and they would co-parent their son equally. Apparently Cooper returned to Durham during this time, but later returned to Seattle.
The friend who related much of this information had not been in contact for three weeks. And then police were summoned to the penthouse. And Chen's mother flew to Seattle to find a lawyer for her son.