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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 19, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 33
Horrific killing of Gay man & toddler son shocks Seattle
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Horrific killing of Gay man & toddler son shocks Seattle

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

On August 11, Seattleites learned of a crime that claimed the life of a Gay man and his toddler son, whom he was raising with the very man charged with killing them both.

As the grim details of the horrific murder scene have come to light, so, too, have the charges. On August 16, Dr. Louis C. Chen, 39, was charged with two counts of aggravated murder in connection with the deaths of his partner Eric Cooper, 29, and their 2-year-old son, Cooper Chen, in their First Hill apartment.

Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, told Seattle Gay News, 'The defendant is charged with two counts of aggravated murder in the first degree, a charge that carries a sentence of either life in prison without parole or the death penalty.'

'Under Washington state law, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg will have 30 days from the time of arraignment to decide whether to file a notice of intent to seek the death penalty,' said Donohoe. 'After the defendant is released from the hospital, he will be booked into the King County Jail and held without bail.'

Prosecutors had asked that Chen, who is currently at Harborview Medical Center with non life-threatening injuries and under police guard, be held without bail because he has close ties to his native Taiwan and possesses the financial means to flee.

INNOCENT BEGINNINGS
Chen and Cooper met 12 years ago when Chen was attending the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. Cooper was a 17-year-old high-school senior in Tinley Park, Illinois.

According to news reports in the Seattle Times, Cooper ran away from home to be with Chen and was described as being 'head over heels in love' with the man and 'followed him everywhere.'

According to public records, the couple moved to San Diego, California. After Chen's internal medicine residency at the University of California, San Diego, was complete, the two men moved to Seattle, where Chen began to study physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Chen decided to return to San Diego, where he stayed until he was granted a faculty appointment at the University of Minnesota and served as an attending physician at the VA Hospital in Minneapolis, while Cooper - who had earned his GED - continued his education, earning a bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota, according to public records.

It is while they were in Minnesota that the couple decided to have a child, said friends (who spoke to the Seattle Times on condition of anonymity). They began the process of having their child through surrogacy.

Nearly three years ago, Cooper Chen was born, using Chen's sperm and the egg of an anonymous Taiwanese woman (carried to term by a surrogate mother from Oregon). Eric Cooper adopted the child.

TURNING POINT
Friends told the Seattle Times that Chen had a 'type A' personality, while Cooper - who was described as 'very sweet, very nice, and extraordinary with their son' - stayed home with the baby.

'Several friends said that while Chen was the dominant personality in the relationship and could be 'bossy' to Cooper, there were no signs of the kind of rage that police say was evident at the crime scene,' the Seattle Times reported.

In July 2011, the family moved to Seattle, where they rented a penthouse apartment on First Hill.

Chen, who had previously hidden the fact that he was Gay - as well as the existence of his child - from his family, finally came out to them. His friends say that Chen's family 'completely accepted him' and his mother was scheduled to fly in from Taiwan to meet the toddler.

But that was never to happen. Friends said that by the time the couple and their son arrived in Seattle - despite many good years - Chen and Cooper had already decided to separate amicably.

Their plan, said friends, was to share the penthouse apartment while they got settled, and then Chen would rent another apartment nearby and they would co-parent equally.

But something went terribly wrong.

THE EVENTS OF AUGUST 8-11
Nobody knows exactly what went wrong between August 8 and 11. Neither Chen nor his family are talking to reporters (although reports have said some members of his immediate family have traveled to Seattle from Taiwan to secure legal representation for Chen).

For now, though, a three-day mystery exists because, according to the prosecutors' charging documents obtained by SGN, the last time the apartment complex's electronic key system registered anyone entering the apartment was at 3:30 p.m. on August 8.

The bodies and a blood-covered Chen were not found until August 11, three days later, leading prosecutors to theorize that the slayings could have taken place on any one of those days.

The King County Medical Examiner's Office has not yet released its official findings on the murder case.

What prosecutors and police do know is that on the morning of August 11, Chen's sister was trying desperately to get in touch with her brother. She contacted the apartment manager of the building where Chen, Cooper, and their toddler lived, because she had not heard from her brother in three days.

According to the formal charging documents, shortly after 9 a.m. that morning, the manager knocked on the door of the penthouse apartment. Chen didn't open the door. Instead, according to the building manager, Chen yelled from the other side of the door that the manager should return in one hour. The manager told Chen his sister was trying to contact him.

According to the court documents, Chen's sister also called Madonna Carlson, a manager at Virginia Mason Medical Center, who was already concerned because Chen had not shown up for a required orientation that morning. Chen was scheduled to begin work as an endocrinologist at Virginia Mason the following Monday.

Carlson then went to Chen's residence.

This time, responding to Carlson, Chen opened the door, and according to charging documents, he was nude, semiconscious, and covered in dried blood.

Carlson saw Eric Cooper's body - dressed only in boxer shorts - on the living room floor and immediately called 911. She was instructed to move any weapons away from the body, so she kicked a butcher knife into the kitchen, the court documents reported.

The police officers who arrived at the scene responding to the 911 call reported that Chen's right eye was swollen shut and he was found slumped near the front door.

When questioned by the officers, 'Who stabbed you and your partner?' Chen said, 'I did,' the charging documents said.

Sergeant Sean Whitcomb, a spokesman for the Seattle Police Department, told the media that SPD officers at the scene described the slayings inside the apartment as 'horrific.'

Charging documents stated that Eric Cooper was found dead in the living room of the couple's apartment with wounds to his face, neck, chest, back, and hands. Prosecutors reported that he had been stabbed at least 100 times.

Their son, Cooper Chen, was found dead in the bathtub. He had suffered numerous cuts to his neck.

Both police and prosecutors allege that as many as five knives may have been used in the savage attacks. 'All of the knives had reddish-brown stains on them that appeared to be blood,' read the charging statement. According to police, a butcher knife was found, along with a large kitchen knife with the blade broken off. Chen's formal arraignment is scheduled for August 29 at 8:30 a.m. at the King County Courthouse, Room 1201.

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