It was supposed to be his first day at work at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, so when Louis Chen didn’t show up, a hospital worker went to the 17th floor of his apartment building and knocked on the door.
Chen, an endocrinologist, answered it nude, holding a box for cover. He was dirty with dried blood, and his right eye was swollen shut.
That morning of Aug. 11, 2011, prosecutors said, his penthouse was a grisly scene — bloodstained letters were scattered around, along with two lifeless bodies and five knives that were thought to be used in their deaths.
Chen, who was found with a cocktail of over-the-counter cold and cough medicines in his system, had been on a murderous rampage, prosecutors said. They said he brutally murdered his partner, 29-year-old Eric Cooper, stabbing him over and over in his face, neck and body. Then, they said, he turned to the couple’s 2-year-old son, Cooper, cutting the toddler’s throat from ear to ear, according to court documents.
The child bled out so slowly that, investigators said, he ran toward Eric Cooper’s lifeless body for help before he collapsed and then died.
Chen’s case caught nationwide attention when his attorneys made a curious claim: He was a victim of cough-syrup induced psychosis.
Chen, 44, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to first- and second-degree murder, was sentenced Friday to 49 years in prison — the maximum allowed under Washington state law, according to the Seattle Times. The decision followed an unusual argument made by Chen’s attorneys.
They said that when he committed the murders, he was suffering from mental health issues that were exacerbated by cough suppressants.
Chen’s attorney did not return a call seeking comment.
When Chen and Eric Cooper met, Cooper was a 17-year-old high school senior from southwest Chicago. Chen, nearly 10 years older, was an immigrant from Taiwan, studying at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine, friends told the Seattle Times.
Cooper moved with Chen to Minnesota, where the couple had their son, named Cooper — conceived with Chen’s sperm and an egg from a Taiwanese woman, and was carried by a surrogate.
Before they moved to Washington state in the summer of 2011, Cooper told Chen he wanted to separate, according to court documents.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Don Raz argued in court that Chen’s motivation for murder erupted from anger and anxiety over the split and a suspected custody battle for their son, according to the Seattle Times.
During what prosecutors have called a “prolonged and horrific attack,” police said Chen struggled with Eric Cooper in the dining room, where he stabbed him more than 177 times, according to court documents.
“Eric knew that his attacker was a man he had loved for 12 years, the father of his son, and a man he had felt he could safely live with despite their impeding separation,” according to the prosecution’s pre-sentence memorandum. “Most assuredly in those final moments, Eric’s thoughts turned to his beloved son, Cooper, who was right there in the apartment, possibly watching the attack.
“Eric’s final moments were unspeakably horrific as he wondered what fate awaited his son.”
Investigators determined that the 2-year-old boy suffered more than 20 cuts to his neck.
“What makes Cooper’s murder even more horrific is the identity of his attacker, the location of the attack and what Cooper would have seen and known in his last moments,” according to the memorandum. “The attacker was his own father, a man who should be willing to give his own life for his son rather than take it.”
The defense said that Chen, who battled depression and paranoia, experienced a psychotic breakdown when he mixed a concoction of self-prescribed medications and an over-the-counter cough suppressant.
“He was psychotic to the point that it interfered with his ability to know right from wrong,” Todd Maybrown, Chen’s defense attorney, recently said in court, according to the Seattle Times.
The ingredient at issue was dextromethorphan, one commonly found in cough syrups such as Robitussin and Delsym. Chen’s attorneys also argued that, due to his Asian genetics, it look his body longer to metabolize the drug, according to the Seattle Times.
Some studies have shown that an overdose of dextromethorphan can sometimes create feelings of dissociation, paranoia and psychosis, characterized by delusions and hallucinations.
The Seattle Times reported that Chen had dextromethorphan, as well as an antihistamine and Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug, in his system:
Chen spent 10 days at Harborview Medical Center, where he was treated in intensive care for an overdose of medications and self-inflicted stab wounds, according to a heavily redacted mental-health evaluation by psychiatrists at a state psychiatric hospital. He reported hallucinations and had to be restrained for a few days because he had assaulted nurses while delirious.
But during a psychological evaluation in December 2011, doctors said there were no indications Chen had suffered a psychotic breakdown.
Chen was, however, prescribed antipsychotic medication while he was in jail after what the Seattle Times described as “persistent, repeated requests from Chen and his defense attorneys.”
Late last year, Chen’s attorneys said that they intended to show that dextromethorphan affected Chen differently than some other people.
“The defense will also present evidence that Dr. Chen has a genetic makeup, which compromises his ability to metabolize this chemical,” Maybrown wrote in a declaration, according to the Seattle Times.
The Times reported:
The argument appears to allude to scientific research showing a wide variability in how quickly people metabolize certain drugs based on production of a key enzyme. It appears that people of Asian descent may have a 50-50 chance of being born with a functioning gene variant for the normal metabolism of drugs like dextromethorphan. But roughly 40 percent of Asians and Pacific Islanders have reduced function, indicating a slower metabolism, according to a 2002 article in the Pharmacogentic Journal.
Slow or poor metabolism can increase the chances of adverse drug interactions or lead to a toxic buildup in the body.
Chen, who was initially charged with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder, pleaded guilty in February to a lesser charge of first-degree murder for the death of his young son and second-degree murder for the death of his partner, according to court documents.
Eric Cooper’s mother, Dawn Miller, joined others in court late last week, requesting the maximum sentence for Chen.
“I’ll never be able to hear the sound of his voice again, never have to wait until his laughter subsided to hear a punch line — never again will I hear him tell me about all his future hope and plans, never,” she said,according to SeattlePi.com.
And Chen expressed regret.
“The tear I caused in the fabric of our universe is profound,” Chen told the judge, according to the news site.
The court acknowledged that Chen suffers from mental health issues and recommended that the department of corrections place him in a facility where he can receive psychiatric monitoring and treatment.
by Lindsey Bever, mydaytondailynews.com
August 3, 2016
Dear Drugs-Forum readers: We are a small non-profit that runs one of the most read drug information & addiction help websites in the world. We serve over 4 million readers per month, and have costs like all popular websites: servers, hosting, licenses and software. To protect our independence we do not run ads. We take no government funds. We run on donations which average $25. If everyone reading this would donate $5 then this fund raiser would be done in an hour. If Drugs-Forum is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online another year by donating whatever you can today. Donations are currently not sufficient to pay our bills and keep the site up. Your help is most welcome. Thank you.
A doctor murdered his partner and 2-year-old son and blamed it on cough syrup