"Cough-Syrup Induced Psychosis" Blamed for Gruesome Seattle Murder

Attorneys for a Seattle-based physician charged with a 2011 double-murder allege that he had committed the crime while suffering from a form of insanity caused by an overdose of a popular cough syrup.   Louis Chen, a 43-year-old endocrinologist, had recently moved to the Seattle area to take a new job and was on the verge of separating from his long-time partner, Eric Cooper, with whom he was raising Chen's two-year-old son, Cooper.    According to police, Chen is charged with stabbing Eric Cooper more than one hundred times in August, 2011.   He then cut his son's throat.

Staff at the Seattle hospital where Chen was working became concerned when he failed to show up at his first day of work.   Getting no answer on the telephone, a hospital manager went to Chen's 17th-floor apartment where he found the doctor naked and covered with dried blood.  Once police were called, they found the two bodies and, on asking Chen who committed the killings, he answered simply, "I did."  

Over the next few days, Eric Chen was treated for his self-inflicted stab wounds and an apparent overdose of dextromethorpan, a common ingredient in many cough syrups.  During his time in hospital, Chen was openly delirious and even assaulted nurses on more than one occasion.  A subsequent mental health examination found no indication of mental illness that might allow for an insanity defense.   He has been receiving anti-psychotic medication in prison.

While Chen's attorneys are blaming the murders on the high level of dextromethorpan in his system, prosecutors maintain that Eric Cooper had threatened to tell Chen's new employer about his drug abuse as a bargaining chip in a custody battle over the son they were raising together.  Police found a number of different prescriptions in their apartment along with prescriptions written by Chen.    Chen insists that he and Cooper were in the process of an amicable split with an agreement that he would pay his partner $130000 but the question of who would gain custody of their son, Cooper seemed undecided.

Cooper had been conceived using Chen's sperm and the egg of an anonymous Taiwanese woman and had been carried to term using a surrogate mother in Oregon.  Chen had met Eric Cooper while he was in medical school and Cooper was a 17-year-old high-school student who had run away from home to be with him.   While Chen had hidden his sexuality from his family in Taiwan until recently, his mother had been planning to come to Seattle to meet her grandson for the first time.

'They loved that baby. They adored him,"  said one  friend who went to medical school at the University of Chicago with Chen in an interview with the Seattle Times.  "It was one thing they always agreed on, and it was really very sweet."     County prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for Chen if he is convicted of the double murder.    Chen's defense attorneys are likely to claim diminished responsibility in his case depending on whether he was voluntarily intoxicated at the time of the killings.

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