Court Records Say Matt Choi Was Murdered by a Neighbor in His Apartment Building in the Hours After His Birthday Party

Shortly before 2 am, Choi's girlfriend “saw a figure dart from the front door entryway toward the bathroom.”

Outside a Portland apartment building. (Alex Wittwer)

Allen Alonzo Coe, who Multnomah County prosecutors say fatally stabbed Portland entrepreneur Matt Choi last month, pleaded not guilty to murder and burglary charges during an arraignment Nov. 19.

Choi, 33, is the co-founder of the popular kimchi brand Choi's Kimchi Company.  Choi died Oct. 25 in his Southeast Portland apartment. A medical examiner determined that Choi's death was a homicide by stabbing.

Prosecutors say Coe, 30, was a tenant in the same apartment complex as Choi, located in the 300 block of Southeast 12th Avenue in the Buckman neighborhood.

In a probable cause affidavit, Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Todd T. Jackson said that Choi was fatally stabbed in the chest when he confronted an intruder attempting to stab his girlfriend in their apartment bedroom.


The affidavit depicts a chilling scene: The home invasion occurred hours after Choi celebrated his 33rd birthday with a party at the East of Eleven Apartments. He went to sleep on the couch, and his girlfriend was in the bedroom.

Shortly before 2 am, she heard the front door close, and when she went to look, she "saw a figure dart from the front door entryway toward the bathroom." She woke Choi, who checked the bathroom. She then heard "thudding" noises from the bathroom.

"While on the bed, she saw a male figure, later identified as Allen Coe, enter the bedroom area with a knife and attempt to stab her," the affidavit says.

Choi pulled Coe away from his girlfriend, and the two fell to the floor. As Coe left the apartment, Choi's girlfriend saw he had been stabbed multiple times. He was pronounced dead at Emanuel Hospital from stab wounds to the chest.

That morning, Portland police homicide detectives found a green backpack lying in a communal trash area next to Choi's apartment. Inside the backpack, they found two Social Security cards for other residents of East of Eleven Apartments.

Officers learned from another tenant that someone matching Coe's description had been standing by the apartment building's call box in the early hours of Oct. 25. Building data showed someone had called Coe's unit twice at 1:46 am.

When police interviewed Coe, he said he had taken pizza boxes to the trash area around 1:45 am and heard a woman scream. During the interview, he spat on the ground. Police "collected swabs of the saliva and phlegm."

A detective reviewing surveillance video from the night of the killing saw that Coe was wearing the green backpack containing the stolen Social Security cards. DNA found on Choi's hands did not rule out the DNA sample found in Coe's spit.

Court records show Coe was arrested for possession of a stolen Toyota 4-Runner in Clackamas County on Oct. 31 and appeared in court three days later.

Portland Police Bureau homicide detectives identified Coe as a suspect, and the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force arrested him Nov. 18.

Multnomah County prosecutors charged Coe with murder in the first degree, attempted murder in the first degree, unlawful use of a weapon, burglary in the first degree and identity theft. He is being held in the Multnomah County Jail.

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