Raleigh man who blamed cough syrup after wife’s death appears in court

Phelps in court on Tuesday. CBS North Carolina photo

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Matthew Phelps walked into the courtroom silently staring at the floor on Tuesday.

Not once did he look at the crowded seats behind him. He is being charged with the murder of his wife Lauren Hugelmaier Phelps.

RELATED: Funeral held for Raleigh woman whose husband blamed cough syrup after waking up with bloody knife

The courtroom was full of her loved ones.

“We don’t know a whole lot more at this point in time than you do, although we certainly have talked with him. I’m not at liberty to share any of that conversation,” said Joe Cheshire, Phelps’ attorney.

In a 911 call, Phelps told dispatchers he took Coricidin to help him sleep.

“I took more medicine than I should have,” he said. “I had a dream and turned on the lights and she’s dead on the floor,” Phelps told dispatchers. “I have blood over me there’s a bloody knife on the bed and I think I did it,” he said.

Coricidin is a cold medicine for people with high blood pressure.

One health study published on the U.S. National Library of Medicine website said if it’s abused, the drug can cause euphoria, agitation, and could lead to hallucinations.

Bayer, the company who makes the drug released a statement saying:

“Bayer extends our deepest sympathies to this family.  Patient safety is our top priority, and we continually monitor adverse events regarding all of our products.  There is no evidence to suggest that Coricidin is associated with violent behavior. “

“Sir, you could receive the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole,” the judge told Phelps.

His attorney called the case tragic and said there was a lot more to learn.

“He’s been through a hell of a trauma and he’s still kind of recovering from that particular trauma,” Cheshire said. “We have to ask everybody to withhold judgment in this particular case until we know more,” he added.

Phelps will stay in jail without bond. His next court date is September 25.

“Hopefully at the end we’ll solve all the mysteries that surround this case,” Cheshire said.

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