RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A 29-year-old Raleigh woman was stabbed more than 120 times in a September incident that saw her husband charged with murder.
Matthew James Phelps, 28, is charged with first-degree murder in the Sept. 1 death of his wife, Lauren Hugelmaier Phelps, 29, police said.
In a 911 call made by Matthew Phelps, he said he consumed too much cough syrup and he awoke from a dream to find his wife had been stabbed.
“I think I killed my (redacted),” Phelps said. “I had a dream and then I turned on the lights and she’s dead on the floor. I have blood all over me and there’s a bloody knife on the bed and I think I did it.”
Phelps then said he took more Coricidin than he should have. Coricidin is a cough medicine.
“I can’t believe this. I can’t believe this,” the caller said. “I’m so scared.”
Paramedics found Lauren Phelps in the fetal position on her bedroom floor. She was transported to the hospital where she later died, officials said.
“There is a precedent just in the general idea of the automatism defense or what’s more generally referred to as unconsciousness,” Kevin Marcilliat, a criminal defense attorney with the Roberts Law Group in Raleigh said.
Marcilliat has no tie to the case.
Marcilliat said the burden will be on the defense to show that Phelps was unconscious at the time he said he killed his wife.
And it’s happened before. Back in Durham in 2015, a jury acquitted Joseph Mitchell. He argued he wasn’t responsible for killing his four-year-old son because he was sleepwalking.
“The big difference is in that case there was no suggestion of any sort of voluntary intoxication or some sort of ingestion of a drug,” Marcilliat said.
Lauren Phelps suffered 123 stab wounds, according to the medical examiner.
Her head and neck had 44 wounds, with her left jugular suffering damage, the medical examiner’s report says. She was also stabbed in the left arm 38 times and 17 in her right arm.
“It’s certainly a potential game changer. If in fact, they’re trying to argue that he was unconscious at the time of the criminal act, if there’s truly that many stab wounds that could potentially (work) against them,” Marcilliat said.
The maker of Coricidin, Bayer released a statement to CBS North Carolina:
“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.”
Phelps is due back in court Monday. His attorney declined our request for comment.