Local News

Louisburg man was sleepwalking during fatal stabbing

Posted October 27, 2011
Updated October 28, 2011

— A Franklin County man who admitted to stabbing his 14-year-old sister to death and stabbing his mother was back home on Thursday after state psychiatrists found he committed the crimes while he was sleepwalking.

In January 2010, Joseph Bravio Mendez was accused of stabbing his mother, Lydia Etanislao, about 20 times while she was sleeping and stabbing and killing his sister, Julianna Mathews.

Mendez, then 18, was charged with murder.

"All of a sudden, I felt a sharp pain and when I looked, I saw him attacking me," Etanislao said Thursday.

After months of testing, Mendez's mother says it became clear he had no memory of the attack. In court, a psychiatrist for the state testified Mendez had been sleepwalking during the stabbings.

"This was a very unique case in that the state's own psychiatrist came to the conclusion that this was a sleepwalking case," Mendez's attorney Boyd Sturges said.

Mendez pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and assault. He was given credit for time served.

Joseph Mendez, charged with killing sister, injuring mother Man was sleepwalking during stabbing

Though disappointed with the outcome, Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Annette Sellars said with the state's two main witnesses both saying Mendez did not know what he was doing, it would be tough to get a first-degree murder conviction.

"The thing that people don't need to lose sight of is that Joseph is extremely sad," Sturges said.

Etanislao said she knew there was something wrong with her son. "Him doing this on his own, he would have never done that," she said.

Mendez is on probation for the next three years and must continue to have mental health evaluations. His family said he is now on medication for depression.

Etanislao said it is great to have her son home.

"I feel so happy that he's home," she said.


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  • barbstillkickin Oct 31, 2011

    You are right kikinc you are not suppose to wake up a sleepwalker. All i said was I use to do that because of a drug but MY DOCTOR TOOK ME OFF IT. I was woken up by loud noises when I was sleep walking that is why I said he had to have woke up with all the screaming. Families who protect murderers are not helping the problem but making it worse.

  • Lamborghini Mercy Oct 28, 2011

    He can sleepwalk all he wants... behind bars.

  • OnlyTheBestWillDo Oct 28, 2011

    Yeah right, sleepwalking

  • bgreen Oct 28, 2011

    I believe these shrinks would by beachfront property in Arizona.

  • wildcat Oct 28, 2011

    Sleepwalking, is that a proven fact or did he know what he was doing?

  • WRALwontdeletemyaccount Oct 28, 2011

    Ridiculous...any bets how long to the next "sleepwalk"?

    What a travesty.

  • bcox50 Oct 28, 2011

    I would sleep with my doors locked if he was in the house!

  • saywhaaaaat Oct 28, 2011


  • mille045 Oct 28, 2011

    nowhere in the article does it state that the medication made him do anything

  • BrightLight Oct 28, 2011

    When I was a kid, I was sleepwalking one night, ended up in my sister's room and touched her face. Keep in mind that it was totally dark because there usually were no night lights(inside or outside)back then(late '50s)in Eastern NC rural areas. She woke up and screamed which, in turn woke me up and also scared the bejabbers out of me. I turned, ran into the wall, and fell backwards on my sister's bed at which point she screamed even more. Of course, my whole family woke up, turned on the lights and came charging into the room. My family knew I walked in my sleep and they all thought it was very funny when they realized what had happened. I did not think it was funny at the time but in hindsight, it had to have been hilarious.