Local News

Autopsy: Raleigh woman slashed, stabbed 123 times

Posted October 17, 2017 11:10 a.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 1:40 p.m. EDT

— A Raleigh woman whose husband says he awoke from a dream last month to find her dead had been slashed and stabbed 123 times, according to an autopsy report released Tuesday.

Matthew James Phelps, 27, is charged with one count of first-degree murder in the Sept. 1 death of his wife, Lauren Hugelmaier Phelps, 29.

"I had a dream, and then I turn on the lights and she's dead on the floor," Matthew Phelps told a 911 dispatcher. "I have blood all over me, and there's a bloody knife on the bed, and I think I did it."

Police and paramedics found Lauren Phelps in the fetal position on the bedroom floor of her Patuxent Drive home, according to the autopsy report. She was pronounced dead at WakeMed.

A medical examiner counted 24 stab wounds and 20 cuts to her head and neck, 13 stab wounds and 11 cuts to her torso, 16 cuts and one stab wound on her right arm and 35 cuts and three stab wounds to her left arm.

Attorney Karl Kundsen said the 123 wounds would likely rule out an accident but, for the defense team, the number of wounds could also suggest something else.

"It is, in fact, indicative of somebody who may be detached from reality or having a psychotic state because they're doing it far, far in excess of what would be necessary," he said.

Matthew Phelps told the dispatcher he took too much Coricidin cough medicine the previous night to help him sleep. Knudsen said it's not a total defense.

"For those people who think, 'Well, I can go drink a couple of bottles of cough syrup and kill somebody and get away with it,' that's not what the law is," Knudsen said.

A person who becomes voluntarily intoxicated is still responsible for his or her actions, but Knudsen said "in certain circumstances, voluntary intoxication can negate the mental elements of premeditation, deliberation and specific intent to kill."

Knudsen said experts will be critical in the case.

"You would want to have a pharmacologist to testify about the substance and its effect and possibly a forensic psychiatrist as well, to talk about the legal effects of that degree of intoxication," he said.

Knudsen said that, if a jury believes Matthew Phelps was intoxicated and detached from reality, it could result in the charge against him being dropped from first-degree murder to second-degree murder.

The Phelpses had been married for less than a year. She was an auditor at Quintiles, which runs drug trials for pharmaceutical companies, and he worked for Dunlap Lawn Service.