Autopsy: Pastor's Wife Had 123 Knife Wounds

Matthew James Phelps blamed killing on cold medicine
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 18, 2017 3:06 AM CDT
'Cold Medicine Murder' Victim Had 123 Wounds
Matthew James Phelps.   (Raleigh Police Department)

The wife of an aspiring pastor in North Carolina had 123 stab wounds and cuts after what investigators say was a frenzied attack at their Raleigh home last month. Matthew James Phelps, husband of Lauren Hugelmaier Phelps, has been held without bail on a first-degree murder charge since the Sept. 1 killing. In a 911 call early that morning, the 29-year-old told a dispatcher he thought he had killed her in his sleep after taking more cough and cold medication than he should have. "There's blood all over me, and there's a bloody knife on the bed. I think I did it," he said. "I took Coricidin Cough and Cold because I know it can make you feel good and sometimes I can’t sleep at night."

State pathologists say Lauren Phelps had 44 cut and stab wounds from a kitchen knife, some of them 4 inches deep, around her head and neck, the News and Observer reports. One of the cuts severed her left jugular vein. She also had dozens of wounds on her arms and torso. Attorney Karl Knudsen tells WRAL that the shocking number of wounds could actually help Phelps' defense. "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 adds, however, that taking medicine is 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," he says. (More murder stories.)

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