RALEIGH, NC — An aspiring pastor in North Carolina who claimed that he woke up from a cold medicine-induced “haze” to find his wife’s dead body has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.
Matthew James Phelps, 30, was charged in the September 1, 2017, death of his wife, Lauren Hugelmaier Phelps, 29. Phelps dialed 911 at about 1:10 A.M. that morning and told the 911 operator that he took “more medicine than I should have” and may have fatally stabbed his wife.
An autopsy showed that Lauren suffered 123 cuts and stab wounds during the vicious attack at the couple’s Raleigh townhouse. The couple had been married for less than a year.
He said, “I took Coricidin Cough and Cold because I know it can make you feel good. A lot of times I can’t sleep at night. So I took some.” However, prosecutors referred in court to tests that they claim showed the amount of cold medicine Phelps took was not toxic.
Phelps will spend the rest of his life in jail, according to his lawyer, since as part of the plea agreement he will not be eligible for parole.
In court Friday Phelps apologized and blamed “drinking, drugs, and carelessness” for the attack. “I feel like a monster, one of the wretched, a part of the darkness we don’t speak of,” he said. “That darkness consumed me until I was blind to the path I had taken and deaf to my own cries for help.”
During the course of the investigation detectives discovered that the couple had been arguing over money and Phelps’ spending habits, according to the Charlotte News & Observer. Investigators discovered $1,200 worth of iTunes and Xbox subscriptions —charges for Phelps’ video game activities. According to the paper, Lauren had been planning to leave the relationship.
In addition, a detective wrote in charging documents that they “learned that Phelps was obsessed with the movie American Psycho and [his] Instagram account shows numerous photographs of scenes from the movie and Phelps dressed as the main character.”
The Charlotte News & Observer reports that “more than 50” supporters of Lauren were in court Friday morning wearing #LaurensLight T-shirts.
Main photo: Matthew Phelps [WRAL screenshot]