Alleged cough medicine killer who ‘accidentally’ killed wife after a deep sleep could face death penalty: Judge

A North Carolina man who claimed taking too much cough medicine made him kill his wife faced a judge this morning on charges of murder, where he learned he could possibly face the death penalty or life in prison.

The News & Observer reports that Matthew James Phelps, 27, is behind bars without bond after he allegedly stabbed his wife to death in their Raleigh townhome, after he claimed he took too much cough syrup the night before. Wake County District Court Judge Keith Gregory informed Phelps that since he was charged with murder in the state of North Carolina, he could face life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

Sensing there would be emotional outbursts in the courtroom, Gregory told the public to step outside if they couldn’t control themselves. Phelps, wearing a orange and white jail jumpsuit, then entered the courtroom and appeared meek and sullen as the judge read him his charges.

Phelps called 911 a little after 1:10 a.m. on Friday from his home off of the 5200 block of Patuxent Drive. He claimed he took “too much Coricidin Cough and Cold” put him in a deep sleep and gave him weird dreams.

“I had a dream and then I turned on the lights and she’s dead on the floor,” Phelps told a 911 dispatcher. “There’s blood all over me, and there’s a bloody knife on the bed. I think I did it…..I took more medicine that I should have. I took Coricidin Cough and Cold because I know it can make you feel good and sometimes I can’t sleep at night……Oh my God. Oh God. She didn’t deserve this. Why?”

Bayer, the company that makes Coricidin, told ABC News that the family has their deepest sympathies. However, the company stressed that the cough medicine has never been associated with any side effects of violence.

“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.”

The victim, 29-year-old Lauren Phelps, was rushed to the hospital by paramedics, where she was pronounced dead. When medical personnel arrived at the townhome, they noted stab wounds all over her body. Friends and family later set up a YouCaring page, to help with burial and medical expenses.

My heart sank yesterday when I heard the passing of Lauren. I am in disbelief,” a friend wrote on Lauren’s Facebook remembrance page. “She was one of the purest souls one could ever meet. Her kind heart and sweet nature are an extremely rare find. She was a great friend to anyone lucky enough to call her one.”

Phelps, a 2011 graduate of the Clear Creek Baptist Bible College in 2011 in Pineville, Kentucky, didn’t have a criminal history. According to his Facebook page, the couple enjoyed Star Wars, even dancing together with light sabers at their wedding last year.

A judge set Phelps’ next court date for September 25.

[Feature Photo: Raleigh PD]