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Man accused of 'cough medicine' killing was fascinated with 'American Psycho,' police say

Cold medicine murder suspect has first court appearance

Matthew James Phelps makes a first court appearance after being charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Lauren Ashley-Nicole Phelps. Raleigh police charged Phelps, 29, with murder a little after 6 a.m. Friday, said police spokes
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Matthew James Phelps makes a first court appearance after being charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Lauren Ashley-Nicole Phelps. Raleigh police charged Phelps, 29, with murder a little after 6 a.m. Friday, said police spokes

A man who told police that he thought he killed his wife after taking cold medicine was fascinated with the horror film "American Psycho" and talked to a friend about what it would be like to kill someone, according to search warrants.

Matthew Phelps, a 29-year-old Bible college graduate, called 911 just after 1:10 a.m. Sept. 1. He said his wife of less than a year, Lauren Hugelmaier Phelps, had been stabbed. He then told police that he had taken Coricidin and awoke to find his wife dead and a knife on the bed in their home on Patuxent Drive in North Raleigh.

Police charged Phelps with first-degree murder in the case, which has gained national attention with experts weighing in on the potential side effects of cold medicine and cough syrup.

Documents filed with the Wake County Magistrate's Office say the couple had been having marital problems, and a Raleigh police detective wrote that Phelps appeared to be fascinated with "American Psycho," a movie about a serial killer. Investigators learned that Phelps maintained an Instagram account with the username marty_radical.

Murder suspect Matthew James Phelps says he took too much cold medicine, then woke to find his wife dead.

"It was learned that Matthew Phelps was obsessed with the movie 'American Psycho' and this Instagram account shows numerous photographs of scenes from the movie and Phelps dressed as the main character," the detective wrote. "The movie is about a serial killer, and Phelps expressed interest to a friend regarding what it would be like to kill someone."

Police asked permission to search "any video games, movies, pictures or electronic media that might contain evidence of fascination with felonious or homicidal activity," according to documents.

Friends told investigators that the couple "would argue frequently" and had been disagreeing about finances, according to police. Matthew Phelps "was spending more money than the couple made," a detective wrote, and Lauren Phelps "had recently taken drastic steps to limit her husband's spending."

Investigators also learned that Lauren Phelps was "preparing to end the relationship."

Detectives obtained a total of seven search warrants to seize cellphones that belonged to the couple, information from their respective Facebook accounts, the townhouse they shared and their vehicles: a 2014 Ford Fusion and a 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander.

The investigators used the warrants to seize electronic devices, handwritten documents and two books, "Party Games" and "American Supernatural Tales," from the home. More handwritten notes and a diary were seized from the vehicles.

Although investigators found blood on Matthew Phelps when they arrived at the couple's home, the detectives reported finding evidence that suggested he cleaned himself up before calling 911.

The police found Lauren Phelps "clutching hair in hands at the time of her death."

The detectives used two of the warrants to obtain DNA and blood samples from Matthew Phelps to compare with the hair collected during his wife's autopsy.

Thomasi McDonald: 919-829-4533, @thomcdonald
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