Lauren Nicole Hugelmaier Phelps was the victim of 123 stab wounds and cuts last month during a frenzied attack in the bedroom of her home, according to an autopsy report made public Tuesday. Her husband, who faces murder charges, contends he took too much cold medicine before falling asleep, then awoke to find his wife’s bloody body.
State pathologists documented 44 cuts and stabs, some more than four inches deep, about her head and neck during the attack, according to the autopsy report. Those were part of a total 123 stabs and cuts all over her body that were thought to have been made with a kitchen knife, the autopsy said.
Matthew James Phelps, a 29-year-old Bible college graduate, is charged with first-degree murder and is currently being held in the Wake County jail without benefit of bail. Phelps called 911 just before 1:10 a.m. on Sept. 1 and described to a dispatcher that he had awakened to the bloody scene.
Emergency workers arrived at the couple’s townhouse in northwest Raleigh and found Lauren Phelps, 29, in a fetal position on the bedroom floor, according to the autopsy report. She was rushed to WakeMed and died in the emergency department at 1:43 a.m., according to the autopsy report.
In addition to the wounds to her head and neck, pathologists found 13 stab wounds and 11 cuts about her torso, 16 slashes and one stab wound on her right arm, along with 35 cuts and three stab wounds on her left arm. A stab wound on the left side of her neck completely severed her left jugular vein and her left common carotid artery, which supplies the head and neck with blood. Her body was covered with smeared blood, according to the autopsy report.
The state examiners surmised that the wound patterns were consistent with a single-edged blade, according to the autopsy report. Toxicologists did not detect alcohol in the woman’s body, nor did she have any pre-existing natural disease.
In Matthew Phelps’ 911 call, he said he took too much Coricidin Cold & Cough medicine before going to sleep. He recalled having a dream, then waking up to see his wife’s body on the floor and a knife on the bed. The call was made public by the Raleigh Police Department after the slaying.
“There’s blood all over me, and there’s a bloody knife on the bed. I think I did it,” Phelps told the dispatcher in the nearly six-and-a-half-minute call.
“I took more medicine than 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.”
Phelps then said, “Oh my God. Oh God. She didn’t deserve this. Why?”
Raleigh lawyers Joseph Blunt Cheshire V and Elliot Sol Abrams are representing Phelps.
After the accused man’s first court appearance, Cheshire said that even though the case is in its early stages, the effects of the cold medicine are “certainly an interesting subject of inquiry.” The medicine’s potential side effects includes hallucinations and out-of-body experiences.
In late September, a grand jury was presented with evidence that suggested the death of Lauren Phelps was an act of premeditated murder, according to an indictment filed at the Wake County Clerk of Superior Courts Office. The jurors found enough probable cause to determine that Matthew Phelps “willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously did of malice aforethought kill and murder” his wife, with whom he had been married less than a year, according to the one-page indictment.
Earlier this month, investigators recovered what appeared to be bloodied bedding and an empty cold medicine box from the Phelps’ home at 5246 Patuxent Drive, according to a search warrant application.
Investigators say Phelps repeated the claim that he had “harmed” his wife when he was first taken into custody, police detective J.B. Stroud stated in the search warrant application.
Police seized a white bedspread, a white sheet, a gray-white comforter and several pillowcases that were all marred “with an unknown red substance,” according to the search warrant.
The investigators also seized an empty box of Coricidin Cough & Cold medicine, a knife block set, a silver Dell laptop, two Apple Macbooks, an iPhone that belonged to Lauren Phelps, a large Apple computer and other items including receipts, credit cards and a mortgage statement, according to the search warrant.
Thomasi McDonald: 919-829-4533, @thomcdonald