A North Carolina woman was found dead in her home Friday morning and police say her husband told them he thinks he stabbed her in their bed after taking too much cold medicine.
Matthew Phelps, 28, has been charged with murder in the death of his 29-year-old wife, Lauren Hugelmaier Phelps, the News & Observer reports.
“I had a dream and then I turned on the lights and she’s dead on the floor,” Phelps told a 911 dispatcher after calling about 1:10 a.m. Friday. “I can’t believe I did this,” Phelps said. “I can’t believe I did this.”
When asked what he thought he did, Phelps told the dispatcher, “I think I killed my” wife. He later told the dispatcher, “Oh my God. Oh God. She didn’t deserve this. Why?”
Joseph Cheshire, Phelps’ attorney, told WRAL-TV, “”Matthew’s family and everyone at my firm really send our condolences to the young lady who died. It’s a very tragic situation, sad and tragic. At the same time we have to ask everyone to withhold judgment in this particular case until we know more and we’re able to develop more. There’s a lot to this story I believe will be told in the future.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Matthew Phelps Told a 911 Dispatcher ‘There’s Blood All Over Me & There’s a Bloody Knife on the Bed. I Think I Did It’
Matthew Phelps called 911 from his Raleigh townhouse about 1:10 a.m. on September 1 to report that he needed help for his wife, WTVD-TV reports.
You can listen to the chilling call below:
In the call, Phelps shows no emotion as he gives his address to the 911 dispatcher, who then asks, “tell me exactly what happened.” Phelps then tells him, “I think I killed my” wife (the end of his statement appears to have been redacted for the victim’s privacy from the 911 call.)
Phelps, breathing heavily, tells the dispatcher, “I had a dream and then I turned on the lights and she’s dead on the floor. … I have blood all over me and there’s a bloody knife on the bed, and I think I did it. … I can’t believe this. I can’t believe this.”
He tells the dispatcher he didn’t know what time it was when asked when he woke up to find his wife. The dispatcher asks him if he is with “the patient,” and he responds “yeah, I can see here,” while seemingly beginning to get emotional.” The dispatcher then asks Phelps if she is awake and what makes him think she’s dead, and he responds, “she’s not breathing. Oh my God,” and begins to cry. The dispatcher then asks Phelps if his wife is beyond help and he replies, “I don’t know, I’m too scared to get close to her.”
Later in the 7-minute call, Phelps tells the dispatcher, “I took more medicine than I should have. … I took Coricidin cough and cold, because I know it can make you feel good. So, a lot of times I can’t sleep at night … I took some.”
Phelps was later taken into custody and charged with murder about 6 a.m. He was booked into the Wake County Jail. Police said they are still investigating and do not believe it was a random incident. They have not commented about a possible motive or Phelps’ claims in the 911 call that he took too much cold medicine.
Bayer, the makers of Coricidin, said in a statement, “Bayer extends our deepest sympathies to this family. 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.”
According to CBS News, “Coricidin contains dextromethorphan and chlorpheniramine, which experts say when taken in high doses – which is typically a result of recreational use – can cause euphoria, agitation, psychoses and dissociative phenomena.”
The website for Coricidin includes a statement about the abuse of the cough syrup, especially by teens.
“Unfortunately, the abuse of over-the-counter (OTC) products by teens is a long-standing issue. This includes the abuse of products containing Dextromethorphan, one of the active ingredients in certain Coricidin® HBP products,” the website says. “When used as directed, dextromethorphan is a safe and effective cough suppressant found in more than 125 over-the-counter products and has been used for more than 50 years.”
Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent and contributor to ABC News, told the Associated Press, “He qualifies that, yes it does look like I did kill her. The knife is here. I have blood all over me. However, this medicine made me do it. That’s not an uncommon way for people in his position to respond.”
2. Hugelmaier Graduated From Appalachian State, Worked as an Auditor & Also Ran a Personal Sales Business, a Job She Loved, Her Family Says
Lauren Hugelmaier was born in Los Angeles and graduated from Swain County High School in North Carolina in 2007, according to her obituary. She later attended Appalachian State University, also in North Carolina, graduating in 2011 with a degree in business administration and management, according to her Linkedin profile.
She worked as an auditor at Quintiles, and “one of her passions was her personal business with Scentsy,” according to her obituary. Her Facebook page is filled with photos and videos about her side business, including trips she took with others who sell the Scentsy products. She posted a cheerful video on August 31, just hours before her death, promoting her business.
3. She Volunteered at Her Church as a Sunday School Teacher & Was Known for ‘Her Big Smile’ & Being ‘Always Full of Life’
Lauren Ashley Nicole Hugelmaier was an active member of Hope Lutheran Church and was a Sunday school teacher as part of her work with the church’s Children’s and Youth Ministries, her obituary says.
“Lauren was always full of life and her big smile will be greatly missed by everyone she knew,” her family wrote in her obituary. “Lauren could always be heard saying that her nephews were one of the most important parts of her life and that she was ‘one proud auntie nini’ followed closely by her love for her special fur baby, Cooper Hugelmaier.”
Ryker Hampton, who works at the church, wrote a tribute to her on her Facebook page:
I miss you a lot. I can’t seem to stop thinking about you. Doesn’t seem to really matter where I am or what I’m doing. When I got the call I just couldn’t believe it. I wanted it to be a bad joke. I still do. The past couple of days I’ve just spent in shock.
You were my superstar volunteer. You showed up to every youth night and event ready to turn whatever dumb idea I had into reality. I’m thankful for that. I remember all the nights after youth where’d we’d just hangout and talk about life. I miss those nights.
It’s seems particularly cruel that I’m missing your funeral today. You made all of my events and I can’t make yours.
I’m continuing the mission. I’m with the comfort dogs in Houston right now. You’d have loved this ministry so much.
I know today is supposed to be celebrating your life and saying goodbye but to be honest I don’t want to say goodbye. I want to text you and check up on life. I want to do another escape room again. I want to serve together again.
I get to see you again one day and that’s keeping me going. You finished your race and you finished well. I promise I’ll do the same. And hopefully I’ll figure out a few more escape games along the way.
Another friend, Amelia Haynes, wrote, “I am in disbelief. 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.”‘
A co-worker at Scentsy, Stephanie Tubbs, told WTVD-TV, “I think I’m in shock, to be honest. I just was talking with her last night on video and had a normal conversation and to hear what has happened is absolutely horrible.”
4. She & Phelps Went to the Same Middle School & Reconnected on Instagram in 2014, Bonding Over Their Love for Star Wars
Matthew Phelps and Lauren Hugelmaier were married on November 11, 2016, according to his Facebook page.
They shared a love for Star Wars, several photos on their Facebook pages show, and had a lightsaber battle during their wedding reception:
“6 months???? ALREADY… but it feels like just yesterday we had the best day of our lives celebrating and dancing with everyone we love!” Lauren wrote on Instagram in May, along with a photo from their wedding. “Although it was an amazing day I love our days spent together the last 6 months and wouldn’t take it back for anything in the world!”
She also wrote about him on Instagram on Valentine’s Day:
“Happy Valentine’s Day to the best husband there could ever be!!! I’m so blessed to have you forever and always ❤ God did good and knew exactly what he was doing. Our paths were perfectly planned for us to meet at the perfect time after learning the perfect lessons! I couldn’t have done it better myself,” she wrote. “I love your fun times, silly times, and all the in between times! Can’t wait to see our future times 🏖🎡🌮🎯🏠👶🏼 💋 xo -your wife.”
According to Lauren’s obituary, the couple were members of Hope Lutheran Church in Wake Forest, North Carolina.
Photos on their Facebook pages show that they had been dating since at least 2014 before they were engaged and married. According to his Instagram page, they first began dating after finding each other on social media.
“2 years ago I started dating this girl I found on Instagram,” he wrote on their wedding day. “And now look at us ❤️ @hugelmaierla, you are my density, I love you more than anything, and you make me the happiest I believe I could ever be 💏”
According to their wedding website, they went to middle school together and reconnected.
It was a normal day on Instagram just like any other… or so Matthew thought. Going through the routine of liking, commenting, even sharing other people’s pictures as well as posting some of his own. Come late afternoon, he was browsing through images of what his friends had liked when he came across… what he saw to be a very attractive young woman. He tapped on the square to see this pretty lady up closer. “Wait a minute,” he thought to himself, “I know this girl!” He went to her profile to confirm that it was her; the girl he had a crush on back in middle school. It was her! As quickly as his fingers could type, he sent Lauren a message…
Matt Phelps is originally from Bowling Green, Kentucky, according to his Facebook page. He works at Dunlap Lawn Service in Greensboro, North Carolina.
According to his Facebook page, Phelps, who has been described as an aspiring pastor, studied at missions and evangelism at Clear Creek Baptist Bible College in Pineville, Kentucky. He graduated from the school in 2011, he wrote on Facebook.
Phelps does not appear to have a criminal record. It is not known if he has hired an attorney and his family could not be reached for comment. A friend told WTVD-TV that he is in shock about what happened, and that Phelps came from a conservative Christian family. The friend told the news station that what happened was not something anyone could have seen coming.
5. She Was Laid to Rest on Monday, a Day Before Phelps Appeared in Court for the First Time
A funeral service was held for Lauren Hugelmaier, on Monday, according to WNCN-TV. There was no mention of her husband during the memorial service, according to the news station. Her obituary is in her maiden name, Lauren Hugelmaier, and also makes no mention of her husband.
A memorial fund has been set up at Youcaring.com. The fund had raised more than $6,000 by Monday.
“Lauren Hugelmaier’s life tragically ended on September 1, 2017. She was only 29 years old. As we grieve Lauren’s loss, there are financial challenges that lie ahead,” the fund’s creator, Valerie Hoy, wrote. “This fund will be used to help ease the financial burden for her grieving family. Any amount big or small will be greatly appreciated.”
Matthew Phelps is being held at the Wake County Jail without bail, according to online records. He appeared in court for the first time on Tuesday. According to the Raleigh News & Observer, Phelps, wearing a orange and white jail jumpsuit, had his head down when he entered the court room and listened in silence when he was told he could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted of first-degree murder. He was later taken out of court in handcuffs after the hearing.
Phelps’ attorney, Joseph Blunt Cheshire V, told the newspaper that the effects of cold medicine Phelps took before going to bed are “certainly an interesting subject of inquiry.”
Cheshire said of his client, “He’s been through a helluva trauma. He’s still recovering.”