An aspiring North Carolina pastor with a interest in serial killers and videogames who initially told investigators he found his wife dying after he awoke from a medicine-induced slumber, has pleaded guilty to the murder.
Matthew James Phelps, 30, admitted Friday that he was responsible for brutally stabbing his wife, 29-year-old Lauren Hugelmaier Phelps, in their home on Sept. 1, 2017, after maintaining his innocence for more than a year in what became known as a “cough medicine defense,” according to WRAL.com.
The guilty plea came as part of a deal with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty, and Phelps will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to WTVD Raleigh.
In a tearful statement, Phelps, a formerly cleancut man now sporting a scraggly beard and a shaggy head of hair, apologized to the family of his wife for taking her life, WTVD reports.
"I feel like a monster, part of the wretched, part of the darkness we don't speak of," Phelps said said to his in-laws, according to WTVD. "This was a senseless, mindless act, and I regret every step that led me in that direction."
Phelps’ delivered his tearful apology to a courtroom packed with family and friends of his late wife, who showed up wearing blue T-shirts and pins bearing an image of her face, according to WRAL.
Phelps and his wife had been married less than a year when she was murdered, but the relationship was already unravelling according to WRAL.
Phelps, who maintained an Instagram account under the name “Marty Radical,” to which he posted numerous photos related to the movie American Psycho, was apparently spending huge sums of money on iTunes and XBox games, and his wife had tried to no avail to curtail his spending, WRAL reported in April.
On the morning of the stabbing, a distraught Phelps called 911 to report that his wife was gravely injured, and that he feared he may have been the culprit, WRAL reported.
"I had a dream, and then I turn on the lights and she's dead on the floor," Matthew Phelps told a 911 dispatcher, according to the news station. "I have blood all over me, and there's a bloody knife on the bed, and I think I did it."
When paramedics arrived, they found her in a fetal position, clutching a tuft of hair, and suffering from more than 100 stab wounds to her face, neck, torso, arms and throat, WTVD reports.
Despite his admission to the 911 dispatcher, Phelps tried to dodge responsibility by claiming that he had taken a large dose of Coricidin cough medicine the night before in order to sleep, and had woken up in a fog to find his wife bleeding out, according to WRAL.
Nearly a dozen people spoke at the hearing Friday, painting a portrait of Lauren Phelps as a loving, independent woman, with her mother calling her daughter “beautiful inside and out,” according to WRAL.
In a statement to the court, Lauren Phelps’ father, Dale Hugelmaier, admonished Phelps for taking his daughter from him, WRAL reports.
"It does give me satisfaction knowing that your life is going to be hard, every day a living hell," Hugelmaier told Phelps, according to WRAL.
[Photo Credit: Raleigh Police Department]