An aspiring pastor who admitted that he may have killed wife in his sleep after taking too much cold medicine could face the death penalty or life in prison if he is convicted of the crime.
Matthew Phelps, 29, had told a 911 dispatcher last Friday that he awoke to find his wife stabbed and bloody on their bedroom floor.
"I have blood all over me and there's a bloody knife on the bed and I think I did it," Phelps said, noting that he had taken cold medicine before he went to sleep.
"I took more medicine than I should have. I took Coricidin Cough and Cold because I know it can make you feel good. A lot of times I can't sleep at night. So, I took some," he told the operator, according to USA Today.
Phelps, a former missions and evangelism student at Clear Creek Baptist Bible College in Pineville, Kentucky, had been charged with the fatal stabbing of his 29-year-old wife, Lauren Ashley-Nicole Phelps, who was a Sunday school teacher at the church they attended.
He appeared in court on Tuesday and had been told by the judge that he could face the death penalty or life in prison for if he is convicted of first-degree murder.
However, a seasoned defense attorney had said that Phelps' claim of stabbing his wife in his sleep could hold up in court as a defense.
"It sounds farfetched to the general public," Chris Beechler, of Beechler Tomberlin in Winston-Salem, told People Magazine. "But I will tell you, the idea that certain meds can get into your system and cause you to do things that you're not aware of is completely possible," he added.
Phelps' lawyer, Joseph Blunt Chesire V, had told reporters that his client's use of cold medicine prior to the incident is "certainly an interesting subject of inquiry."
Bayer, which makes Coricidin, had issued a statement expressing company's condolences, but it maintained that "there is no evidence to suggest that Coricidin is associated with violent behavior."
According to Beechler, Phelps' could possibly be convicted with a lesser charge or even be acquitted if he uses the cold medicine claim as a defense in court. He noted that Phelps' defense lawyer could argue automatism, which holds that the suspect was unconscious during the alleged crime and "was unable to control his physical actions."
A family friend has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help raise funds to cover the funeral expenses. As of Sept. 8, a total of $10,442 had been raised towards the $20,000 goal on the crowdfunding site YouCaring.