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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor-in-Training Matthew Phelps Accused of Murdering His Wife

matthew and lauren phelps

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Matthew Phelps, an Evangelical pastor-in-training at Clear Creek Baptist Bible College in Pineville,Kentucky, stands accused of murdering his wife. reports:

A 28-year-old North Carolina man is facing a murder charge after allegedly stabbing his wife in bed — but the newlywed claims he doesn’t remember carrying out the alleged crime because he might have done it in his sleep, PEOPLE confirms.

Matthew Phelps, of Raleigh, called police distraught early Friday morning, declaring that his wife, Lauren, was dead on their bedroom floor covered in blood.

“I had a dream and then I turned on the lights and she’s dead on the floor,” he says in a 911 call obtained by PEOPLE. “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.”

He told the dispatcher through tears that his wife wasn’t breathing and that he was afraid to get close to her — “I’m so scared,” he said.

Phelps is charged with murder and is being held at Wake County Detention Center without bail, a jail spokesperson tells PEOPLE. As police work to determine the circumstances around Lauren’s death, Phelps suggested during the 911 call that cold medicine he took the night before might have led to his alleged actions.

I took more medicine than I should have,” he said. “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 added: “Oh my God. She didn’t deserve this.”

Phelps and Lauren had been married for less than a year, ABC News reports. Both of their apparent Facebook pages are filled with wedding photos of the young couple along with pictures that show their shared love for Star Wars.

Phelps’ account shows that he studied missions and evangelism at Clear Creek Baptist Bible College. Lauren was a Sunday school teacher and Phelps was studying to be a pastor, a friend told ABC.


Matthew Phelps has been married before. In 2011, Phelps married Lana Bowlin:

Lana Bowlin of Mount Vernon announces the engagement of her daughter, Marlanda Brooke Bowlin, to Matthew James Phelps, son of Melodye and Jason Campbell and grandson of Amel and Teresa Hardcastle of Bowling Green.

Brooke is also the daughter of the late Marvin Bowlin. She is a graduate of Clear Creek Baptist Bible College and is a member of Calvary Baptist Church.
Matthew is a graduate of Clear Creek Baptist Bible College and is a member of Calvary Baptist Church.

The wedding will be at 2 p.m. Aug. 6, 2011, at Calvary Baptist Church, with a reception afterward at the church.


In an October 18, 2017 report for The Morning Call, Thomas McDonald wrote:

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 4 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, 29, 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.



  1. Avatar

    The cough medicine made me do it. That’s a very novel excuse.

    I hope that the pastor-in-training is locked up for long enough that he will not have an opportunity to kill his next wife.

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        My thoughts exactly. Also reminded me of a case where I live from several years back, where a man stabbed his wife to death in their backyard. Several neighbors witnessed the crime, but the murder claimed he had no memory of the incident. At his trial, his defense attorney claimed the man was under the influence of an over-the-counter sleeping aid, and was “sleepwalking” when he murdered his wife. He even brought some quack doctor (his medical license had been revoked) in to testify as an “expert witness” on the dangers of sleeping pills. Long story short, it didn’t work, and the murder is serving life with no parole. I hope this murder meets the same fate or worse. What a bullshit excuse.

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          Life in prison would be entirely appropriate for committing this crime. It’s particularly bad because he tried to excuse his actions in the way he did.

  2. Avatar
    That Other Jean

    There are sleeping pills that can leave you without memory of things you did under their influence–Ambien comes to mind–but I’ve never heard of Coricidin having that effect, no matter how much you took. I hope that Matthew Phelps is lying, because I can’t imagine the horror of discovering that you must have killed someone you love, but have no memory of whatever led up to the murder.

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      That’s what I was thinking. There are people who “sleep walk” and perform higher functions while doing so (such as cooking and eating) and are completely oblivious to their nocturnal activities. How horrible to kill someone you love, and then face life in prison for something that was beyond your control.
      Obviously, there is no way he won’t be convicted.

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      Zolpidem is dangerous and should not be on the market. I thought people under its influence would just behave erratically though, not violently.

      There’s no way anything sold OTC could have done this. Otherwise we would have heard about it.

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