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Arizona man says he was sleepwalking when he killed wife

May 8, 1998
Web posted at: 11:19 p.m. EDT (0319 GMT)

From Correspondent Greg LaMotte

PHOENIX (CNN) -- An inventor accused of stabbing his wife 44 times and drowning her in their swimming pool says he was sleepwalking at the time and remembers none of it.

In January 1997, with his two children asleep in the house, Scott Falater brutally stabbed his wife, Yarmila, then dragged her to the backyard pool, where he held her head underwater.

Falater doesn't deny he killed his wife, but he says he doesn't remember -- because he was asleep.

"Are you saying to me my wife is dead?" he says to officers on a police tape.

Falater's attorney, who declined to be interviewed, is planning a defense based on sleepwalking.

It could happen, experts say

Falater talks to police after his wife is found murdered
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vxtreme CNN's Greg LaMotte details this unusual defense

Sleep disorder expert Dr. Rosalind Cartwright, who analyzed Falater, says it is possible.

"Sometimes they hurt themselves. Sometimes they hurt other people. But this is a state in which they are confused. They're not conscious. They think something terrible is happening, and they have to defend themselves, so often they will fight."

Falater, then 41, was a successful product manager with Motorola. Active in the Mormon church, Falater never drank, did drugs or argued with his wife, neighbors said.

On the night of the murder, Falater's two children, ages 12 and 15, told police their father went to bed about 10 p.m. after working on his computer. Their mother was on the couch, reading a book. Nothing was out of the ordinary.

But an hour later Falater's wife was dead. A neighbor who called the police says he heard Yramila's screams and saw Falater drown her.

Police hunt for motive

Falater's house
A neighbor watched while Falater pushed his wife into the pool   

Police admit they are mystified.

"Usually you're able to find motive and you're able to find out reasons behind an action. This one has remained a mystery. We don't know, and I don't know that we ever will," says Phoenix police Sgt. Mike Torres.

But police say Falater was aware enough to try to cover up the crime. He put on a pair of gloves before pushing his wife into the pool. And he put his clothes and the knife he used into a plastic container in the trunk of his car.

Sleep disorder experts say even that aspect of Falater's actions is possible while sleepwalking.

Although the sleepwalking defense is extremely rare, it has been used successfully a few times.

If a jury agrees, police say, the threat of bogeymen in the night may be little too real.


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