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'Sleepwalker' convicted of murder

Scott Falater, moments after the verdict was read


Crime and Punishment


Sleep Walking

CNN's Greg LaMotte reports on testimony at the trial
Windows Media 28K 80K

June 25, 1999
Web posted at: 2:19 p.m. EDT (1819 GMT)

PHOENIX (CNN) -- A Phoenix man who says he was sleepwalking when he brutally stabbed his wife was convicted of first- degree murder on Friday. Scott Falater, 43, could face the death penalty. He showed no visible sign of emotion as the guilty verdict was read aloud.

There was no immediate word on when sentencing would take place, or whether the defense plans to appeal. Prosecutors have said they will request the death penalty.

Just before Falater left the courtroom, he hugged his stepfather, kissed his mother on the cheek and said: "It's not over yet."

The conviction on a charge of first-degree murder means jurors determined that Falater planned the January 16, 1997, killing. They also considered a charge of second-degree murder, which would have meant they felt the murder was not premeditated.

During his four-week trial, Falater testified he never would have knowingly killed his wife of 20 years and mother of his two children. The prosecution maintained the couple's marriage was under strain.

Yarmila Falater was stabbed 44 times, and her body was found in the family swimming pool.

The defendant doesn't deny stabbing his wife, dragging her body to the backyard pool and holding her head under water, but said he was innocent of murder because the killing took place during a sleepwalking episode that lasted 45 to 50 minutes.

The defense said the slaying occurred when Yarmila tried to awaken her sleepwalking husband while he was trying to fix a pool water pump with a hunting knife.

"There's no way I could do that, not intentionally," Falater testified. "I loved her."

He told jurors in Maricopa County Superior Court that the two had been soul mates since high school, had a loving marriage and had pledged to be together throughout eternity.

The prosecutors alleged that after the stabbing, Falater changed his bloody clothes and boots, and stashed them in a plastic container along with the murder weapon.

All the items were placed in the wheel well of his car. Juan Martinez, an assistant county attorney, said Falater took time to doctor a wound and motion to the family dog to be quiet during the rampage.

Correspondent Greg LaMotte contributed to this report.

'Sleepwalking' defendant says wife's murder 'haunts' him
June 18, 1999
Sleepwalking defense in Arizona murder trial
May 25, 1999
Arizona man says he was sleepwalking when he killed wife
May 8, 1998

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