An aspiring pastor in North Carolina who said he discovered his wife fatally stabbed after waking from a haze he blamed on cold medicine was allegedly “obsessed” with the film American Psycho and its depiction of a fictional serial killer, according to newly released documents in his case.
Matthew Phelps, who has said he doesn’t recall anything about his newlywed wife’s homicide last fall, also allegedly posted photos of himself dressed as the movie’s killer and “expressed interest to a friend regarding what it would be like to kill someone,” a Raleigh police detective wrote in court documents first made public Monday by local TV station WRAL and the News & Observer newspaper.
PEOPLE later obtained the same documents filed with the Wake County Magistrate’s Office.
An autopsy showed that Lauren Hugelmaier Phelps, 29, suffered 123 cuts and stab wounds in the attack at the couple’s two-bedroom Raleigh townhouse in the early morning hours of Sept. 1. Matthew Phelps dialed 911 at about 1:10 a.m. and voiced fears that he was responsible, according to a recording of the call previously obtained by PEOPLE.
“I had a dream, and then I turn on the lights and she’s dead on the floor,” he told the 911 dispatcher. “I have blood all over me, and there’s a bloody knife on the bed, and I think I did it.”
Matthew Phelps went on to tell the 911 operator that he had consumed “more medicine than I should have.” He added, “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.”
“Oh my God,” he added. “She didn’t deserve this.”
Phelps, 29, later was charged with first-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
In documents used to obtain seven search warrants after the murder, investigators revealed that tensions had allegedly erupted between the couple over finances; that Matthew Phelps allegedly “was spending more money than the couple made”; and that Lauren Phelps allegedly “had recently taken drastic steps to limit her husband’s spending,” according to The News & Observer‘s review of those documents.
Despite being married for less than a year, Lauren Phelps was “preparing to end the relationship,” the documents allege.
In addition, “It was learned that Matthew Phelps was obsessed with the movie ‘American Psycho’ and [his] Instagram account shows numerous photographs of scenes from the movie and Phelps dressed as the main character,” a detective wrote in the documents. “The movie is about a serial killer, and Phelps expressed interest to a friend regarding what it would be like to kill someone.”
The documents further reveal that investigators found evidence suggesting Matthew Phelps had allegedly cleaned himself up before placing the 911 call, although he did have blood on him when investigators reached the couple’s home.
Citing his pretrial preparations, defense attorney Joseph Cheshire tells PEOPLE he is “unprepared to speak on the matter until that is complete.” He earlier cautioned against drawing conclusions in the case.
“It’s a very tragic situation — sad and tragic,” Cheshire said after Phelps made his first appearance in court last fall. “And at the same time we have to ask everybody to withhold judgment in this particular case until we know more and we’re able to develop more.”
“There’s a lot to this story I believe that will be told in the future,” he said.
Attention on the case has been heightened by Matthew Phelps’ claim that cough or cold medicine affected his memory and alleged actions, a possible legal argument that experts say may have merit in his defense.