Saturday, December 4, 2010

Modern Mummies: Sleepwalkers Get Away With Murder

Crime? Nah, I just want ice cream.

Modern Mummies: Sleepwalkers Get Away With Murder
By Nomar Knight

     What lies deep in the heart of a killer may manifest itself out in the open for all to see for the sleepwalker uses the veil of uncertainty to do his evil deed.  Sleepwalking as a defense rarely pans out.  The old way to prove a person on trial for committing a crime under the spell of sleepwalking was to prove a longstanding problem throughout childhood.  Modern science may be closer to identifying just who is genuinely inflicted with the illness and who’s trying to get away with murder.

     “Sleepwalking is the phenomenon whereby a person’s brain is partially asleep but his body is able to move about. People suffering from sleepwalking will rise out of what seems to be deep sleep and behave as if they are awake. They do not normally respond to people around them and do not remember what happened the following day” (1). 

     Hollywood utilized this premise for years, but at least they wrapped their sleepwalkers with white bandages and called them mummies.  Nowadays it’s difficult to identify the monsters from those afflicted with the illness, and I wonder if some posers have gotten away with murder. 
Screw the economy! I want a raise!

     Let’s look at a few real life cases.

     In a video titled Sleepwalking Crimes, the notion of these crimes existing raised important questions. “Some of the most notorious sleepwalking criminals depicted in the film include Scott Falater, who, in 1997, stabbed his wife 44 times; Michael Ricksgers, who, in 1993, shot his wife in the middle of the night; and Kenneth Parks, who drove 14 miles and stabbed his mother-in-law to death. In most of these cases, the jury found evidence of a motive or concluded that the actions were too deliberate to constitute sleepwalking. But for Kenneth Parks, the jury acknowledged his defense. He was acquitted because it was determined that he was sleepwalking at the time of the incident—a verdict illustrating that genuine sleepwalkers can be held legally unaccountable for a sleepwalking crime” (F.A. Holman, 2007).

     Note: to stab your wife 44 times tells me that it was a crime of passion, but I’m not an expert on the subject so I can’t say one way or another as to whether Falater was awake at the time.  Now Ricksgers may have shot his wife, but perhaps he should have said he wanted to clean the gun that day, forgot and somehow had the gun in his hands while sleepwalking.  I guess some people can’t handle a divorce so they eliminate their spouse. As for Mr. Parks, he drove a long way to do what perhaps many people can only dream about doing- killing the mother-in-law.  I wouldn’t know, since I got along well with my ex-wife’s mother.

     While Hollywood glorified the sleepwalker which eventually became an iconic figure, real life is grappling with this question: “Can you be blamed for crimes in your sleep?”  According to an article written by Linda Geddes in 2009, scientists are making advances in determining if the person committing the sleepwalking crime is really afflicted with the sleep disorder.  She mentioned a specific case.  Here’s an excerpt of her article:

     “A MAN strangles his wife while dreaming about fighting off intruders in his sleep. Does that make him mad, bad or innocent? Recent research is helping to unpick these issues, and may help reveal who, if anyone, bears responsibility in such cases.

      Last week, British man Brian Thomas appeared in court on a murder charge after strangling his wife as they slept in their camper van. The prosecution withdrew the charges after three psychiatrists testified that locking him up would serve no useful purpose. The judge said that Thomas bore no responsibility for his actions.” 

      Pardon my interruption, but how can killing someone and then not keeping the man in custody not serve a useful purpose? I believe they should’ve remanded him to undergo studies to see if a cure could be found.  At least he should’ve been locked up at night, but in a facility designed to study the disorder. 

     Linda Geddes elaborates further, “Thomas had a genuine sleep disorder, but Cramer-Bornemann is concerned that in many other cases, the sleepwalking and other sleep-related defenses are misused. Studies on the causes of sleepwalking may eventually make it easier to identify who has a genuine sleep disorder that could occasionally result in violence, and who is making it up.”

     “Last month, Ursula Voss of Bonn University in Germany and colleagues reported that even during lucid dreaming - a state in which some people claim to be able to control their dreams - some areas of the brain associated with intent stayed offline, while other areas associated with consciousness were active. "As long as you are in a dream, you have no free rein on your actions and emotions," says Voss (Sleep , vol 32, p 1191).” 

     If you’d like to read further feel free to click on the links to respective sites. 

     Real life mummies don’t act like the Hollywood characters and they usually don’t dress like them.  It’s difficult to discern if they’re awake or not, but what is really frightening is that some commit terrible crimes such as rape and murder and there may be nothing the law can do about it. 

     I ask: who fights for the victims?

     See you on the dark side.

     Nomar Knight

( 1) Understanding Sleep Disorders click here

(Holman 2007) Sleepwalking Crimes: What’s the Verdict? Click here

(Geddes 2009) Can you be blamed for crimes in your sleep? Click here 

© Copyright Nomar Knight 2010. All rights reserved.
A Knight Chills presentation.


  1. Yes Poppet. Another case of real life being scarier than fiction. Thanks for stopping by. ;-)

  2. During the Vietnam war, the US drafted young men into the services. Sleepwalking was an ironclad ticket back to civilian life, so quite a few gave it a shot. Most were unmasked as malingerers. But one young man managed to walk out the fire escape of the second floor of his barracks and fall over a guy wire. He was badly injured, but he got his medical discharge!

    And definitely, Thomas should have been locked up.

    Thanks for an interesting, thought-provoking post. And links!

  3. My pleasure Texanne. Thank you for the history lesson. I love learning new things.