15 Times Lawyers Used "Sleepwalking" To Defend Criminals

Many people don’t even think about sleepwalking because they’ve never experienced it. But there are many people in the world that experience sleepwalking on a regular basis. It’s not just about wandering around your house in a daze either — it’s a serious thing. Sleepwalking is considered to be a behavioural disorder that occurs when a person is in a deep sleep. That can result in that person walking around and even performing regular tasks while sleepwalking. More children than adults experience it, but many adults do as well, and it can occur more often if the person is sleep deprived.

Have you ever wondered what you could be capable of while sleepwalking? Doctors have claimed that you can do virtually any task while sleepwalking that you would normally perform while being awake. Shocking? Maybe a little bit. But would you ever think that you were able to commit a crime while sleepwalking?

It seems impossible, right? People have been known to create art and even cook when they sleep. Is it so farfetched to believe that someone could commit a horrible crime while sleepwalking? These sleepwalkers have no idea what they have done while they were sleepwalking. They have no idea about the horrible things that they’ve done. They don’t even have any memory of what they’ve done. These people wake up and it’s as if their lives have changed forever. Do you believe it or do you think they committed the perfect crime?


15 Daddy Issues

A Manchester man by the name of Jules Lowe was another man who was acquitted of murder because he claimed he was sleepwalking. It’s crazy to think that you can kill someone in your sleep and get away with it. One night, Lowe was sleepwalking when he killed his 82-year-old father, for apparently no reason at all. Despite the fact that Lowe has issues with drinking, numerous tests showed that he had no alcohol in his system at the time of the murder. He wasn’t even a violent person, so there seemed to be no explanation for what he did. He couldn’t understand what happened or even remember the incident. He was later diagnosed with insane automatism and was acquitted of all charges. Seriously, how do they prove these things? How do they know that it wasn’t all planned in the first place?

14 Broken Heart


You might think that using sleepwalking as a defence is a new thing, but it isn’t. The first documented case was way back in 1845. The case of Albert Tirrell is a disturbing one; he was in love with a prostitute named Maria Ann Bickford. He went to visit her one night and fell into a jealous rage when he found out that she was with another customer. Not only did he kill Bickford that night, but he also set fire to three rooms in the brothel as well. He was charged with murder, but a year later, he was free because his lawyer argued that Tirrell had been sleepwalking that night and only killed Bickford because he had a history of being a chronic sleepwalker. Now, this one we’re just a little suspicious about. Is it possible that people are getting away with murder with this defence?

13 Paranoia Leads To Murder 

People were shocked when Ivy Cogdon killed her 19-year-old daughter Patricia because she adored her so much. At the time, Ivy was concerned about the Korean War and how it could potentially affect her daughter. Her anxiety and worries ruined her sleep. Patricia told her before she went to bed, “Mummy, don’t be silly worrying about war. It is not at your front door.” When Ivy finally fell asleep, she dreamed that the war had come to her house. She heard her daughter screaming, so she grabbed an ax and ran to her room. When she got there, the room was filled with soldiers and she started attacking them with an ax. The next morning, the body of Patricia was found with her head smashed in. There was an ax covered with Patricia’s blood beside the bed. She was charged with murder, but again, she too was acquitted because the jury decided that she wasn’t aware that she was killing her daughter.

12 Trailer Park Murder 


While vacationing in an RV with his wife, the two decided to park one night at a nearby campsite. It happened to be close to a racing site, so to avoid the noise, they moved their trailer further into the campsite. That night, Brian dreamed that someone had gotten inside the trailer and was trying to kill them in their bed. He dreamed the man put him in a headlock but was able to get him off. When he woke up from his dream, he realized that his wife was dead in the bed beside him. He called the police and they immediately arrested him because they didn’t believe him. But after ten months in jail and numerous psychological testing, they determined that he killed his wife due to a sleep disorder and he was let go. How easy would it be to plan something like this ahead of time?

11 Family Matters 

Kenneth Parks is a Toronto man who was accused of murdering his in-laws. Now, you are probably thinking that for sure this one was planned. It happened in 1987 and it was one of the most “thoroughly investigated cases of homicidal sleepwalking on the books.” Parks drove over 14 miles to his in-law’s home and butchered his mother-in-law in her bed and almost bludgeoned his father-in-law to death. He almost killed his teenage sister-in-law as well, until he suddenly woke up, realized what he did, and immediately went to the cops and confessed his crimes. At the time, Parks had serious gambling debts and had chronic sleep problems due to stress. He underwent plenty of testing and it was determined that he had been sleepwalking and didn’t mean to kill his family. Our question would be, why did he drive 14 miles to kill someone? If it was just due to sleepwalking, then why not kill someone in your own home?

10 Cover Up


There are so many sleepwalking murders that we have to wonder if it isn’t the best defence to get away with murder. In 1961, Sergeant Willis Boshears was stationed in England when he strangled Jean Constable in his apartment. He woke up after the murder and realized what he did. But instead of confessing as the others did, he hid the body in an isolated area. He was eventually caught, however, and arrested. This, of course, led to the defence that he had been sleepwalking at the time. The UK believed his story (for some reason) and let him off. We would have thought this one wouldn’t have flown considering he tried to hide his crime and not get caught. How do these experts really know that the person was sleeping at all during these crimes?

9 Dangerous Reputation

Would you marry a man who was known to be very violent in his sleep? Simon Fraser had this dangerous reputation. He was known to have assaulted his father and almost strangle his sister. One night, while he was sleeping in his bed with his wife, he got up in the middle of the night, thinking that a wild beast was in his son’s cradle. So he jumped out of the bed and grabbed the beast. He slammed it against the wall and was only awakened when his wife was screaming. He had actually picked up his 18-month-old son and smashed his head against the wall, killing him. He made a statement to the court, I am guilty in my sleep, but not guilty in my senses.” He was examined by psychologists and was eventually acquitted of killing his son. He had to promise the court he would be sleeping in a separate room from his family members from then on. No kidding.


8 Boys Night Out


This is a case of rape, not murder. Kenneth Ecott was out getting hammered one night with a bunch of friends. They eventually went back to a friend’s house where they drank vodka until Kenneth got so drunk, he blacked out. He woke up the next morning to find himself on top of a 15-year-old girl. He got up from the bed naked and went outside where he passed out again in the backyard. Police found him there and woke him up. He was questioned about raping the girl, but he had no memory of what happened. He was eventually found not guilty of the crime because he had a history of a sleeping disorder and was not in control of his actions.

7 Extensive Violence 

This is a horrific story of Scott Falater who stabbed his wife a shockingly 44 times while sleepwalking. In 1997, Falater used a hunting knife to kill his wife and then quieted the dog before “methodically” covering up his tracks. We’re not sure if “quieting” the dog meant that he killed it too, but the fact that he took great lengths to cover up his crime would lead us to believe he was not sleepwalking. Would you really be concerned about cleaning up after your crime if you were sleeping? His defence attorney claimed that he was sleepwalking during the murder. Although Falater never once denied killing his wife, he said he shouldn’t be held accountable because he was sleeping. To be honest, stabbing someone 44 times sounds more like a crime of passion or a crime or anger.

6 Liar, Liar


5 Hero Or Murderer?

When Joan Kiger was 15 years old, she heard gunshots in her home one night. She grabbed her father’s gun and started shooting at the men that were in her house. She woke up to find that she had killed her father and brother and shot her mother in the thigh. She was arrested and charged, and they even wanted to sentence the girl to death despite the fact that she was a minor. She claimed she had a sleep disorder and did have a history of intense night terrors that were usually violent. She underwent many psychological tests and was eventually let go. She had to stay under her mother’s care as part of the court order, but we have to wonder if the mother is the one that has trouble sleeping now. Did she think that her daughter was innocent the whole time or did she have her doubts?

4 Bad Choices


One night before bed, Isom Bradley told his girlfriend that he was afraid that he was going to be attacked by Lawrence Williams, a man that he had been having problems with lately. The two went to bed and Bradley was so worried about the other man that he tucked a gun under his pillow just in case. That alone is a very dangerous thing to do. In the middle of the night, Bradley awoke to a strange noise in the house and started firing at random. He lit a lamp and realized that he killed his girlfriend, Ada Jenkins. It’s a tragic case, especially since it could have been avoided had the guy not been sleeping with a gun. He was convicted of murder, but it was later turned over during an appeal due to claims that he was sleeping when he did it.

3 Up In Flames

In 1859, Esther Griggs threw her 18-month-old child out the window of her house because she thought she was saving her from a fire. She was sleeping when she heard her 5-year-old son say that the house was on fire. In a panic, she started screaming for someone to save her children. Her gut reaction had been to toss her baby through the glass of the window and onto the street. When police arrived, she was screaming, “Where’s my baby? Have they caught it?” By some miracle, the baby lived through the fall and recovered in the hospital. Although the police planned to charge her with assault with intent to murder, she was eventually let free. She told police that she had no desire to kill her children and was simply acting out her dream. Quite the disturbing story.

2 History Of Violence


Not everyone gets away with the sleepwalking defence. While on vacation in 2001, Stephen Reitz murdered his lover, Eva Weinfurtner. At the time, Weinfurtner was married to another man. Reitz murdered his lover in a brutal way. He "smashed her head with a flowerpot, leaving shards in her scalp, dislocated her arm, punctured her with a plastic fork, fractured her wrist, ribs, jaw, facial bones, and skull, and, wielding a pocketknife, left three gaping stab wounds on the back of her neck," according to Lindsay Lyon of U.S. News & World Report. Reitz claimed he had no memory of the murder, but also claimed that he had flashbacks of himself being attacked by an intruder while he slept. The jury might have believed him if he didn't already have a history of domestic abuse. Witnesses also stated that they had heard him threaten his lover with a knife and say that he would "gut her like a fish." Yikes!

1 Murder Followed By Attempted Suicide

Joseph Mitchell almost succeeded in killing all of his children one night. There was a time when Mitchell became unemployed and wasn’t able to find another job, so he grew restless. He wasn't sleeping well, in fact, he wasn’t getting more than a few hours of sleep every night. He started to sleepwalk and every time he did, he had no memory of it happening. One night, when he was sleepwalking, he entered his son’s room and smothered him. After killing his son, he moved on to his daughter’s room and did the same with her. She stopped moving and he thought she was dead, but she had only passed out. He went on to kill his oldest son, and while he was suffocating him, the kid started screaming. That woke the daughter up and she saved her brother from her father’s grasp. What’s even more bizarre is that Mitchell went to the bathroom and stabbed himself multiple times. When he woke in the hospital the next day, he had no idea what he had done. He was charged with murder, but shockingly enough, was found not guilty.


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