Aspiring Pastor Accused of Murdering His Wife in His Sleep After Taking Cold Medicine

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A North Carolina man accused of murdering his wife last week made his first court appearance on Tuesday, after which his attorney reportedly vowed there would be “a lot” more to be revealed about what happened.

Matthew Phelps appeared in front of a Wake County, North Carolina, judge on a first-degree murder charge in the death of his wife, Lauren, a courthouse official tells PEOPLE.

Phelps stayed silent during the hearing and did not enter a plea. Under state law, he could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted.

Outside the courtroom, his attorney, Joseph Cheshire, urged the public to not rush to conclusions.

“It’s a very tragic situation — sad and tragic. And at the same time we have to ask everybody to withhold judgement in this particular case until we know more and we’re able to develop more,” Cheshire said, according to local TV station WRAL. “There’s a lot to this story I believe that will be told in the future.”

“I know this is difficult for people to understand, but he [Phelps] is going through a terrible trauma,” Cheshire told reporters. “And you know there are all kinds of stages to these things and he’s at the beginning of those stages. So there’s a lot of trauma to go around in all of this, in all of these cases always.”

Cheshire could not be reached for comment by PEOPLE. Prosecutors did not immediately return a call.

“We’re asking everyone to be patient so we can all get to the bottom of this,” Cheshire said after the hearing on Tuesday, according to the News & Observer.

Early Friday morning, a distraught Phelps called 911 in Raleigh, North Carolina, declaring that he had just woken up to find his wife dead on the floor of their home.

“I had a dream, and then I turned on the lights and she’s dead on the floor,” Phelps said in the call, audio of which was obtained by PEOPLE.

He continued, “I have blood all over me and there’s a bloody knife on the bed and I think I did it. I can’t believe this.”

Over the course of the approximately six-and-a-half minute conversation with a dispatcher, Phelps grew progressively more inconsolable, breaking down into sobs.

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SOURCE: PEOPLE
Harriet Sokmensuer

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