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'Sleepwalker' Gets Life Term in Wife's Death

January 11, 2000|From Associated Press

PHOENIX — A man who contended that he was sleepwalking when he killed his wife by stabbing her 44 times and holding her head under water was sentenced Monday to life in prison without any possibility of parole.

Scott Falater, who never denied that he killed Yarmila Falater, was convicted of first-degree murder on June 25. Jurors said Falater's claim of sleepwalking was hard to believe.

Falater, 43, showed no emotion when Superior Court Judge Ronald Reinstein sentenced him. He could have been sentenced to death or to life with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

"It was a terrible death, and we are satisfied that we were able to prove that the defendant committed premeditated murder," prosecutor Juan Martinez said.

Defense attorney Mike Kimerer said he was not surprised by the sentence, and he plans to appeal based on the instructions given to the jury and the prosecution's pressing the issue of motive and getting it into the court record.

Kimerer said he knew the sleepwalking defense was going to sound farfetched. "You would love to have a much different defense. We didn't have anything else," Kimerer said.

Falater's actions on the night of Jan. 16, 1997, were never in question during his trial. He admitted stabbing his wife, stashing the knife and some bloody clothes in the back of his Volvo, then dragging her to the pool at their Phoenix home and holding her head under water.

Falater testified that he did not remember any of it, and two sleep experts cited Falater's family history of sleepwalking, as well as job stress and lack of sleep as reasons for a violent sleepwalking episode.

The defense painted Falater, a former Motorola Inc. engineer, and his wife of 20 years as a happily married, religious couple. Defense attorneys said Falater had no reason to kill his wife.

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