A Killer Sleep Disorder

Scott Falater, a mild-mannered Mormon family man, inexplicably stabbed his wife 44 times, then drowned her in the family pool while a neighbor watched. His defense? He was sleepwalking.

In a phone interview from Winnipeg, Canada, Kryger doesn't deny that sleepwalkers can turn violent on occasion.

"But if someone commits a crime, that shouldn't mean they're off the hook," he says. "They need to be treated, to try to prevent it from happening again. One question is a legal one--whether the person should go to jail or not. The other is the fear that the person might do something similar again."

(In England, unlike the U.S. and Canada, sleepwalking does meet legal requirements for "insane" behavior. Judges there may confine sleepwalkers who commit crimes to a mental hospital.)

Falater's mother, Lois Wilcek, ponders her eldest son's plight from her home near Chicago.

"If you tell someone he was sleepwalking, no one will believe you at first," she says. "I've always thought that if someone gets arrested, they're probably guilty. . . . But I've educated myself. It's real. I know I sound like a mom--I am--but there's no way Scott in his conscious mind could have done this to Yarm.

"You try to make sense of his actions, the sequence of events. It's off center. Trying to hide her body in the pool with the lights on? He's technically guilty, but he's morally innocent. He was there, and he wasn't there."

Not being "there" is how Shakespeare described the sleepwalking Lady Macbeth: "You see, her eyes are open. Ay, but their sense is shut."

The Lady Macbeth theory--that Scott Falater was sleepwalking when he killed his wife--is but one of three plausible possibilities. The other two:

* For whatever reason, Falater did commit premeditated, first-degree murder, and knew what he was doing when he did it.

* Falater was sleepwalking when he stabbed his wife, then awakened and realized what he'd done. In a panic, he finished the job by holding Yarmila underwater, then left her lifeless body to float in the pool.

A few months ago, at the request of his attorney, Scott Falater composed a 15-page letter about his life and his relationship with Yarmila.

The handwritten missive covers a number of subjects, including youthful bedwetting and sleepwalking episodes, his parents' bitter breakup, his conversion to Mormonism, his career and his enduring relationship with Yarmila.

By his and his family's account, Falater was a studious, somewhat introverted child. He was the eldest of five children in a middle-class Catholic family. His father was a personnel manager, his mother a nurse.

Falater's mother says her violent clashes with her then-husband led to a family life "that wasn't pretty, not by any means. It really got to Scott, as the oldest."

Despite the dysfunction around him, Falater was a fine student who loved classical music and played clarinet. He cultivated a few close friends on whom he often inflicted his love of practical jokes.

As he approached his teenage years, Falater's letter to Kimerer says, his parents told him about his sleepwalking habits.

Lois Wilcek remembers them well, too. "I remember Scott getting dressed at midnight, glassy-eyed, saying he had to go to school," she tells New Times. "Once as a big boy--12 or so--he walked into the living room stark naked. He said, 'I'm going to school.' His dad put his hands on Scott's shoulders, and Scott resisted him. I said, 'Come with me, son,' and I led him back to bed. You couldn't touch him when he was like that. Nobody thought it was a big deal."

Falater met Yarmila Klesken in a sophomore English class at Riverside's Brookfield High School. He recalls being attracted to Yarmila's intelligence and spunk, qualities she exhibited up to her death. She was a quiet but popular girl with an artistic bent and a friendly nature.

Scott Falater says his future wife was the only girl he ever dated, much less loved. After high school, the pair attended colleges about 50 miles apart in northern Illinois.

They dated about once a month during the school year, but kept in touch. He was studying electrical engineering; she was leaning toward a career in medical radiology.

The two decided to get married in the summer before their senior years. Around that time, Falater converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after a chat with a pair of Mormon missionaries.

Yarmila, also born Catholic, wasn't thrilled with the idea. According to Falater, she threatened for a time to break off the engagement. But she softened, and the couple were married in 1976 in a civil ceremony, with a Mormon bishop presiding.

At first, Yarmila eschewed any contact with Falater's Mormon friends, going so far--Falater recalls--as to leave the room or house when he had them over. That independence at once endeared and frustrated her new husband.

"She was not going along with it [his newfound faith] at all," Falater tells New Times. "She went through with the marriage because she loved me."

After they graduated from college, the newlyweds resolved to make it on their own terms.

"Scott wanted to get away because of how it was when he was growing up," his mother says. "He wanted to just start over, start his own family life, with his own traditions and so on. He kind of cut himself off from what was happening, for which I don't blame him."

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