Longform

A Killer Sleep Disorder

Page 5 of 10

The Falaters seemed like a normal American family.
But, without question, powerful stresses were building inside Scott Falater. His defense team will contend at trial that those stresses--mostly work-related--helped trigger the unwitting rage that took his wife's life.

Just before 11 p.m. on January 16, 1997, Phoenix police took a call from a northeast Phoenix man. Greg Koons said his next-door neighbor was holding a woman underwater in the swimming pool.

Steve Stanowicz was one of three Phoenix police officers to arrive within seconds of each other. Koons directed him to the Falaters' backyard, where a horrific tableau awaited.

Yarmila floated face down in the shallow end of the pool, her body lighted eerily by motion-detector lights. Blood poured out of the heavyset woman as Stanowicz pulled her from the pool. She was dressed casually.

Yarmila was pronounced dead at the scene.
Officer Kemp Layden saw a man in a white tee shirt and pajama pants in the house, and he and officer Joseph Jones walked in through the unlocked patio doors. They ordered the man at gunpoint to lie down on the floor.

"What's wrong? What's going on?" he asked the officers.
They asked how many people were in the house. Four, he replied, himself, his wife and their two kids.

Jones saw bloodstains on the man's tricep and behind his right ear as he handcuffed him. He asked the man to identify himself.

Scott Falater, the man said, and gave his date of birth.
"As he spoke to me," Jones' report says, "he seemed very shaky, with shortness of breath. He also had difficulty breathing."

The children remained asleep in their upstairs bedrooms until detectives awoke them after their father was in custody.

Another officer spoke with next-door neighbor Koons. In this first interview, Koons said he and his girlfriend, Stephanie Reidhead, had gone to bed around 10:10 p.m. He said he heard screaming from the Falaters' backyard, and he walked into his own backyard to see what was going on.

From there, he saw movement, and heard someone go into the Falaters' house. Koons stood on a planter to look over the block wall that separated his property from the Falaters'.

He saw Yarmila Falater, lying on her side, several feet from the swimming pool. He watched her roll over on her back, moving her arms and legs, then stop moving.

A light came on in the second floor of the Falaters' house, and Koons saw Scott Falater in that room. After "two or three minutes," according to a police report, the light went off, and Koons saw Falater go into the kitchen, then living room, then return to the backyard.

"The suspect stood over the victim for several minutes," the report says, "then went back into the house. Three or four minutes later, [Falater] came out the side door to the garage wearing gloves."

With Koons watching, Falater pulled Yarmila to the pool's edge and rolled her in: "The suspect then held the victim's head under the water with his hands."

Koons ran inside and, finally, dialed 911.
Stephanie Reidhead told police she'd heard a woman scream, "Please, no," or "Please, don't," many times before Koons first went outside.

In another interview a few hours later, Koons said Falater had stared at Yarmila after returning outside "for approximately one minute," not several minutes.

He added, according to the report, that "Scott was looking toward his direction as if maybe he heard him, so [Koons] kept his head low while he was looking over the fence."

Koons also said that Falater had been wearing red sweat pants and a white tee shirt.

About the same time Detective Norman completed his interrogation of Falater at police headquarters, other officers began to search the family's residence.

They found a flashlight shining toward a pool pump in the backyard. The ground around the pump was stained with Yarmila Falater's blood.

The family's two dogs barked loudly as the search continued.
On the stairwell leading to the second floor, police found a blood-smeared pebble that resembled decorative rocks that surround the pool.

The police reports do not indicate if officers checked the Falaters' bedroom to determine if Scott had left bloodstains in or around his bed.

But they hit a mother lode when they searched the garage.
One officer saw a bloodstained tee shirt hanging out of the trunk of Scott Falater's Volvo station wagon. He opened it, and found a large, clear plastic container filled with what appeared to be blood-soaked clothing--including blue jeans, socks and an undershirt.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin