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Homicidal Somnambulism: A Case Report

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Abstract

A case of a homicide and an attempted homicide during presumed sleepwalking is reported in which somnambulism was the legal defense and led to an acquittal. Other possible explanations including complex partial seizures, dissociative state, rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder and volitional waking behavior are discussed. The evidence supporting the probability that this act occurred during an episode of somnambulism and sleep-related confusional arousal is reviewed and weighed. This evidence includes personal and family history of somnambulism and related disorders; neurological, psychiatric and psychological assessments; presence of possible precipitating factors; and polysomnographic data.
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... En fait, tel que nous l'avons vu à la fin du chapitre précédent, en s'opposant à la Le premier est celui de Kenneth Parks, qui la nuit du 24 mai 1987 se leva du canapé où il regardait la télévision, monta dans sa voiture, et conduisit 23 kilomètres jusqu'à chez ses beaux-parents, pour étrangler son beau-père jusqu'à l'étouffement puis poignarder sa belle-mère jusqu'à la mort, avant de reprendre sa voiture et se diriger jusqu'à un commissariat de police, pour dénoncer qu'il croyait avoir « tué des gens », sans garder des souvenirs des évènements ni avoir remarqué jusqu'à là des blessures importantes sur ses bras (Broughton et al. 1994 ; Levy 2014). Le deuxième, celui de Monsieur « A », qui la nuit du 16 janvier 1997 pendant que sa famille dormait se levât et entama la réparation du filtre de sa piscine. ...
... Quand sa femme intervint, peut-être pour essayer de le ramener au lit, il réagit en lui donnant quarante-quatre coups de couteau, avant d'aller ranger ses outils, repasser devant son épouse encore vivante pour la rouler dans la piscine où elle a finalement trouvé la mort, puis retourner se coucher, pour se réveiller entouré par la police sans aucun souvenir des évènements de la nuit (Cartwright 2004 ;Gazzaniga 2018). Dans ces deux cas, les expertises qui furent conduites arrivèrent aux mêmes conclusions : en vue des histoires médicales des accusés depuis leur enfance, ainsi que des électroencéphalographies (EEG) auxquelles ils ont été soumis, et au constat de la présence de déclencheurs traditionnels de parasomnie (tels que le stress et l'agrypnie) pendant la période immédiatement antérieure aux faits, les sujets se trouvaient dans des épisodes de somnambulisme lorsqu'ils ont commit ces crimes (Cartwright 2004 ;Broughton et al. 1994) Comme nous l'avons compris, que ce soit pour une perception particulière de l'environnement qui ne corresponde pas avec celui-ci, ou encore pour la mémoire absente ou lacunaire des actions que la personne atteinte du trouble entreprend lors d'un épisode, le somnambulisme est surtout une réponse coordonnée qui manque pourtant de conscience 44 (Bitbol 2014). Or, il existe une autre situation médicale qui, de par sa dissociation entre la conscience de l'agent et son comportement, atteste des analogies avec certains aspects du somnambulisme (Holt 2003), tout en ayant la particularité d'éclairer aussi la conscience « normale » (ou non dissociative), donc qui se voit investie d'un intérêt particulier pour notre enquête. ...
Thesis
Notre thèse explore deux anomalies quant aux théories sur les interactions hydriques transfrontalières. Le lac Victoria, où toutes les conditions matérielles, économiques et environnementales sont données pour les conflits, et pourtant la coopération s’impose. Et le fleuve Uruguay, où un régime institutionnel solide existait et les conditions environnementales étaient optimales, et pourtant la coopération fût brisée et le conflit éclata. Pour élucider l’énigme de ces cas, au lieu de sonder les aspects politiques et institutionnels des bassins, comme font certaines approches, ou ceux physiques, comme en font d’autres, nous proposons une autre voie. Notre démarche consiste à porter le regard vers ce qui donne naissance aux actions des agents en interaction avec leur milieu, à savoir la nature humaine et le fonctionnement du cerveau. Afin de conduire cette enquête, nous nous appuyions sur trois axes. Le premier est celui des entretiens que nous avons réalisés dans les bassins étudiés. Le deuxième est la sociologie de Gabriel Tarde, laquelle invite à une continuation actualisée d’un projet de recherche du social permettant l’intégration des développements scientifiques biologiques, évolutifs et cognitifs. Le troisième axe est celui des neurosciences, lesquelles confirment plusieurs intuitions tardiennes, et permettent de mieux cerner les aspects référant à la nature humaine dans son interaction avec la société et l’environnement. Notre enquête montre alors comment les dynamiques du conflit et de la coopération convergent dans la conscience, en tant que la clé qui, par-delà toute situation environnementale donnée, permet aux humains d’actualiser d’innombrables potentialités.
... 11,21 Therefore, the studies using CAP suggest a reduced ability to sustain deep sleep in DOAs. 13,20,25,26 Overall, empirical evidence regarding the mechanisms underlying the activation of NREM parasomnias is scarce. Interestingly, some studies have observed the so-called "hypersynchronous activity" (HSD, ie, continuous highvoltage delta waves ≥150 μV) in the sleep electroencephalogram (EEG) immediately before sleepwalking episodes, sleep terrors, or confusional arousals. ...
... 9,14,27,31 However, these studies have reported controversial findings: 32 HSD may occasionally, 10,33 often, 16 or always 20,34 be associated with sleepwalking or sleep terrors. 35 HSD has also been observed in sleepwalking without behavioral episodes, 9,14,25,35 in healthy subjects, especially after sleep deprivation, 10,14,35 and in adults with sleep apnea or periodic leg movements. 32 Moreover, the stereo-electroencephalography (S-EEG) studies also provide interesting information regarding the pathophysiological substrate of NREM parasomnias, recording episodes in vivo. ...
Article
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Introduction: Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) parasomnias are defined as abnormal nocturnal behaviors that typically arise from the NREM sleep stage 3 during the first sleep cycle. The polysomnographic studies showed an increase in sleep fragmentation and an atypical slow wave activity (SWA) in participants with NREM parasomnias compared to healthy controls. To date, the pathophysiology of NREM parasomnias is still poorly understood. The recent investigation of the EEG patterns immediately before parasomnia events could shed light on the motor activations’ processes. This systematic review aims to summarize empirical evidence about these studies and provide an overview of the methodological issues. Methods: A systematic literature search was carried out in PubMed, Web of Science, and Scopus, following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA). The documents obtained were evaluated using the Newcastle–Ottawa Scale (NOS). Results: Nine studies were included in the qualitative synthesis. The major evidence revealed an increased slow frequency EEG activity immediately before the motor activations in frontal and central areas and increased beta activity in the anterior cingulate cortices. Discussion: The investigation of EEG patterns before parasomniac episodes could provide new insight into the study of NREM parasomnia pathophysiology. The high- and low-frequency EEG increase before the episodes could represent a predictive electrophysiological pattern of the motor activations’ onset. Overall, identifying specific sleep markers before parasomnias might also help differentiate between NREM parasomnias and other motor sleep disorders. Different methodological protocols should be integrated for overcoming the lack of consistent empirical findings. Thus, future studies should focus on the topographical examination of canonical EEG frequency bands to better understand spatial and time dynamics before the episodes and identify the networks underlying the onset of activations.
... Self-caused injuries [71,72] not-withstanding, to a confused public, somnambulism seems to be a puzzling phenomenon that flirts between the boundaries of medicine and the law. The pros and cons of the rights and penalties for this class of sleep disorder patients who commit serious crimes, including homicides [73], during somnambulistic episodes, continue to be debated without any resolution [74][75][76][77][78][79][80][81][82][83][84]. A controversial issue is the use of somnambulism defense in cases involving alcoholinduced homicides. ...
Chapter
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Somnambulism is characterized as a parasomnia occurring during slow-wave sleep stages. It is also an autosomal dominant disorder, and its genetic locus has been identified at chromosome 20 q12-q13.12. The prevalence of somnambulism among children and adults has been estimated as 1-6%. Among the specific environmental factors precipitating somnambulistic episodes in adults, prescription drug use, alcohol, emotional stress, sleep deprivation, and certain psychiatric conditions have been suggested. Somnambulistic patients frequently cause injuries to themselves, family members who sleep nearby, and in-hospital settings to nurses who attend on them. Even cases of homicidal somnambulism have been reported. The lack of a suitable animal model to study somnambulism in controlled settings hinder appropriate pharmaceutical protocols to prevent this disorder among humans. Partial or total alleviation of somnambulistic symptoms in children and adults deserves the attention of health researchers.
... These may be very intense and cause injury. Homicide may occur during sleepwalking as is confirmed in the 1878 case of Yellowless [31] and the 1994 case documented in great detail by Broughton et al. [55] which involved Ken Parks who strangled and stabbed his father-in-law, who did not die, and then killed his mother-in-law, whom he loved, by repeated stabbing. Sleep studies and study of slow-wave arousal parasomnias in his family tree helped in confirming that it was indeed during an episode of somnambulism. ...
Article
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The objective of this article is to provide a comprehensive personal survey of all the major parasomnias with coverage of their clinical presentation, investigation, physiopathogenesis and treatment. These include the four major members of the slow-wave sleep arousal parasomnias which are enuresis nocturna (bedwetting), somnambulism (sleepwalking), sleep terrors (pavor nocturnus in children, incubus attacks in adults) and confusional arousals (sleep drunkenness). Other parasomnias covered are sleep-related aggression, hypnagogic and hypnopompic terrifying hallucinations, REM sleep terrifying dreams, nocturnal anxiety attacks, sleep paralysis, sleep talking (somniloquy), sexsomnia, REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), nocturnal paroxysmal dystonia, sleep starts (hypnic jerks), jactatio capitis nocturna (head and total body rocking), periodic limb movement disorder (PLMs), hypnagogic foot tremor, restless leg syndrome (Ekbom syndrome), exploding head syndrome, excessive fragmentary myoclonus, nocturnal cramps, and sleep-related epileptic seizures. There is interest in the possibility of relationships between sleep/wake states and creativity.
... Parks had a history of disordered sleep and no history of conflict with his in-laws. In the end, he was acquitted (Broughton et al. 1994). ...
... In Falater's case, a jury found him guilty of first degree murder in June of (CNN, 1999; however, there are other murder cases where the sleepwalking defense has been used successfully. As scary as it sounds, many sleep researchers believe that homicidal sleepwalking is possible in individuals suffering from the types of sleep disorders described below (Broughton et al., 1994;Cartwright, 2004;Mahowald, Schenck, & Cramer Bornemann, 2005;Pressman, 2007). ...
... Parks had a history of disordered sleep and no history of conflict with his in-laws. In the end, he was acquitted (Broughton et al. 1994). ...
Preprint
Forthcoming in Mind, Cognition, and Neuroscience: A Philosophical Introduction https://philpapers.org/rec/YOUMCA-3
Article
I first clarify the idea that blameworthiness requires consciousness as the view that one can be blameworthy only for what is a response to a reason of which one is conscious. Next I develop the following argument: blameworthiness requires exercising control in a way distinctive of persons and doing this, in view of what it is to be a person, requires responding to a reason of which one is conscious. Then I defend this argument from an objection inspired by Arpaly and Schroeder according to which responding to moral reasons suffices for exercising control distinctive of persons.
Chapter
Parasomnias are disorders in which undesirable physical and mental events occur mainly or exclusively during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, often accompanied by skeletal muscle activity and autonomic arousal. Mental phenomena may also occur, including emotions, thoughts, and images. The paroxysmal events that occur with many parasomnias share similarities with daytime spells, but they present a special challenge because patients, who are usually asleep at the onset of the event, are rarely able to describe the physical or mental phenomena accurately. The phenomena, characteristic of many parasomnias, are associated with central nervous system activation, skeletal muscle activity, and signs of autonomic arousal. For young children with primary sleep enuresis, education and patience are often sufficient to determine if the child will “outgrow” the bed-wetting problem. In dissociative disorder, the major symptom is a disruption of consciousness, identity, memory, or perception that has a psychogenic basis. Tooth damage is a function of the forcefulness, frequency, direction, and duration of bruxing. Emotional stress is the most commonly reported precipitant of bruxism.
Chapter
Es gibt eine ganze Reihe von motorischen und Verhaltensstörungen im Schlaf (sog. Parasomnien), die für Neurologen und Fachärzte für Schlafstörungen von Interesse sind, da sie eine sorgfältige Diagnose und Behandlung erfordern. Im wesentlichen handelt es sich um nichtepileptische Störungen. Sie müssen jedoch sorgfältig von den seltenen schlafbezogenen epileptischen Anfällen abgegrenzt werden, die mit ihnen verwechselt werden können (z. B. [2, 49]). Eine Klassifizierung der Parasomnien kann entweder aufgrund klinischer Gesichtspunkte (entsprechend dem Erscheinungsbild der Verhaltensstörung) oder hinsichtlich ihrer Pathophysiologie (als Funktion des Schlafstadiums, in welchem sie gewöhnlich auftreten) vorgenommen werden.
Article
A great perturbation in nature, to receive at once the benefit of sleep and do the effects of watching. In this slumbery agitation, besides her walking and her other actual performances, what, at any time, have you heard her say? —W. Shakespeare THE BEHAVIOR of somnambulists has led to a general belief that sleepwalking is the acting out of a dream.1-3 In a previous study 4 we observed the relation of sleepwalking to the sleep-dream cycle directly, by utilizing the rapid eye movement (REM) method of dream detection * and obtaining electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings throughout the night by means of special cables or a biotelemetry unit which allowed for subject mobility. Nine subjects (seven male and two female) ages 9 to 23 years were studied for a total of 47 subject nights in our laboratory. Six of the subjects were children and three adults, age 16 years being