Scott Falater - The sleepwalking killer
Updated: Mar 13, 2022
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Characteristics: Stabbed and drowned wife in the pool
Number of victims: 1
Date of crimes: January 17, 1997
Date of arrest: January 17, 1997
Sentence: Serving life in prison
Victims profile: Yarmila Falater, 41 (married to Scott Falater for over 20 years)
Method of murder: Stabbed and drowned in the family pool
Location: Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona, USA
Status: Sentenced to natural life in prison without the possibility of parole
About the case:
Scott Falater, famously known as the sleepwalking killer is serving his life sentence in Yuma Prison Complex Cibola Unit in San Luis. He was imprisoned after stabbing his wife 44 times and drowning her in the pool in January 1997. The murder was reported by his neighbor, who saw Falatter dragging his wife to the pool, stabbing her, and hiding the knife in his Volvo.
About Scott and Yarmila Falater:
The Falaters were blissfully married for over 20 years. What started as a high school crush, blossomed into a full-blown commitment to each to in front of God and man in 1976. The Falaters had 2 children who were always well taken care of and loved. After tying the knot, the couple moved to Florida, then Minnesota, and finally settled in Arizona to lay down roots. Scott was an electrical engineer by profession and worked long and hard hours at the Motorola Semiconductor plant. After spending a majority of their marriage as a housewife to take care of the kids, Yarmila had taken up a job as an aide in a daycare center.
When this gruesome incident occurred, not a single person was able to testify to any marital issues. There was no evidence of serious marital stresses or extramarital affairs, nor of domestic abuse, substance abuse, financial distress, or other hallmarks of classic murder motives.
Friends and family members told “20/20” in previous interviews that the Falaters were a devoted couple, happily married and involved in the local community of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Yarmila never expressed any dissatisfaction with her marriage,” her friend Marci Blau told “20/20.” “I would say, ‘Come on, Yarmila, there's gotta be something that drives you nuts,’ and she would just say, ‘Nope, no, he's just a really great guy.’”
When Scott Falater returned home from a long day at work on Jan 16th,1997, his wife had asked him to fix their pool filter. At about 9 p.m. that night, he said he went out to their pool in the backyard and tried to fix it, but because it was late and dark, he said he gave up. When he came back inside, he said his wife was asleep on the couch, so he kissed her goodnight, promised to fix the pool filter the following day and went to bed.
“I was really exhausted and crashed in bed,” he said. “I would guess it was between 9:30 and 10:00 [p.m.].” The next thing he said he remembers was standing atop the stairs in his pajamas as a police officer, with his gun drawn, yelled at him to keep his hands visible and get on the floor.
The Falaters’ neighbor, Greg Koons, has a very different version of what happened that fateful night. Koons’ girlfriend at the time, Stephanie Reidhead, told “20/20” from the ABC network that they were getting ready for bed around 10 p.m. when Reidhead said she heard “moaning or crying” outside.
Koons later testified at trial that he went out to investigate, during which he looked over the wall between his and the Falaters’ property and saw a woman lying on the ground, moving slightly. Koons told authorities he at first thought she had passed out drunk, but then he says he saw Scott Falater drag the woman over to the pool, roll her into the water and hold her head underwater.
Koons then ran back into his home, saying that Scott Falater was drowning his wife, and called 911. When Phoenix Police Department officers Joel Tranter, Steven Stanowicz, and Kemp Layden arrived on the scene, they found Yarmila Falater floating apparently lifeless in the pool. Stanowicz said he could tell from the amount of blood in the water that it was a bad situation. As soon as he pulled her out, Stanowicz said, “I knew that she was gone.”
Yarmila had been stabbed 44 times of which at least 4 would have been fatal and then subsequently drowned. Despite all evidence including the murder weapon, blood, and eyewitness testimony pointing to Scott as the perpetrator of this heinous crime, he claimed that he had no recollection of committing the act. The absence of a motive remains the biggest mystery of this case.
Trial and Defense Strategy:
When Scott Falater went to trial in June 1999, then-Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Juan Martinez sought the death penalty considering the gruesome nature of the crime.
The prosecution’s argument was that Scott Falater was wide awake when he killed his wife. During the trial, chief medical examiner Dr. Philip Keen testified that Yarmila Falater had been stabbed 44 times, and that “most were defensive wounds but some were fatal.” The murder weapon is shown below.
Hunting knife that was used to stab Yarmila Falater
The bombshell testimony came from the Falaters’ neighbor, Greg Koons. Though he did not see the attack, Koons testified that he saw Yarmila Falater lying on the ground near the pool and that Scott Falater was walking through the house, turning lights off and on, and wringing his hands. He testified that he watched Scott Falater put gloves on, roll his wife into the pool and hold her head underwater.
Faced with Koons’ damning testimony, Scott Falater’s noted Phoenix defense attorney, Mike Kimerer, originally planned to have him plead guilty by reason of insanity, but then Scott Falater’s mother and sister said they remembered that he used to sleepwalk.
Despite originally not believing in the defense startegy himself, Scott was convinced after consulting with experts and going through other case studies. Both of Scott and Yarmila Falater’s kids also testified and described a happy childhood with their loving parents.
Meanwhile, Prosecutor Martinez had a detective who had searched the Falater home on the stand describing the moment he found bloody clothes in a food container and a bloody hunting-style knife in a spare tire storage area in the back of Scott Falater’s car. The police said this was evidence that showed Scott Falater hid his clothes and the murder weapon, had tried to wash off the blood on him and had changed clothes. Their main contention was that too many complex actions were performed during this crime for it to have been propelled by just sleepwalking disorder.
The jury found Scott Falater guilty of first-degree murder. Scott Falater faced a possible death penalty at sentencing the following year, but after listening to a series of character witnesses who testified on his behalf -- including his two children who pleaded for his life -- the judge decided on a life sentence without parole.
For more detailed information on this case, listen to our 2 part podcast episode of Scott Falater and visit our sources listed below.