Husband claims he woke to find his wife dead – before his evil lie fell apart

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Raymond Lazarine called his son Nathan while he was at work. He sounded out of sorts and panicked.

It was around noon on December 18, 2013. ‘I’ve had a dream that I shot my wife…’ Lazarine stammered down the phone. ‘Then I woke up… come quick.’

Nathan thought he sounded strangely distressed about just a dream and rushed to his dad’s home in Houston, Texas.

When Nathan got there and burst into the living room, he couldn’t believe his eyes. Lazarine’s wife, Deborah, was dead on the floor in a pool of blood.

Her body was riddled with bullets. How had a dream become a horrific reality?

Lazarine and Deborah, 63, had been married for 35 years. Nathan was Lazarine’s son from a previous relationship. Deborah had two daughters, including Krysta Johns, now 46, who had grown up with Lazarine as her stepfather.

Lazarine ran a successful electrical contracting business and Deborah was his loyal wife. She loved the simple things in life, like being near water with days at the beach or rivers in the country, although she’d never learned how to swim.

Deborah could be found keeping busy in her garden, or visiting her children’s gardens to help out with a spot of landscaping. She enjoyed crafting and there was always something delicious cooking in her oven.

Deborah was devoted to her children and her grandchildren, too – she had another due in just a few weeks. She knew Lazarine drank too much, especially as he was taking psychotropic medication for his mental health, which shouldn’t be mixed with alcohol.

Krysta would later say her mum had suffered silently from domestic abuse for years. She would say Lazarine didn’t like it when Deborah was on the phone to anyone and would keep her conversations short. Away from Lazarine, she behaved like a different person. She would be happy, bubbly and outgoing. No one would have suspected she was suffering at home.

Then, on that fateful day in 2013, Lazarine called his son while he was working and begged him to come to the house. He talked about a disturbing dream where he’d shot several times and killed his wife. Only, it wasn’t a dream.

Nathan arrived and found Deborah dead. His dad explained that he had thought it was a dream but when he woke up, his wife had been shot and he’d really done it.

Lazarine insisted he must have shot her while he was sleepwalking and when the emergency services arrived, he told the same story. Deborah had been shot six times, including two wounds in the head and one in her back. It was an unusually high amount of times to have been shot.

Could it have been done mindlessly by a man in a trance? Despite claims from loved ones that there was tension in the Lazarine marriage, there were no police reports of violence or abuse in the home. But straight away, there were questions.

The shooting happened in the middle of the day, so why was Lazarine in such a deep sleep that he would be sleepwalking? What would have made him go and get his gun and return to shoot his wife – all while supposedly asleep?

Deborah’s death made headlines. A husband who had ‘accidentally’ killed his wife while sleepwalking was a tragic thought and any case that involves sleepwalking always draws attention.

There had been cases where sleepwalking had been used as a defence that ended up being disproved. But there were also successful cases when sleepwalking had allowed the killer to avoid jail time.

One of the most famous was back in 1987. Canadian Kenneth Parks developed a gambling disorder and lost his job. One night, he fell asleep while watching TV and while sleepwalking drove for 14 miles to his in-laws’ house, strangled his father-in-law, who survived, and beat his mother-in-law to death with the tyre iron.

Kenneth then drove to a police station and said, ‘I think I killed someone.’ Kenneth had a great relationship with his in-laws so people were baffled. When he was taken into custody, he had a large gash on his hand, and typically of a person who is sleepwalking, he said he felt no pain. Kenneth was acquitted at his trial.

There was a chance that Lazarine was using his sleepwalking defence to get away with murder. Investigators couldn’t risk that and knew it would have to go to trial for experts and a jury to decide, so he was charged in connection with Deborah’s death.

It would take six years for the case to come to court, which was an agonising wait for Deborah’s loved ones who just wanted justice.

Lazarine’s lawyers called for several extensive sleep studies to try to prove his sleepwalking defence and he underwent two separate studies.

In November 2019, Lazarine, now 67, finally faced a jury. He didn’t deny that he’d shot his wife, and he never had, but he continued to insist it wasn’t on purpose and he couldn’t be held fully responsible.

Lazarine’s defence said that he suffered from a ‘medical condition’ which caused him to sleepwalk and because of his sleep-like state, his actions were involuntary.

They had an expert testify who had conducted sleep studies on Lazarine. He said Lazarine did have movement during REM sleep, where you are mainly paralysed, which was unusual.

The defence said it was important to know that we’re still learning much about the brain and how it works. It had been proven in the past that you can commit a crime while sleepwalking.

‘There are witnesses over there who have seen the manifestation of his sleep disorder, and we thought that would be important for the jury to know,’ they said.

The defence also called four men who had been incarcerated with Lazarine in prison while he waited for trial. They did say that they had seen him walking in his sleep – day and night.

The prosecution described a marriage that was fraught with tension. Deborah’s daughter Krysta took the stand. She was shown pictures of herself with her mum smiling together on a trip to a beach house, and she recalled their loving relationship. When Krysta was shown pictures from her mum’s autopsy, and listened to how many times she’d been shot, she broke down in tears.

Krysta talked about how Lazarine was a heavy drinker and how he was abusive towards her mum and had been for years. Krysta said that her stepfather was controlling and he’d threatened to kill Deborah so many times that her mum wasn’t even afraid when he said it any more.

Emotionally, Krysta described an incident when she was still in high school, when she walked into her parents’ room. She recalled her mum being hungover and asking Lazarine for water. When she’d asked him for a different cup, he’d flown into a rage.

He’d pinned Deborah down and held a gun under her chin. Krysta said she feared Lazarine and worried he’d be violent towards her if he were ever released.

‘This is an individual who has terrorised a family for years,’ the prosecution said. ‘This was a horrific murder with no justification. There is no mitigation and there’s nothing in this defendant’s past or future that means he’ll ever be a productive member of society.’

The jury found Lazarine guilty of murder. They agreed with the prosecution and decided that Lazarine had deliberately shot his wife and had used sleepwalking as an excuse. At the sentencing, Lazarine was asked if he had anything to say. ‘Just that I’m sorry,’ he replied.

Krysta expressed her fear that her stepdad would be released one day. ‘We have just needed him to be locked away forever,’ she said, and it’s possible she might get her wish.

Lazarine was sentenced to 75 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine. He will be eligible for parole when he is 97, so it’s unlikely he will ever live a free life.

Lazarine had tried to cover a murder by pretending he was asleep, but a jury decided that he was wide awake when he fired six bullets into his innocent wife and his dream had become a real-life nightmare.

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