Sometimes it's OK to wake them

A chronic somnambulist awoke naked on top of a 7-year-old. He'll do his sleepwalking in the clink from now on.


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Chris Colin
May 1, 2001 11:00PM (UTC)

In November 1998, a Pleasantville, N.J., man awoke naked on top of a 7-year-old girl his then-girlfriend was babysitting. What are you doing in my room? he asked the child. You're in my room, she replied. Both screamed, and the man covered himself with a blanket before running to tell his girlfriend what had happened. On Friday, according to PressPlus of Atlantic City, Superior Court Judge Arthur V. Guerrera ruled that the naked man would spend his next three years waking up in a state prison.

Richard Overton is no stranger to strange beds. The 43-year-old trucker has a history of extreme sleepwalking, and has often awoken on the floor, under a pool table or in a bathtub, according to the testimony of friends and relatives. Overton has even slept while eating potato chips and Gummi Bears.

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Parasomniac or not, the girl's mother said, Overton traumatized a child. Doctors found no evidence of penetration, but the girl testified that Overton pulled her pants down. She's too frightened to sleep alone now.

"We just moved into a new house and she has her own room, but she won't stay in it," the mother said.

A sleeping disorder specialist said that a number of factors contributed to Overton's somnambulism, according to the PressPlus article. His 10- to 14-hour trucker schedule, lack of sleep and 20 to 25 cups of coffee a day all made him susceptible. What's more, his ailing father had asked to be taken off a respirator the day of the incident. Overton was exhausted when it happened -- in the three days prior, he'd slept just three hours.

While Guerrera didn't grant Overton probation, he expressed misgivings about the jury's verdict and delivered as lenient a sentence as possible. Overton was found guilty of second-degree child endangerment charge and fourth-degree child abuse, and acquitted of sexual assault and second-degree attempted sexual assault. He won't be eligible to seek parole until he's served nine months.

"If I could take back everything that happened, I would," Overton said. He has installed motion detectors and alarms to prevent sleepwalking.

The defense will try to get Overton out on bail pending an appeal. Overton's lawyer will question whether he can be found guilty if his actions were unintentional.

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Chris Colin

Chris Colin is the author most recently of "Blindsight," published by the Atavist.

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