Friday, May 7, 2010

Sleepwalking disorder at center of Colorado Springs teen murder case

The disorder that causes people to act out their dreams continues to grab media attention this month. A 13-year-old Colorado Springs boy is in court for a deadly attack on family members. His mother says he appeared to be possessed. His lawyers claims he did it all in his sleep.

On year ago, police say Daniel Gudino shot and killed his 9-year-old brother, then shot his mother in the shoulder and stabbed her multiple times. This week, a judge is hearing arguments to decide if he will be tried as an adult.

Thursday, a child psychiatrist took the stand as a defense witness. He claimed Gudino had a rare parasomnia. He says the boy thought he was shooting at shadowy ghosts inside his house. He referred to a history of sleepwalking, including an incident two years ago.

Parasomnia is a classification of sleep disorders. All parasomnias involve undesirable events during sleep.

The description given by the doctor is partly in line with the symptoms of the parasomnia REM sleep behavioral disorder. RBD causes people to act out vivid dreams in their sleep, sometimes violently.

REM sleep behavioral disorder can be progressive, starting out with mild activity, eventually becoming more violent. Only about .5 percent of people have symptoms of RBD. Most are older men.

Sleepwalking disorder might be a stronger possibility because it usually occurs early in life. Sleepwalkers may get violent, trying to escape from a threat they dreamed. Their eyes are usually open and have a confused “glassy” look. Someone with these symptoms could be mistaken for being possessed, as the suspect’s mother described her son.

Whether the boy has any disorder at all is still up for debate.

The prosecution claims his actions were far too complicated to happen in his sleep. Before he shot his brother, they say he used toothpicks to pick the lock on a gun cabinet, and then he loaded a .22 caliber rifle.

Look for further updates on this case on the AASM Twitter account:

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