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NJ Woman Found Dead In Lake May Have Drowned After Sleepwalking

Charlene Ferrero (credit: Personal Photo)

Charlene Ferrero (credit: Personal Photo)

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OAKLYN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — There’s a bizarre twist to a mysterious drowning case in New Jersey. Police said a woman may have sleepwalked to her death.

A neighbor said 55-year-old Charlene Ferrero had a history of wandering in her sleep. Now, investigators want to know if she was taking a sleep aid, CBS 2’s Dana Tyler reported.

Ferrero’s body was pulled from a lake near her home on Monday night. Police believe it’s possible she sleepwalked out of her home and then fell to her death from a train trestle that crosses the water.

“I’m going to miss her. When I would walk with her, I’d be laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe,” said Teresa Cerini, a friend of the victim.

Cerini said she got worried Sunday morning when she found her friend’s apartment unlocked.

“I took her keys, locked the apartment door and called the police,” Cerini said.

Police said witnesses confirm Ferrero drove her car on Saturday night. Now her co-workers are trying to cope with her death.

“When she fell in the water, wouldn’t that wake her up if she was sleepwalking?” Rita Brown asked.

“Sleepwalking, none of us knew that ever happened with her,” co-worker Susan Murtaugh said.

Sleep specialist Dr. Gary Zammit said sleep walkers can perform complex tasks even in the deepest stages of sleep.

“Sleep walking is when a person who is asleep rises from bed and engages in some type of behavior that is normally associated with wakefulness,” Zammit said. “Some sleep walkers can go outside, walk over something — like a train track — and not awaken.”

There are cases of some sleep walkers engaging in violent behavior.

“They may hurt a bed partner or someone else in their path. There are even reports — many of them — of people committing murder while sleepwalking,” Zammit said.

Doctors don’t understand what causes sleepwalking, but there have been cases of prescription sleep aids causing bizarre sleep behaviors.

At the diner where Ferrero worked, the flag flies at half-staff in her memory.

“Good friend, good worker, never let me down. When I needed her, she was always there,” diner owner Michael Vasilakis said.

Prosecutors are waiting for toxicology reports to determine if Ferrero had a high amount of a sleep aid in her system.  The results are due back in about three weeks.

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