In 2017, a heartbreaking event shook West Palm Beach, Florida, as 21-year-old Brooke Preston met a tragic end, stabbed to death by her roommate and childhood friend, Randy Herman Jr. The horrifying incident, leading to Herman’s confession and subsequent imprisonment, took a peculiar turn with Herman’s defense: he claimed to have committed the crime while sleepwalking during a severe hangover.
A Last Goodbye Turns Tragic: The Background Story
Preston, on the verge of moving to New York with her boyfriend, returned to her Florida home to collect the last of her belongings. Her visit took an unexpected turn when Herman, grappling with alcohol-related issues, consumed over 30 beers in a single day. Annoyed by his intoxication, Preston opted to stay the night with a different friend. The next morning, a hungover Herman assisted Preston in packing, sharing a final moment before tragedy struck.
The Sleepwalking Defense: Unraveling Herman’s Claim
Herman’s chilling narrative unfolds with him claiming to have fallen asleep after watching Preston leave his room, only to wake up standing over her lifeless body with a blood-stained knife in hand. The police, responding to Herman’s 911 call at Haverhill Park, found him covered in blood with a hand wound. Upon returning to the shared residence, they discovered a gruesome crime scene and the alleged murder weapon—a “hunting-style knife.” Herman’s hand injury was attributed to a reported slip, cutting himself on the knife. Preston’s body, bearing defensive wounds, lay under a blanket.
The Controversial Sleepwalking Defense: A Trial Unfolds
As the case went to trial, Herman’s defense introduced an unusual angle—the claim that the murder occurred during a sleepwalking episode. While not a common defense, cases of sleepwalking-induced murders do exist. The defense highlighted Herman’s history of sleepwalking, the absence of an apparent motive, and the close relationship between the attacker and the victim as contributing factors. Despite Herman’s clear lack of memory regarding the incident, the jury, in 2019, rejected the sleepwalking explanation.
The Prosecution’s Counterargument: Unveiling Motives
Prosecutors, searching for an explanation, portrayed the killing as motivated by unrequited feelings. The night before the tragedy, a drunk and incoherent Herman had reportedly curled up naked in Preston’s closet, leading friends to believe he harbored a crush on her. Prosecutors found the sleepwalking defense implausible, emphasizing the brutal nature of the crime. Assistant State Attorney Reid Scott argued, “This is skin, this is bone, this is muscle (he’s stabbing). You’re not going to sleepwalk through that.”
Herman’s Conflicted Sentiments: A Letter from Prison
Despite the jury’s decision, Herman, serving a life sentence, maintains he has no memory of Preston’s death. In a letter to the Miami New Times, he grapples with the conflicting emotions surrounding the case. Expressing remorse, he suggests the incident might have resulted from overwhelming stress, depression, trauma, and alcohol—a mysterious breakdown that defies easy explanation. Herman pleads for understanding, stating, “Part of me feels like I deserve a life sentence … but the other part of me knows I did not intentionally do this and I deserve a second chance in life.”
The tragic murder of Brooke Preston remains a haunting puzzle, leaving lingering questions about the complex interplay of mental health, crime, and the search for justice.