A 55-year-old New Jersey woman with a history of sleepwalking has drown after unconsciously walking across a train trestle near her apartment and falling into a lake, police believe.
Friends and neighbors of Charlene Ferrero continue helping police in Oaklyn, N.J., piece together the strange chain of events that led to her death sometime over the weekend.
Saturday night, police received reports from neighbors that a disoriented woman was walking down the street in her pajamas, The Daily Mail reported.
Friends became worried Sunday morning after someone found her cell phone in the grass nearby her apartment. They reported her missing after arriving at her apartment to check up on her and finding the door unlocked and her keys, purse and wallet on a chair.
After a fruitless search, crews found Ferrero's body Monday night in nearby Newton Lake.
Toxicology reports on Ferrero's body are being conducted to determine whether, among other things, she might have taken Ambien or other sleep medications that have been known to cause sleepwalking. According to the Daily Mail, neighbors had witnessed Ferrero sleepwalking firsthand not very long before the accident.
Friend and neighbor Teresa Cerini said Ferrero knocked on her door late at night completely unaware of her surroundings, acting as though two were waitresses at a restaurant.
"[Ferrero] goes, 'I'm so sorry. The people at table two ordered the eggs,'" Cerini told Philadelphia's WPVI-TV News.
Sleepwalking episodes have been documented time and again, yet scientists are still unsure what exactly causes the strange and often dangerous behavior. The New York Times article "Some Sleeping Pill Users Range Far Beyond Bed" links the behavior to sleeping pills like Ambien, describing instances where people have been observed driving, urinating on the street, and getting in physical altercations without any recollection of it later.
But that doesn't explain all sleepwalking cases, especially in people like Ferrero who say they were sleepwalking as children. Earlier, this year, The Daily Mail reported on a study linking sleepwalking to a genetic defect that can cause the behavior occur in generations of family members, though scientists admitted that much work needed to be done.