Brooke Preston was fatally stabbed by her roommate Randy Herman Jr. in 2017. Then, he claimed that he had been sleepwalking while committing the crime.
On the morning of March 25, 2017, Brooke Preston returned to the Florida home she had previously shared with her childhood friend Randy Herman Jr. to pick up some of her belongings. It was supposed to be a quick stop, as she was planning to relocate to Buffalo, New York to live with her boyfriend.
Instead, the choice to return to the house would tragically be the last choice she ever made. When Brooke Preston arrived that morning, Randy Herman suddenly attacked her, brutally stabbing her 25 times before leaving her lifeless body hidden under a blanket.
Herman was the one to report the murder to the police, and at the time he readily admitted to killing his roommate. Later, however, he would make a bold and unconventional defense claim: He claimed that he killed Brooke Preston while he was sleepwalking — and had no recollection of doing it.
The Events Leading Up To The Murder Of Brooke Preston
Brooke Chantel Preston grew up in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania. Her friends described her as beautiful and funny, a spitfire personality loved by everyone who knew her. She was affectionately nicknamed “Cookie” or “Little Princess” by those who were closest to her, according to her obituary. She loved “everything that sparkled,” and had a tattoo that read “The sky is the limit.”
The hopeful high school graduate had moved to West Palm Beach to live with her sister and attend the State College of Florida, Newswatch 16 reports. Randy Herman Jr., whom the two girls had known since their teenage years, moved to Florida around the same time, and the friends soon became roommates.
After earning her Associate’s degree, Preston landed a job in Buffalo, New York, where she planned to move in with her boyfriend.
But the night before she was supposed to move out, Preston allegedly expressed some concerns to her friends about her roommate’s odd behavior. According to WPTV, Preston had left the house that night because Herman was acting strangely and making her feel uncomfortable.
The next day, she returned to the house to pick up a shirt and say goodbye to Herman. It would be the last thing she would ever do.
Randy Herman Jr. Confesses To Murder
At around 9 p.m. on March 25, 2017, Randy Herman Jr. drove to a nearby park and called the police. During the call, he tearfully confessed to murdering Brooke Preston, saying, “Someone’s been murdered… Just send the police. It was me. I’m sorry.”
When police arrived at the scene, they found Herman covered in blood and Preston’s body still underneath the blanket. Her body was riddled with fatal knife wounds to her back, throat, and abdomen, along with defensive injuries to her left hand. Herman was arrested on the spot after police saw the bloodstains on his clothes and a cut on his hand.
Herman claimed that he had texted Preston that morning asking her to pick up a shirt so she could give it to a friend. When she arrived, he claimed, he gave her the shirt and they said their goodbyes before he went back to sleep.
According to The Palm Beach Post, Herman claimed he had no memory of killing his childhood friend until he found himself standing over her body with a bloodied knife in his hand. Frightened and confused, he called 911 and admitted to being responsible for her death, but only because no one else was present.
The Sensational Details Of The Brooke Preston Murder Trial
At Randy Herman Jr.’s trial for the murder of Brooke Preston, his defense team took an unusual approach, claiming he was sleepwalking during the murder and was not guilty by reason of insanity. The shocking story made waves in the media.
The media frenzy intensified when it was revealed that Herman’s father, Randy Herman Sr., had also been accused of murder, having allegedly killed his girlfriend in 2015, but he died by suicide before he could be arrested.
During Herman’s trial, forensic experts testified that the crime appeared to be sexually motivated, referring to an alleged incident from the evening before the murder in which Herman had hid naked in Preston’s closet after a night of heavy drinking. Prosecutors claimed that it was this incident that made Preston uncomfortable and prompted her to leave the house the night before her murder.
But there was never any evidence that Preston and Herman were ever romantically involved, and Preston’s sister, Jordan Preston, denied that there had ever been any romantic interest between them.
There seemed to be no logical explanation for the killing, no apparent motive, no history of violence, or, aside from that one alleged incident, no reports of any issues between Herman and Preston.
Experts Weigh In On The Sleepwalking Defense
The case against Randy Herman Jr. focused on the brief time frame between Preston’s return to the house and the report of her murder.
During the trial, Herman and his lawyers argued that he was not conscious when he stabbed Preston more than 20 times, and should be found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Prosecutors questioned the plausibility of Herman’s sleepwalking defense, arguing that it was implausible that Herman would have had time to fall asleep and begin sleepwalking in the time it would have taken Preston to leave the house.
What’s more, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Wade C. Myers testified that Herman couldn’t have sleepwalked through such an elaborate act of violence. Prosecutors therefore concluded that Herman must have murdered Preston consciously and intentionally.
“This is skin, this is bone, this is muscle [he’s stabbing,]” Assistant State Attorney Reid Scott said. “You’re not going to sleepwalk through that.”
After five hours of deliberations, the jury reached a verdict, and in May 2019, Herman was found guilty of first-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of Brooke Preston.
Before Herman’s sentencing, Jordan Preston tearfully spoke about how her life had changed since her sister’s death. The two women had been very close and had lived together for more than six months before Brooke was brutally murdered in the house they used to share.
“The last few years without her have been awful,” Jordan said. “Our lives are totally different.”
Herman is currently serving a life sentence at Hardee Correctional Facility in Bowling Green, Florida, according to The Palm Beach Post.
Dead Asleep Reexamines The Case
In 2021, Hulu released a controversial documentary called Dead Asleep. Directed by Skye Borgman, the film explores the Brooke Preston murder case through the perspectives of both the defense and the prosecution, consulting experts on sleepwalking and even interviewing Randy Herman Jr. himself.
In the film, experts suggest that sleepwalkers can, in fact, unconsciously carry out violent acts without being awakened, even if they injure themselves.
However, Brooke Preston’s family refused involvement in the project, and the film came under criticism for leaning heavily on the perspective of the defense. In the years since it premiered, Jordan Preston has been petitioning Hulu to take it down.
“We clearly will never be given the opportunity to grieve in peace,” Jordan said. “My sister deserves more. My family deserves more. Our friends and community deserve more.”
After reading about the tragic case of Brooke Preston, read about Christina Boyer, the telekinetic woman accused of killing her daughter. Or, learn about Natalie Holloway, the girl that vanished in Aruba during a trip with her high school class.