Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Penis-Cutting Wife to Learn her Fate

Catherine Kieu's arrested photo.

Catherine Kieu's arrested photo.

Husbands and wives have disagreements all the time, and the vast majority of them never make their way into the news. In 2011, however, when a Garden Grove, California, couple’s conflict ended with the husband’s severed penis in the garbage disposal, it was a headliner.

On July 11, 2011, Catherine Kieu (now 50), and her 60-year-old husband ate dinner at home. The couple had originally met at a local health club, hit it off, and married, but after less than two years the marriage had fallen on hard times. The two had filed for divorce in May, but that fateful night they were still stuck under the same roof. What the husband didn’t know was that Catherine was about to do something to change that forever. She began by spiking his meal with Ambien, a powerful sleeping aid, which soon made him pass out.

According to authorities, when the husband, whose name has not been made public, came to, his limbs were bound with rope to the four corners of the bed. Kieu then allegedly pulled down her husband’s pants, took out his penis, and cut it off with a knife. She then took the dismembered member into the kitchen, stuffed it into the garbage disposal and turned it on, “mutilating the organ,” according to court filings.

Kieu then called 911 herself to report her bleeding husband. Kieu even gave the phone to him to let him tell the dispatcher what she had done. The LA Times reported that Kieu didn’t need prompting to tell police her husband “deserved” to have his penis removed.

Kieu was arrested and charged with felony torture and aggravated mayhem, serious charges that carry a potential sentence of life imprisonment. She pleaded not guilty to the charges.

On April 17, 2013, opening statements in the trial of California vs. Catherine Kieu began in an Orange County courthouse. Defense attorney Frank Bittar told the jury that his client had grown up in war-torn Vietnam, where she had been sexually abused growing up, and as a result had mental problems which were compounded by an unhappy marriage to an abusive man.

On the first day of the trial, prosecutors called the husband to the stand to describe his ordeal – a penis that was never successfully reattached and a special surgery that allows him to urinate. “She murdered me that night,” the broken man testified, “I will never have a sex life again.”

Kieu had set up a tape-recorder in the bedroom the night of the attack, and parts of the tape were played for the jury. Kieu yells “You deserve it!” three times before going through with the attack.

Last week, the jury heard closing arguments from opposing counsel. Kieu’s lawyer Bittar reminded them of her traumatic childhood in Vietnam. Bittar blamed the husband, who he said  often sought demeaning, painful sex from Kieu, which exacerbated her mental problems and led to her to “break from reality“.

Prosecutor John Christi pinned the blame on Kieu’s jealousy over her husband’s seeing another woman as the marriage dissolved. Christi conceded the defendant’s troubled upbringing, but added “it doesn’t change the fact she sliced off the penis due to her vengeance, vanity and jealousy.

Kieu’s jury has had the weekend to reflect on the case, and will begin deliberating Monday morning.

Crimes Below the Belt: Penile Removal and Castration

Crimes Below the Belt II: Beheaded

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