Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Crimes Below the Belt: Penile Removal and Castration

Tammy Felbaum

Tammy Felbaum
Tammy Felbaum

On February 22, 2001, after undergoing treatment at a drug rehabilitation center and serving time at a halfway house, James J. Felbaum, 40, returned home to his wife, Tammy L. Felbaum, 42. It was not exactly a happy homecoming. Tammy, a post-operational transgender woman previously known as Thomas, fought with her sixth husband that same day because he allegedly took highly addictive prescription pain killers, reported in a December 2001 article. Moreover, Tammy was upset because she believed James cheated on her, the article stated.

Pennsylvania map with Butler County locator
Pennsylvania map with Butler County

Following the argument, Tammy claimed she went to sleep only to awake the next day and find that James had partially castrated himself in their Butler County, Pa., trailer. According to the report, James handed her his testicles and said, "'Don't ever say I don't love you,' in an attempt to prove that he was not cheating on her." Apparently, he failed to complete the job. Tammy later said that the "surgery went awry" and she stepped in to help him after making James sign a consent form, Johnna Pro and Cindi Lash reported in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article. Tammy assisted by completing the full castration and stitching her husband up on a makeshift operation table in their living room. After all, she was somewhat experienced with the procedure because she had performed the same operation on herself when she was 21, before her sex change operation, AP Worldstream reported.

Tammy Felbaum outside court
Tammy Felbaum outside court

Pro and Lash said that a friend of the couple arrived at their trailer on the evening of the 23rd and noticed that James was "lying in a blood-soaked bed" and that his scrotum was stitched up. It was further reported that James told his friend that he "ruptured himself" in a car accident and underwent surgery. When his friend tried to urge him to go to the hospital to seek treatment, James flatly refused. 

There is no doubt that James suffered terribly from the castration. To reduce the pain, he took a staggering amount of painkillers. The following Sunday Tammy found James unconscious. She feared he might have overdosed and she immediately called the paramedics. 

James was pronounced dead shortly upon his arrival at the hospital. To establish a cause of death, the assistant coroner performed an autopsy during which they discovered his castration and a lethal dosage of drugs in his system. His suspicious death led to Tammy's arrest.

Tammy Felbaum
Tammy Felbaum

Tammy was charged with third-degree murder, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and unauthorized practice of medicine. She was also charged with animal cruelty because during a search of their property, investigators found "numerous dead animals including turtles, a parakeet and a cat that had been strung up in a tree in the back yard," Pro and Lash reported. She was held at the Cambria County Jail until her trial in December 2001.

During the brief trial, it was discovered that James died not as a direct result from the castration but from choking on his own vomit, which was induced by the drug overdose. Tammy was found guilty anyway of several charges including, involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and the unauthorized practice of medicine. In February 2002, she was sentenced to up to 11 years in prison. She continues to maintain her innocence to this day.

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