Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Crimes Below the Belt: Penile Removal and Castration

John Wayne and Lorena Bobbitt

John Wayne Bobbitt
John Wayne Bobbitt

In the years following their 1989 marriage, the relationship between John Wayne Bobbitt, 26, and his Ecuadorian wife, Lorena, 24, grew increasingly strained. Their marital problems allegedly stemmed from a combination of the couple's financial troubles, John's extramarital affairs and his intensifying emotional and physical abuse of his wife. Their troubles peaked on June 23, 1993 when John came home to their Manassas, Va., apartment intoxicated after a night of partying and allegedly forced his wife to have sex, Lorena later testified during a 1994 court hearing.

Lorena was traumatized by the experience. In a state of shock she got out of bed and went to the kitchen for a drink of water. While there she noticed an eight-inch carving knife on the counter and when she picked it up "memories of past abuse raced through her head," such as the first time he raped her, "the put-downs" and the abortion, Linda Pershing reported in a National Women's Studies Association Journal article. Lorena then went to the bedroom with the knife in hand, removed the sheets that covered her sleeping husband and cut off almost half of his penis, the report further suggested.

Virginia map with Manassas locator
Virginia map with Manassas locator

As John lay in shock losing vast amounts of blood, Lorena left the apartment, got in the car and drove off. In her panic she hadn't realized that she was still clutching John's penis. Horror-struck, she rolled down the window of the moving vehicle and threw it out into a field.

When she recovered her senses, she stopped and called 911. John was rushed to the hospital, where he was treated for his horrendous wound. He was informed that he would likely never be able to have sex again because his organ sustained such massive damage. Yet, hours later after an exhaustive search, the police located his penis. They packed it in ice and rushed it to the hospital.

Surgeons operated on John for more than nine hours to reattach his penis. The procedure was an astounding success and doctors believed that he would regain full functioning after a year-long recovery process. Even though they were optimistic about John's physical condition, they realized that the emotional damage would likely last much longer.

Kitchen knife, Bobbitt case
Kitchen knife, Bobbitt case

In the meantime, Lorena was taken into custody and charged with malicious wounding. Pershing said that during her arrest Lorena commented to police that "He always have [sic] [an] orgasm and he doesn't wait for me to have [an] orgasm. He's selfish." That was the reason she gave for severing his penis.

John Wayne Bobbitt's ordeal and Lorena's arrest prompted media attention from around the world. Even though John's 1993 acquittal of marital sexual abuse received little coverage, the January 1994 trial gained tremendous attention. Pershing quoted a Newsweek poll that revealed that an astounding 60% of the U.S. population followed the case.

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