Woman convicted in severed penis case

Catherine Kieu faces up to life in prison

SANTA ANA, Calif. - A Garden Grove woman was convicted Monday of aggravated mayhem and torture for drugging her estranged husband by lacing his soup with Ambien, then tying him up, castrating him and tossing his penis into a garbage disposal.

Catherine Kieu, 50, faces up to life in prison for the July 11, 2011, attack. Sentencing is set for June 28.

The eight-woman, four-man jury reached its decision after about two hours of deliberations.

Kieu showed no outward reaction as the verdicts were announced, but her attorney, Frank Bittar of the Orange County Public Defender's Office, said his client was " distraught and numb."

"We're obviously disappointed in the result," Bittar said. "We presented overwhelming evidence of her mental impairment and physical sex abuse that finally broke her."

Deputy District Attorney John Christl predicted the victim will "be pleased with the verdicts."

"This caused him a great deal of emotional pain," the prosecutor said.

The victim tearfully testified last week about how he has struggled since the attack.

"She murdered me that night," he testified.

The victim said he spent a few days in a hospital and underwent surgery, but "not reconstructive surgery." The operation was "to make it usable as far as going to the bathroom," he testified.

"Of course, I will never have a sex life again," he said. "The healing process may never be completely finished. My mental state is improving, but it may never be what it was before."

Kieu's attorney insisted during the trial that his client suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and did not have the required mental state to be convicted.

Christl, however, insisted that Kieu simply refused to accept her husband's demand for a divorce.

"By refusing to accept it, she committed a vicious act. She took away his manhood," Christl told the jury.

In his closing argument, Bittar told jurors that his client had a "break from reality" when she attacked her husband and should be convicted of lesser charges.

Bittar argued that the victim -- known only in court as Glen -- demanded that Kieu have sex with him in ways that were physically painful to her. Bittar also pointed to friends and acquaintances of the defendant who testified they saw bruises all over Kieu's body at various times as well as a black eye and a fat lip.

"He assaulted her and we've proven that," Bittar said.

"He knows he was causing her pain" during sex, Bittar said. "He knew about her back problems."

The victim was "hopped up on Levitra" and "demanded sex nonstop," Bittar alleged.

Christl said Kieu made an appointment with a doctor to get a prescription for Ambien, which she put into her husband's dinner to drug him so she could tie him up, cut off his penis and then destroy it in her kitchen garbage disposal.

Even if Kieu suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, that doesn't mean she couldn't form the intent to commit the crime, Christl argued.

"As the doctor said, people function throughout the day with post-traumatic stress disorder," Christl said, referring to one of the defense experts who testified during the trial.

The evidence of Kieu's intent can be seen in the multiple steps she took to subdue her husband, Christl said. He also pointed out that Kieu put voice-activated recorders throughout their condo and in his car and then destroyed audio files on her laptop as police were responding to her estranged husband's mutilation.

"She was mutilating his penis as police were coming, and that's an intent," Christl said.

The prosecutor also scoffed at claims that the victim abused Kieu.

"Bruises? You have no dates," Christl said, referring to confusion among the witnesses about when they saw the marks on Kieu. "Glen deserves better than that. He's the one who suffered."

Kieu was simply motivated by anger fueled by her husband's request for a divorce, jealousy of his ex-girlfriend and fear that she would be on her own, Christl argued.

"They say anger is the wind that blows out the candle of the mind," the prosecutor said. "It makes you do irrational things."

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