Woman sentenced in severed penis case

SANTA ANA, Calif. - A Garden Grove woman was sentenced Friday to life in prison with the possibility of parole for a July 2011 attack in which she cut off her estranged husband's penis and mutilated it in a garbage disposal.

Catherine Kieu, 50, who has been incarcerated since the attack, will be eligible for parole in seven years.

Kieu was convicted in April of aggravated mayhem and torture for drugging her estranged husband  by lacing his soup with the sleep aid Ambien, then tying him up, castrating him and tossing his penis into a garbage disposal.

The victim -- known in court only as Glen -- testified that 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."

After Friday's hearing, the victim said he wished Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard Toohey could have given Kieu more time behind bars.

"Deep down inside I was hoping for a stronger sentence, but given the restraints of the law this is what he had to do," he said.

The victim thanked prosecutors, the judge, family, friends and counselors for helping him through the aftermath.

"There may be a situation where I can be happy, but whole? Never," he said after the sentencing. "I've got a long ways to go."

He said Toohey's sentence and verdict, "is helping a little."

Kieu's attorney, Frank Bittar, said during the trial that his client suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder due to mental impairment and long-term sexual abuse and did not have the required mental capacity to be convicted. He said one of Kieu's brothers "repeatedly" raped the defendant, starting when she was 5 years old, growing up in "war torn" Vietnam.

Bittar said his client, "from the outset" has been "deeply and intensely remorseful for her conduct."

Toohey rejected Bittar's request for probation, noting the planning that went into the attack.

"Her actions are as calculated as any murders in the first degree," Toohey said.

Deputy District Attorney John Christl, however, insisted that Kieu simply refused to accept her husband's demand for a divorce and made specific plans to carry out the attack as revenge.

The victim said he also thought that was the motive.

"I don't think she wanted to get divorced," he said after the hearing. "She said, `We will never be divorced.' "

During the hearing, the victim lashed out at Bittar for trying to make the case that Kieu attacked him  in part because he made her engage in painful sexual positions.

"I look back on the trial and how the defense fabricated their arguments at my expense, how lies about me and my life spewed into the courtroom and seeped into the press," the victim said. "I never had sex with her, or anyone else, in the last seven months before the crime. There was no evidence of abuse found on the recorders that the convicted hid around the house, in her purse, and in my car.

"What I told was the truth," he said. "I never laid a hand on her, never hit her, never punched her, never forced her to do anything that made her uncomfortable, never called her names. Nor have I done this to any other woman in my life. Of all the friends, family and neighbors that we encountered, no one saw any bruises or cut lips or black eyes or heard name-calling."

"Glen" also doubted Kieu's claim of childhood sexual abuse, saying she never mentioned it during her time with him.

"I am still at a loss confronted with the hatred and severity of the crime," he told Toohey. "I never saw it coming, not in a million years. Yes, I knew there were issues between the convicted and me, issues that would never be resolved, but to end things like this -- never."

The victim said even after he let her know he wanted a divorce, "I still liked and had respect for the convicted. I felt for her. I didn't want to force her out of the house. She was having trouble financially, and making arrangements to move out was not an easy matter. But we did need to move on."

The victim said before the attack he was an optimistic person.

"The flame of that optimism was extinguished on July 11, 2011," he said. "I didn't know it at first, but what the convicted did to me was douse my optimism about finding true happiness. She murdered my hope to love someone again and perhaps, just perhaps, find the partner I could share the rest of my life with... I now struggle with what is before me. She has torn off my identity as a man. She has caused me to question my belief in God."

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