WESTMINSTER, Calif. – Arraignment has been postponed for a Southern California woman accused of serving her estranged husband a spiked meal before she cut off his penis with one swift slice of a kitchen knife and ran it through a garbage disposal.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Debra Carrillo on Friday rescheduled Catherine Kieu's arraignment to Sept. 23 and set bail at $1 million.
Kieu, 48, is charged with torture and aggravated mayhem, with sentencing enhancements for great bodily injury and use of a knife. If convicted of all counts, she could face life in prison without parole.
Kieu appeared in court briefly in a blue jail jumpsuit, with chains rattling as she walked. Her long dark hair blocked portions of her face, and she answered Carrillo's questions through a Vietnamese-language interpreter.
Frank Bittar, Kieu's attorney, declined to comment on the allegations, except to say "there's a lot there, to the case — more than meets the eye."
During the hearing, Bittar asked Carrillo to ban the media from photographing or filming Kieu to ensure her safety in jail and avoid creating a biased jury pool. Senior Deputy District Attorney John Christl opposed the request, and the judge denied it.
Authorities say they believe Kieu spiked her 60-year-old husband's tofu dinner on July 11. The victim recalled the food tasted "metallic," according to a search warrant affidavit filed by Garden Grove police.
After he went to lie down and fell asleep, Kieu tied his hands and feet to the bed with white nylon rope and cut off his penis with one swift motion as he woke, telling him "you deserve it," the affidavit said.
Authorities said Kieu called police later that night to report a medical emergency. Officers found the victim with a blood-soaked towel covering his groin, and Kieu had blood spatter on her legs and shirt, the affidavit said.
She was arrested without incident and refused to talk to officers further, police said.
Kieu's husband had filed for divorce in May after 16 months of marriage. Authorities said the couple still lived together but she was moving her things out of his Garden Grove condo.
On the evening of the attack, Kieu had argued with her husband about his having a male friend stay at the home, the affidavit said.
The victim, whose name was not released by police, was taken to University of California at Irvine Medical Center and has since been released, said hospital spokesman John Murray.
In 1993, Lorena Bobbitt cut off her husband's penis in Virginia and threw it out of her car window into a field on the side of the road. She claimed years of sexual abuse drove her to the attack, and she was acquitted by reason of insanity. The penis was later reattached.
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