Prosecutors and defense attorney on Thursday offered differing portraits of the Garden Grove woman accused of lacing her husband's dinner with drugs, cutting off his penis and tossing it in a garbage disposal.
Catherine Kieu, 50, faces felony charges of torture and aggravated mayhem, with a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a knife, the Orange County district attorney's office said. She faces a maximum sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Kieu was arrested on the night of July 11, 2011, after she and her 60-year-old husband -- whose name has not been released -- apparently argued about the possibility of a friend staying at their home, prosecutors said. Kieu allegedly prepared an Ambien-laced dinner, prompting the man to become drowsy and go to bed.
As he slept, Kieu allegedly tied his legs and arms to the corners of the bed with rope. When he awoke, prosecutors said, she pulled down his pants, grabbed his penis and cut it with a knife.
She then allegedly went to the kitchen, threw it in the garbage disposal and turned the disposal on, prosecutors said, "mutilating the organ."
Kieu called 911 and said her husband was bleeding, prosecutors said. The man spoke to the dispatcher and said his wife had cut off his penis.
Garden Grove police arrived, and the man was rushed to UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange. The Times previously reported that emergency surgery to reattach the severed organ was unsuccessful.
Police told The Times after the arrest that Kieu had told officers her husband “deserved it.” She later pleaded not guilty to the charges.
On Thursday, her defense attorneys said Kieu "had a break with reality," according to a report in the Orange County Register.
During opening statements, Kieu's attorney said his client grew up in war-torn Vietnam and suffered from mental problems, according to the Associated Press.
Prosecutors argued she was motivated by jealousy. She had a tough life in Vietnam, "but it doesn't change the fact she sliced off the penis due to her vengeance, vanity and jealousy," said Deputy Dist. Atty. John Christi, according to the Register.