In 1993, Virginia couple John and Lorena Bobbitt became infamous for their "malicious wounding" incident, which Lorena claimed was sparked by years of abuse.
John Bobbitt became a household name in 1993 after his wife Lorena cut off his penis while he was sleeping in their Virginia home. Incredibly, police were able to recover the severed penis in a nearby field, and doctors successfully reattached the appendage to John. But that was just the beginning of an infamous case that would rock 1990s America.
After the incident, both John and Lorena Bobbitt were arrested.
Lorena was charged with malicious wounding, and John was charged with marital sexual assault, since Lorena accused him of raping her before she sliced off his penis. Disturbingly, Lorena also alleged that John had abused her throughout their four-year marriage, while John denied her claims and insisted that his wife had attacked him because he had asked her for a divorce.
What followed were two controversial trials, a nationwide media circus that focused mainly on the sensational aspects of the case, and John and Lorena Bobbitt divorcing — before they went down very different paths.
This is the shocking true story of John Bobbitt.
How John And Lorena Bobbitt Met
Born in 1967, John Bobbitt had a challenging start to life in Niagara Falls, New York. At the age of three, he was removed from his mother’s care — due to her “mental breakdown” — and was placed with his aunt and uncle.
Following in the footsteps of his friends, John enlisted in the Marines as a young man. While he was serving, John met a young woman named Lorena Gallo at a Marine Corps officers’ ball in Stafford, Virginia, in 1988.
“I was there with a friend and saw her over there,” John Bobbitt told ABC News. “And she looks shy and innocent, and I went over there and asked her to dance. She can barely speak English… [and] I go, ‘Here’s my number.'”
Lorena, a recent immigrant who was originally from Ecuador and grew up in Venezuela, reciprocated John’s interest, despite the initial language barrier between them and their very different backgrounds.
The couple soon began a whirlwind romantic relationship. By June 18, 1989, 22-year-old John and 20-year-old Lorena Bobbitt were already married.
John later said that he felt pressured by Lorena’s mother to propose to her, because her visa was about to expire, and it was Lorena’s dream to live in the United States. But the couple’s marriage was anything but dreamy.
A Turbulent Relationship That Ended With A Severed Penis
After John was discharged from the Marines in 1991, his financial situation became unstable, and he struggled to find employment. Meanwhile, Lorena had found steady work as a manicurist for her friend Janna Bisutti. This meant that she became the main breadwinner for their household early on.
Lorena would later say that John also began abusing her early on — just a few weeks after they wed. According to Biography, she claimed that he started beating her and raping her, and when she became pregnant, he forced her into an abortion and joked about how she might die during the procedure. At one point, Lorena alleged, he choked her during a fight.
John, for his part, has always denied Lorena’s allegations of abuse. He also described her as an extremely possessive and sometimes violent wife, saying, “She got upset… if anybody talked to me. Any girl or [if] I looked in a girl’s direction and she will get mad. Just POW, she’d punch me.”
He added, “She was just a very jealous person… very possessive. Did not want anybody around me. I think she was always afraid someone was going to take me away from her. Like, I was her prize.”
Four years into their marriage, it was clear that both Lorena and John Bobbitt were unhappy. John said that he asked her for a divorce, but Lorena was strongly against it. Lorena later claimed that her refusal to divorce came from her Catholic roots, but John insisted that Lorena was more interested in staying with him so that she could secure her green card.
By the early morning of June 23, 1993, the tension between John, now 26, and Lorena, now 24, was about to boil over. The previous night, John had gone out drinking with a friend who was briefly staying at the couple’s home in Manassas, Virginia, according to Vanity Fair. When John returned home, Lorena alleges, he raped her in their bedroom (John denies this).
After the alleged rape, Lorena retreated to the kitchen for a glass of water around 3:30 a.m. She then spotted a kitchen knife, took it back to the bedroom, and used it to cut off her sleeping husband’s penis. Still intoxicated, John soon found himself bleeding profusely. He alerted his friend to what happened, and the friend drove him to a local hospital.
Meanwhile, Lorena had fled the couple’s home. She took off in her car while still holding the bloody penis and eventually threw the appendage into a field. Lorena then drove to her employer’s house, told her what happened, and her shocked employer called the police. Lorena admitted what she’d done to the cops and told them where they could find the severed penis.
After searching the field, authorities eventually recovered the penis, put it on ice, and stored it in a Big Bite hot dog box. The appendage was then taken to the hospital where John was being treated, and, incredibly, doctors were able to reattach the penis to John after a nine-and-a-half-hour operation.
John And Lorena Bobbitt’s Legal Consequences
After the incident, John and Lorena Bobbitt were both arrested. Lorena was charged with malicious wounding, and John was charged with marital sexual assault, as Lorena had accused him of raping her before she attacked him in bed. She also alleged that he’d abused her emotionally, physically, and sexually throughout their marriage, accusations that John firmly denied.
What followed was a bitter — and widely publicized — dispute between the estranged couple about their tumultuous relationship and the real reason why Lorena had cut off John’s penis. National news programs and tabloids gleefully reported on the sordid details of the case, with famous TV hosts like David Letterman and media personalities like Howard Stern weighing in.
“It was sad because they were more concerned about ratings, more than anything,” Lorena Bobbitt later remembered in an interview with TIME. “They were more concerned about his penis instead of domestic violence. They really missed the whole concept of domestic violence and abuse against women. This is a very important issue that’s going on and you’re basically more concerned about the man who lost his penis.”
This was especially true for Lorena’s trial, where cameras were allowed. Since John was charged with sexual assault, cameras were not allowed in his courtroom. He was ultimately acquitted in November 1993.
A couple months later, in January 1994, Lorena would be found not guilty of malicious wounding due to temporary insanity. Because of this, she would not need to serve any time in jail, but she was required to spend 45 days in a mental hospital. Later that same year, Lorena became a U.S. citizen.
Unsurprisingly, John and Lorena Bobbitt officially separated for good soon after their legal battles were over, and their divorce was finalized in 1995.
John Bobbitt’s Later Career As A Porn Star — And Ongoing Controversies
Following John and Lorena Bobbitt’s divorce, Lorena went on to live a relatively private life with her new boyfriend, only returning to the spotlight occasionally to speak out against domestic violence.
But John chose a different path, using his notoriety as a way to earn money and pay off his remaining medical and legal bills.
He connected with adult film actor and director Ron Jeremy, who gave John Bobbitt the opportunity to star in a 1994 pornographic film called John Wayne Bobbitt: Uncut. In 1996, John starred in yet another adult movie, Frankenpenis.
A year later, John became a greeter at a legal brothel in Nevada, which led to an extremely strained relationship with his employer Dennis Hof until his employment ended. According to HuffPost, Hof complained about John’s inability to follow his rules: “We had an agreement. He wasn’t supposed to drink, leave town, or sleep with my girls — and he did all three.”
At one point, John tried to earn money as a rock performer in the band The Severed Parts, but he saw little success in the music world. He took on a variety of other jobs to make ends meet, like a limo driver and a carpenter.
Throughout the years, he’s also been accused — and in some cases, found guilty — of violence against several other women. According to Oxygen, he spent 15 days in jail and six months on probation in 1994 for misdemeanor domestic battery after his then-fiancée Kristina Elliott reported that he’d grabbed and pushed her during a fight. He was convicted of a second domestic battery charge against Elliott just months afterward.
In 1999, he was arrested yet again for harassing an ex-girlfriend known as Desiree, and he was found guilty the following year. Desiree also alleged that he had been physically violent toward her, beating and raping her and even threatening to throw her off a balcony. Then, in the early 2000s, he faced multiple charges of battering his then-wife Joanna Ferrell during their marriage, but he was eventually acquitted of most of Ferrell’s accusations.
Through it all, John Bobbitt reportedly remained fixated on his first wife Lorena (who now goes by her maiden name, Lorena Gallo). In 2009, the two briefly reunited for a TV show, The Insider, to discuss their tumultuous marriage. During that show, John revealed that he still had feelings for her, but Lorena Gallo had no interest in rekindling their former relationship.
As recently as 2019, John has continued to send Lorena love letters.
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