We all remember the shocking headlines in the summer of 1993. Lorena Bobbitt cut off what? It was the strangest thing most of us had ever heard of, at least on national news. It’s obvious that what happened on the night of June 23, 1993, changed both of their lives forever.
But the path it led them down might not be as predictable as you might think. This is the saga of the Bobbitts: before, during, and after the anatomy-altering, life-changing event that put John’s life in Lorena’s hands… literally.
$100, a Game Boy, and His You-Know-What
In the wee hours of June 23, 1993, a 24-year-old manicurist named Lorena Bobbitt went up to her sleeping husband, pulled back the covers, and sliced off John’s, um, Johnson, with a kitchen knife. She then left their home, in Manassas, Virginia, with $100 cash, John’s Game Boy and his you-know-what.
She got in her car, drove over to the local 7-Eleven, and tossed his detached manhood into the field by the convenience store. It was unlike any event people had ever heard of before. Yet there she was: Lorena Bobbitt, on a mission to…. do what exactly? Why on earth would she do that? Well, she had her reasons…
The Manicurist and the Marine
Before that fateful night, John and Lorena were living in a shabby apartment in a town called Manassas Park. John was 26-year-old Marine turned warehouse worker. Lorena, originally from Ecuador, was working at a nail salon. Her English wasn’t that great.
The two met each other in Quantico and had dated for “like, nine months,” John later said. As Lorena recalled, she went “straight from high school to marriage,” without dating in between. “I was naive about many things,” she admitted.
After the incident, Lorena provided a motive for her brutal act…
Enough Is Enough
According to Lorena, John abused her throughout their marriage. In other words, she had had enough. John admitted that they fought, but “not to where it was battery.” As Lorena put it, John was very strong, and she was barely 95 pounds then, so she had no choice but to “surrender.”
A Catholic, Lorena didn’t believe in divorce. “I really believed that when he said sorry, he meant it.” Apparently, Lorena was fed up with her husband’s antics. On June 23, 1993, at about 3 a.m., she was woken up by John who came home from a club with a friend.
She Wasn’t in the Mood
John and his buddy were “out all night long” and had a late night/early morning breakfast at Denny’s. When he returned home, he reeked of alcohol, woke Lorena up, and “jumped on top of [her].” But she wasn’t in the mood.
Lorena testified in court that she told him that night that she didn’t want to have sex. But he wouldn’t listen. “He wouldn’t let me go,” she testified. And so, he had his way with her. As Blair Howard, Lorena’s defense attorney, told it, he then “just falls over and starts snoring.” That’s when Lorena got up and went into the kitchen.
Pain. Confusion. Pressure.
At that moment, her thought was, “I’m going to make sure he never does this to me or any other woman ever again.” So, she took the knife, went back into the bedroom, and the rest is history. Everyone in the world who heard the story could only muster the words, “What? Why? How?”
John explained how he felt in that very moment. “Obviously, you’re in pain right away,” he recalled. “You wake up instantaneously. I was confused. I didn’t know where I was. I’m trying to gather myself, put my pants on, apply pressure.”
“I Tossed It”
The whole thing was a blur for both of them. Lorena was beside herself. “I remember going to the car, and I see that in one hand was the knife and in the other hand was his organ… I tossed it, and it went somewhere while I was driving.”
Nothing was ordinary about the situation, yet in Lorena’s mind, she was going to work. “I was going to go and do nails. That’s how crazy, or insane, the whole situation was.” Since it was still the early morning, the nail salon was closed. She then drove to her boss’s house.
Knock, Knock. Help Me
Lorena’s boss was a woman named Janna Bisutti, and Janna was about to get the most random, alarming awakening of her life. Lorena told her everything, after which Janna called the police. Meanwhile, John’s clubbing buddy drove him to Prince William Hospital.
The ER nurse, Debra Parrish, remembers that night vividly. Seeing John come in through the emergency room with a “towel wrapped around his fist and held down on the crotch… at first, they thought he had done something to his hand.”
The Look on His Face
The ER doctors, typically calm and composed, reacted like any of us would. When John showed the doctor exactly what was causing the blood, the doctor had “the biggest, most shocked look on a doctor’s face you can imagine,” John recalled.
They told him that they might not be able to put it back on. John admitted that he was contemplating suicide. “The only other alternative is self-terminate, you know?” (Surely, most men can relate to that initial thought…) Now, you’re probably wondering what happened to the actual organ. Last we knew, it was sitting by a 7-Eleven.
A Hot-Dog Bag and Some Ice
David Berman, the plastic surgeon on-call, was phoned around 4 a.m. that morning. He asked, “Do you have the part?” When they told him no, he honestly asked, “Is there any point in me coming down?” That’s when the staff told him, “Don’t worry, she told them where she threw it.”
Lorena tossed it out on Route 28 in Manassas. Once the police were notified, they went to the 7-Eleven to retrieve the organ. “Believe it or not, they put it in a hot-dog bag on ice,” said Jim Sehn, the urologist who operated on John with Berman.
Listen Up, Gentlemen
Aside from providing the location of John’s detached member, Lorena also had to make a statement that was eventually used in court. Her statement read: “He have orgasm and not wait for me.” Remember, her English wasn’t good.
Gregory Murphy, John’s defense attorney, mentioned, “If ever there was a lesson for men, that’s probably a good one.” The truth is, Lorena meant to say something else. Years later, Lorena’s English improved, and she could explain herself much better. At the time, she was trying to explain that there’s nothing good “when a man and woman have non-consensual sex.”
If Only She Had a Translator
“I might’ve said things I didn’t mean to say…. I was still learning English, and I tried to connect the words together, and you know, it was just a mess.” She didn’t have a translator when making statements – at a time when every word counts.
Looking back, she understands just how helpful a translator would have been. Of course, Lorena’s statements were included in the mass media hysteria that covered the story. And her broken English only added to the absurdity of the story.
Let the Jokes Commence
Paul Ebert, Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney, recalled how when this case came in, “the jokes started flying around.” People were saying things like, “They belong in a penal institution.” Ebert said that it was less that people thought it was heinous than that they thought it was “kind of funny.”
Carlos Sanchez, a Washington Post reporter, was the first person who interviewed Lorena. On the morning of the incident, she managed to speak with the wife who had “been through hell, you could tell.” Sanchez saw just how much of a state of shock she was in.
A Sincere Response or Staged Excuse?
Lorena kept telling Sanchez, “He raped me. He raped me.” According to the reporter, it “was a very sincere response” and Lorena had said it from the get-go, “very convincingly.” Others, however, were sure that she staged it; made it up.
All the while, as Lorena was bombarded with questions, John was on the operating table, about to undergo replantation surgery. When the member was brought in, nurse Parrish washed it, put in yet another bag (Ziploc) with ice and placed it on a sterile table “until it was time to put things back together again.”
Oh, Come On…
Parrish revealed how other surgeons couldn’t help but be curious. “The mere fact that it was totally severed from the body was the biggest thing.” In a rare behind-the-scenes of the ER room, we get to hear what surgeons actually said to each other. And they were saying things like, “Come on, it’s hanging off him, right?”
Parrish had to literally show them the penis on the table to make them believe her. Parrish also disclosed how different the reactions were among the hospital staff. The men in the hospital sympathized with John, whereas the women were like, “He must’ve done something really bad to have had that happen,” Parrish recalled.
Putting John’s Johnson Back On
Urologist Sehn described how he had John’s “penile stump tourniqueted.” By that point, he had lost about a third of his blood volume. The surgery took a total of 9.5 hours, which involved reconnecting “the major artery and veins and nerves under the microscope.”
Sehn admitted that if he were to do it again, he would be a lot quicker. “But we wanted to be extra careful,” as you can imagine. When it comes to microsurgeries, Sehn explained, it’s “all or none.” He might have taken a “quick bathroom break,” but that was it.
It Pinked Up
The major test was when he took the tourniquet off: “Either you did things well and it’ll pink right up, or you didn’t, and it’ll get darker and darker.” The good news: the organ pinked up.
John remembered how they were skeptical about whether or not it was going to take. “You know, it was 50-50.” The following days were critical, which is why John was kept in the ICU. They wanted to make sure he would get a blood clot in the vessel that supplies the penis with blood.
Mom, It Works!
Rather than turning black (and dying), it stayed pink. On day three, John woke up and said, “Wow, it’s working, kind of!” You can imagine his relief. He even revealed how he called the hotel where his mom and dad were staying.
“My mom answered, and I was like, ‘Mom, I got an erection!’ She didn’t want to hear that.” The truth is, everyone – John, the hospital staff, his parents – was surprised. One of the nurses noticed John was getting back to himself as he was already trying to pick up a candy striper.
Linda’s Charge: Malicious Wounding
The media picked up the story quickly and the story basically exploded. The interesting thing is this case broke ground in terms of speaking freely about the story. The Post’s Sanchez said, “It was new ground in terms of crime and the ability to say ‘penis’ in the press.”
From the get-go, the big picture story focused on John and what he lost – not on what he did to “deserve” it or why Lorena reacted so brutally. Speaking of brutal, Lorena was charged with “malicious wounding” (who knew that was an actual charge?).
John’s Charge: Marital Sexual Assault
But don’t think John was let off scot-free. He got slapped with a “marital sexual assault” charge. Note that’s NOT a rape charge. In 1990s Virginia, a spouse could only be charged with rape if the couple didn’t live together or if the victim was seriously injured.
This was a story every journalist wanted his or her hands on. Vanity Fair was the first to snag Lorena and some priceless photos. Before the Vanity Fair interview, journalist Kim Masters took Lorena out to dinner. Masters remembers Lorena asking the waiter for a sharper knife.
Can I Have a Sharper Knife, Please?
Now remember, these were the days before the internet. Most people had no idea what Lorena looked like. “I remember thinking, if the waiter knew who she was…” Masters recalled. Lorena explained how she couldn’t go anywhere “without hearing somebody talking about me. It was like being a fly on the wall, like being invisible.”
The Vanity Fair story ended up publishing photos of Lorena in a pool of all places. Murphy, John’s attorney, remembers thinking, “This is a woman who’s suffering from abuse? I was stunned that they did that.”
Manassas, Virginia: A Cut Above the Rest
The small town of Manassas was now known for the “Bobbitt Story,” of all things. John’s trial came first, in November 1993. By that point, the case had been the butt of every late-night comedian’s jokes for months already.
The trial was nothing short of a circus. Cameras, press, signs, people yelling – the whole shebang. There were even a few women who had a wagon loaded with T-shirts that read MANASSAS, VIRGINIA: A CUT ABOVE THE REST. Oh, and the shirts had an image of a knife and drops of blood coming off it.
Not the Brightest Crayon in the Box
In court, Lorena was terrified. Testifying against him was “very odd,” she explained, since they were still technically married. She said looking at him in the court room was intimidating because she thought, “Oh, my God—he’s gonna come and just grab me or choke me.”
Murphy noted that Lorena was “quick to put on the crying act.” As for John, he actually felt “sad that she had to go through all that. She was my wife.” According to journalist Sanchez, John came off as arrogant, and he “wasn’t the smartest person I’d ever seen testify.”
Meanwhile, on the Ranch
The marital sexual assault charge – which John’s trial was based on – was an unusual one, and a hard one to prove at that. At the end of the day, it was a “he-said/she-said” situation. It took the jury four hours to deliberate before reaching a verdict of not guilty.
Lorena’s trial was next, which took place in January 1994. John went into hiding in the months leading up to it. He stayed at his friend’s cattle ranch, at which he “did some cowboy stuff” (his words).
The John Wayne Bobbitt Look-Alike Contest
At some point before the trial, his lawyer Murphy called him. That’s when John told Murphy that he heard Hooters – you know, the restaurant – was having a “John Wayne Bobbitt look-alike contest” and John told his lawyer, “I think I can win it.” While John was playing Cowboys and Indians, Lorena was prepping for her trial.
Whereas John’s trial was something of a dress rehearsal, it was Lorena’s trial that proved to be the big kahuna. Despite the January cold, there were crowds of people. There were all kinds of demonstrations, too, including those championing women’s rights, men’s rights, and Latinos.
Snipers and Supporters
Sanchez recalled how Hispanic taxi drivers were volunteering to take people to the court – those who didn’t have rides, “to support their fellow Latina.” There were also snipers on the roof, reportedly. Just as with John’s trial, there were people selling related memorabilia.
Despite the $500 needed for a peddler’s license, there were at least 20 people out there selling stuff, from T-shirts to chocolate candy penises. Windy Shepley-Collat, the one who sold the T-shirts at John’s trial, figured Lorena’s trial could be an opportunity to sell boxer shorts.
50 Ways to Cleave Your Lover
The shorts read, DON’T CUT ME SHORT. MANASSAS, VIRGINIA. “We earned $20,000,” she boasted. There was no shortage of puns and jokes flying around from every corner. Hell, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile showed up, selling hot dogs outside the courthouse.
There was even a folk group who came to sing “50 Ways to Cleave Your Lover.” The lyrics? “Cut off the hill, Jill. Cut off the stack, Jack.” (This stuff can’t be made up). One joke going around was how the police needed a special dog to locate John’s penis. “A German shepherd couldn’t find it, so they got a cocker spaniel.”
The Days of Their Lives
The jokes were plentiful, but Lorena wasn’t seeing the humor in it. “These people making fun of things, they seemed to miss everything,” Lorena asserted. What fueled the circus act of Lorena’s trial was the fact that it was televised daily.
“It made me uncomfortable,” Lorena shared. “It was not a soap opera that they were watching. It was my life.” Two months after Paul Ebert prosecuted John Bobbitt, he was now trying to convict Lorena. But it was obvious to those in court that he didn’t have the heart.
The Lorena Bobbitt Defense
“The case was doomed from the start. He was out to defend her,” John said. His lawyer added, “It was absolutely clear his heart was not in convicting her.” As for Lorena’s legal team, they tried to use a temporary-insanity defense called “irresistible impulse.”
Blaire Howard, Lorena’s attorney, explained that the psychiatrist evaluated Lorena and concluded that she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Ebert stated, “I never thought she was crazy, or legally crazy.” He considered her as “emotional” and having “some mental difficulty, as most defendants do.”
“You Sorry Blankety-Blank”
Loads of mail and postcards came in for both John and Lorena. Those for Lorena exhibited lots of words of encouragement and prayers. Those for John were a tad less encouraging. David Mabie, the court’s clerk at the time, said he’ll “never forget there was one addressed to John Wayne Bobbitt…”
It said, “You sorry blankety-blank, it’s too bad that a dog didn’t find your penis and carry it off before they found it and reattached it.” In the end, it took longer for the jury at Lorena’s trial to reach a verdict. But not by a lot.
The Verdict: Not Guilty
After six hours of deliberation, the jury reached a verdict… of not guilty. In John’s eyes, the “system failed,” and he “couldn’t believe it.” He said, “everything got so screwed up, so misinterpreted… all the facts and details weren’t brought out.”
Lorena, of course, was happy. Hearing the verdict was the first time her lawyer, Howard, saw her client smile. Lorena was taken from the court straight to the hospital. Under Virginia’s state law, anyone who gets acquitted by reason of insanity has to be placed under psychiatric evaluation. And so, she spent the next 45 days in a hospital.
And Then John Became a Porn Star
Lorena was just happy to be away from the media. A year later, in 1995, John and Lorena finalized their divorce. What happened next might surprise a few. Believe it or not, the man who lost his member for a moment went on to use it in the most scandalous of ways.
Berman, the plastic surgeon, summed it up well: “John ended up going out to Vegas and did a bunch of porn films.” The first film he did was called – get this – John Wayne Bobbitt Uncut. Sehn, the urologist, said, “I think it was the most successful porn film ever made.”
He Knew It Would Piss Her Off
John explained his thoughts on the move to adult films. For one, he said to himself, “Why not tell the whole story in an adult-rated version? It was a lot of fun.” Berman admitted that he watched the films. His reason: “I couldn’t not see it since it’s my handiwork.”
But John had another reason for the porn: “Another reason why I did it is I knew Lorena would be pissed off.” According to Berman, John had a penile augmentation in 1996. It seems like John doubled down…
From Too Big to Back to Normal
“It was kind of successful,” he revealed. “Over time, it was too big. I’d go on a date. Girls were saying, ‘No way.’” Berman shared that had John asked his advice before doing either the films or the augmentation, he “would have told him it was insane.”
John eventually did go back to Berman, 20 years later, to do a reduction. “It’s fine now. Back to normal,” John revealed. (Phew?) John ended up staying in Las Vegas, working in construction. But his old ways caught up with him…
John and His Immoral Ways
In 1994, John was convicted of battery in two separate cases; one including his then fiancée, Kristina Elliott, who became his second wife. He was also found guilty of harassing another ex in 1999. Then, in 2003, he was convicted again of abusing his third wife, Joanna Ferrell.
Also in 1999, John pled guilty to attempted grand larceny of $140,000 worth of clothes. Aside from his ranching days and naked film shoots, he had a brief stint as a knife thrower in the Jim Rose Circus. No joke.
The Post-Castration Situation
Since 2014, John has reportedly been living on disability seeing as how he broke his neck in a car accident. To this day, John insists he’s innocent of it all – everything. He even told Vanity Fair that if Lorena had just talked to him that fateful summer in 1993, “we’d probably still be married with a family.”
Lorena, without a doubt, would disagree with that thought. As John was relishing in his post-castration situation, Lorena was looking to maintain a private life. She actually stayed in the community. “Everywhere I go, I will be recognized, so might as well stay,” she reasoned.
Playboy? No Thanks
Obviously, the offers came her way, too. But she, unlike John, avoided the spotlight. For one, she turned down a million-dollar opportunity to pose for Playboy, which, by the way, came at a time when she was the sole provider for her parents (they joined her in America after her divorce).
She eventually went back to school, where she found her “longtime partner,” David Bellinger. Lorena and David have been together for over two decades and have a daughter together. Lorena, who goes by her maiden name, Gallo, worked as a legal secretary after the trial, and eventually became a real-estate agent.
From Punching Her Mom to Talking to Oprah
While Lorena tried her best to stay out of the headlines, one thing happened that brought her back to newsworthy status. In December 1997, Lorena was charged with assault for punching her mother, Elvia, as they were watching TV together.
She was later acquitted of the assault, and her mother kept living with her. In 2009, Lorena spoke with Oprah Winfrey and told her that she had no interest in talking to John. Yet, a month later, she and John appeared together on the show The Insider.
He Still Loves Her
Their Insider interview happened to be their first meeting since the divorce. On the show, John apologized to Lorena for how he had treated her during their marriage. He then told her that he still loved her.
Lorena has the Valentine’s Day cards and flowers to prove it. But reconciling was not in cards, even if it seemed like John was hoping for it. Lorena was no longer looking at her past. She was on a new mission.
Lorena’s New Mission
In 2007, she founded an organization dedicated to domestic-violence prevention. The Lorena Gallo Foundation was something David helped push her to do. if Lorena was on some sort of revenge mission when she did what she did that night, then now she’s on a different mission: to advocate for battered women.
Not too long ago, Amazon Prime released a four-part docuseries called Lorena, which was produced by Jordan Peele (the writer/director of Get Out). It was a way for Lorena to tell the world her truth. And this time, she has the English to tell it.