The Herald, Sharon, PA Published Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2001


On 911 tape, Felbaum begs husband to wake up
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Pathologist doubts self-castration; drug counselor says James Felbaum feared transsexual wife

The Associated Press

A transsexual accused of castrating her husband in a crude operation in their filthy trailer home pleaded with an emergency dispatcher for 20 minutes to save the man as he choked on his own vomit.

Nine months after James John Felbaum, 40, died in his trailer home in Marion Township outside Harrisville, a Butler County judge on Monday heard a tape of a 911 call made by Tammy Felbaum, 42, and later heard testimony that the man was afraid of his wife before his death.

On a tape of the Feb. 25 call, a hysterical Felbaum told a dispatcher her husband was vomiting a brown fluid, wasn't breathing and had turned blue, apparently of a drug overdose.

At one point during the conversation, Felbaum said, "Jim, honey, I love you, please wake up. Jesus."

Felbaum is charged with third-degree murder, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and unauthorized practice of medicine for allegedly castrating her husband, who died the day after the in-home operation.

According to an autopsy, James Felbaum choked on his own vomit and died of asphyxiation because his gag reflex was suppressed by the combination of the pain from the operation and painkillers.

During brief opening statements, prosecutor Timothy McCune said although Tammy Felbaum apparently didn't intend to kill her husband, the operation contributed to his death.

Public defender Terri Schultz, meanwhile, said there was no evidence that the castration and not the overdose killed James Felbaum.

"We know this case has bizarre facts, but he simply died of an overdose and the wound inflicted on himself by himself," Schultz said.

According to court documents, Tammy Felbaum told police her husband had attempted to castrate himself and asked her for help. Authorities said they found a note signed by James Felbaum saying he asked his wife to finish the operation.

Tammy Felbaum also told authorities she had performed a similar procedure on herself years before and had later undergone a professional sex-change operation from male to female.

A pathologist, Dr. Karl Williams, who examined the body, said it was unlikely Felbaum performed the procedure on himself.

"I don't believe he did that," Williams testified Monday. He also said the operation wasn't done by a qualified surgeon and James Felbaum didn't have any condition that would require that kind of surgery.

On cross examination, Schultz asked Williams if there was any evidence that anything went wrong with the castration. Williams said Felbaum apparently lived for a few days after the surgery and his wounds were not infected.

Prosecutors also had former nurses and drug and alcohol therapists testify that James Felbaum said he was afraid of his wife.

Ruthane Durso, drug and alcohol therapist at Butler Memorial Hospital where James Felbaum admitted himself a month before his death, testified he refused to see his wife and shook when she stopped by for a visit.

Durso read an entry from he log book, saying "He doesn't want to leave and he doesn't want to see her."

On cross examination, Durso said Felbaum reaction could have been caused by withdrawal.

Also on Monday, a paramedic testified that he saw James Felbaum lying on a table naked, covered in his own vomit with some sort of medical device between his legs in a trailer filled with garbage, dirty dishes and animal and human waste.

"It was very deplorable. It was very cluttered. There was basic garbage everywhere," said Douglas L. Dick.

Dick testified medics were delayed by a barking dog outside the trailer and the unsanitary conditions complicated their rescue attempt.

Under cross examination, Dick testified medics didn't want to treat James Felbaum inside the home, fearing that their equipment would be contaminated.

Investigators have also said the trailer had no running water or heat and they later found blood-soaked bandages, bedding and clothing, as well as medical books and surgical equipment, including scalpels, sutures and forceps.

Outside the courtroom Nadine Felbaum said her ex-husband wouldn't have done the operation on himself.

"He would have never done it to himself. I think she overpowered him because he was leaving her," Nadine Felbaum said.

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