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Castration attributed to suspect; Tammy admitted doing it, guard says

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

By Johnna A. Pro, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Tammy Felbaum admitted castrating her husband because she believed he had cheated on her, a jail guard testified yesterday.

The testimony concluded the prosecution's case against Felbaum of Marion, Butler County, who is accused of causing the death of her husband, James, on Feb. 25 following a crude, at-home surgery.

"She said she felt he was cheating on her and that the only way she would stay with him is if he would let her castrate him, and he did," Cambria County jail guard Christine Yahnert testified.

Earlier yesterday, Tammy Felbaum's ex-husband, Tim Barner, who is now living as a woman named Lynn Barner, testified that after their divorce in the early 1980s, she asked Tammy Felbaum to castrate her and that she complied.

"I knew she had the technique to do it," Barner said. "I knew she had the skill."

Also, James Felbaum's father, brother and an acquaintance testified they heard Tammy Felbaum threaten to castrate James if he ever cheated on her.

Prosecutors contend that Tammy Felbaum is guilty of third-degree murder, reckless endangerment, aggravated assault and practicing medicine without a license.

Common Pleas Judge William Shaffer, who is presiding in the nonjury trial, denied a defense motion for acquittal after the prosecution rested with 18 witnesses and 56 exhibits.

Defense attorneys Dick Goldinger and Terri Schultz contend that James Felbaum's death was due to an overdose of a narcotic painkiller, which he caused himself after performing the castration while Tammy Felbaum was sleeping.

James Felbaum had a history of drug addiction and there was testimony that he, too, could perform castrations.

Yahnert testified that Tammy Felbaum talked to her on March 1 and March 4 while she was incarcerated in Cambria County. Felbaum, who was being held by Butler authorities on an unrelated charge at the time, was sent there because of overcrowding in the Butler County Jail. She was charged in James Felbaum's death on March 13.

Yahnert said Felbaum was distraught because she could not go to her husband's funeral. On March 1, Felbaum told her she gave her husband OxyContin, a powerful painkiller, but that he ignored her advice about how to take it safely.

"She said she gave him three of them and told him how to take them but he didn't listen to her. He injected them," Yahnert said.

On cross-examination, Yahnert said that she made no notes about Felbaum's statements, found them to be unbelievable and joked with a superior about them.

After word of Felbaum's arrest, though, Yahnert said her bosses told her to write a report about the conversations.

Barner, 52, of Alexandria, La., testified that in either 1983 or 1984, after she was divorced from Tammy Felbaum, she allowed her to castrate her. At that point, Tammy Felbaum was remarried and living in Rochester, Beaver County.

Barner testified that Felbaum anesthetized her using two four-ounce glasses of vodka, pills and ether.

Barner said that when she awakened, Felbaum showed her the testicles in a jar and instructed her to tell anyone who asked that she had castrated herself.

Richard Felbaum of Latrobe, who is James' father, testified that when his son and daughter-in-law argued, she frequently threatened to castrate him.

"She threatened to castrate him if she ever caught him cheating," he said. "It was numerous times."

State police Sgt. Theodore Swartzlander testified about items seized from the Felbaum trailer, including two letters purportedly written by Tammy Felbaum, one of which was signed by James and granted permission for the surgery and another that explained why a makeshift operating room was set up in the trailer. Neither was dated.

One letter was typewritten and signed in script with the name Tammy McCall, which was previously Felbaum's name.

The letter said all of the drugs and medical equipment in the trailer had been obtained legally and were not being used for illegal purposes.

"Everything here is used to take care of my animals in case of emergency and to keep them healthy. I have written this because I know someday the police or someone will harass me," it said.

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