Bertha Boronda, the Woman Who Was Arrested for Cutting Off Her Husband’s Penis With a Razor in 1907
Bertha and her husband, Frank Boronda, had been married about 6 years when her assault on him took place. Frank was born Mario Narcisso Boronda in 1863 to a large family with Mexican roots that had lived in California for several generations. At the time of the attack Frank, age 43, was a fire captain with the San Jose Fire Department in northern California. Bertha Zettle was born to German immigrant parents in rural Minnesota in 1877. She moved to California around 1900. She and Frank were married the following year.
Shortly after midnight on Friday, May 30, 1907, Bertha slashed Frank’s penis with a razor at their San Jose residence. Frank was able to get to his firehouse — conveniently located next to his home — and from there he was taken to the Red Cross Hospital where the wound to his genitals was dressed. No one was sure he would recover but evidently he was well enough to make a statement. He said the attack by his wife came out of the blue. He and Bertha were chatting and she was in a friendly mood when suddenly she wounded him.
Meanwhile Bertha fled the scene and wasn’t discovered until the wee hours the following night. She was located at the San Jose Railroad Yards dressed in men’s clothing. She admitted to the attack on Frank and claimed, in her confident style, it was actually his fault. He’d driven her out of her mind with fear that he was going to desert her and move to Mexico.
The following is the article from the Santa Cruz Sentinel on June 2, 1907, only a few days after the event:
Propped up in his cot at the Red Cross Hospital shortly after noon today Fire Captain Frank Boronda swore to a complaint before Justice Brown charging his wife, Bertha Boronda, with the crime of mayhem. Though the maimed man is still weak from his injuries his physicians states that he will undoubtedly live. The only danger which he faces is that blood-poisoning may set in.The crime with which Mrs. Boronda is charged is a felony defined by the criminal code as follows: “Every person who unlawfully and maliciously deprives a human being of a member of his body or renders it useless, or cuts or disables the tongue, nose, ear or lip, is guilty of mayhem.”Santa Cruz Sentinel, June 2, 1907, page six.Section 204 of the code states that “Mayhem is punishable by imprisonment in the State prison not exceeding fourteen years.”A little after midnight Thursday morning Mrs. Boronda without warning attacked her husband in the dark with a razor, maiming him fearfully. He ran screaming into the firehouse on San Pedro St., which adjoins his home, while his wife rushed through the streets in her night dress to the North End, where she procured a suit of men’s clothes which she donned.Boronda was taken to the Red Cross Hospital, where his injuries were treated. For several hours the police searched for the woman and finally captured her near the Broadgauge depot as she was mounting a bicycle on which she hoped to escape. She was taken to the city prison, where she is still being held. Mrs. Boronda has admitted to the police that she maimed her husband, but she has expressed no regret for having done the awful deed. Her only excuse is that she wanted to be revenged on Bordona, whom she believed intended deserting her and leaving for Mexico. Mrs. Boronda up to this time has not employed counsel. She will probably be arraigned before Judge Brown some time Monday.
Frank recovered from his injuries. Bertha was charged was “mayhem,” a charge applied to someone who “unlawfully and maliciously deprives a human being of a member of his body or renders it useless…” She was tried, found guilty and sentenced to five years in San Quentin Prison in 1908.