Woman bites off man's tongue; jury told she acted in self-defense

Tongue assault trial

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - A mother of three is on trial for biting a grape-sized chunk out of her boyfriend’s tongue during a mid-November fight at their Grand Rapids home.

Desirae M. Glatfelter says she feared a sexual assault and acted in self-defense when she bit down on the man’s tongue, severing about an inch from the tip.

Prosecutors say there was no assault; she was simply upset and continued her loud, profane and unruly behavior well after police arrived.

Glatfelter, 29, is charged with mayhem, a 10-year felony offense.

The rarely-used charge covers malicious intent to maim or disfigure the tongue, eye, ear, nose and lip. It also covers cutting of or disabling a “limb, organ or member.’’

Gruesome images of Aaron D. Hollowell’s maimed tongue – and the severed tip, were presented in Kent County Circuit Court on Wednesday, July 26.

Dr. Aaron Ziegler, a Spectrum Health emergency room doctor who treated Hollowell, said the severed tip could not be reattached.  

“It would definitely be more than just a simple bite,’’ he testified. “The tongue is a fairly tough, fibrous muscle, so it would take some effort.’’  

Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Kimberly Richardson said the force was excessive and Glatfelter’s intent was clear.

“What this trial is going to be about is intent. Did she have the intent to cut out his tongue?’’ Richardson said in opening statements. “It’s not a quick thing. That takes a lot of pressure; that takes a lot of intent.’’

Defense attorney Judith Baxter told jurors her client was trying to thwart a sexual assault by a man who previously dislocated Glatfelter’s shoulder in a domestic assault.

They had been reunited for only a short time when the Nov. 15, 2016 incident occurred at Glatfelter’s home on Fremont Avenue NW, she said. The two have a child together.

Glatfelter recently underwent surgery that precluded sexual intimacy, leaving 34-year-old Hollowell frustrated, Baxter said.

“She knew what was coming. She didn’t want to have sex with him,’’ Baxter told the jury. “She didn’t want to kiss him and he had his hands all over her face.

“And he sticks his tongue in her mouth knowing all of this. And she reacted. She panicked. She didn’t know what to do. And she just bit.’’

When Grand Rapids police arrived at the house about 10:30 p.m., officers saw blood “all over the kitchen and living room,’’ according to a police report.

“Hollowell was bleeding from the mouth and missing a chunk of his tongue, which he was holding in his left hand,’’ Officer Anthony Barberino wrote in a police report.

When Glatfelter learned she was being arrested, she became loud and profane, according to police reports and the assistant prosecutor.

“She’s getting her defense ready because she knows she’s in trouble for what she did,’’ Richardson said. “You see her anger. She didn’t bite down because she was getting raped or assaulted; she did that when she’s mad at him. And that’s intent. She bit down because she’s mad.’’

The trial before Kent County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Leiber will resume Thursday, July 27. Glatfelter is free on bond.

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