Prosthetic limbs have afforded a bright new world of mobility and freedom unknown to previous generations of amputees. However, anything that can be put to good use can also be abused, and thus a leg or an arm—when placed in the wrong hands—can be used as an assault weapon or even a murder weapon.
Artificial limbs need not be used as assault weapons in order to facilitate criminal activity. For instance, there are reports of men hiding marijuana and contraband telephones in their artificial legs. There was also an exceptionally cruel story out of South Carolina in 2013—for some reason, an inordinate quotient of prosthetic-limb crimes occur in the Palmetto State—where a woman allegedly stabbed her boyfriend with a kitchen knife and then tossed his prosthetic legs in the backyard to prevent him from chasing her. There are also several reports of people using “prosthetic genitalia” to cheat on drug tests.
But the following cases all document instances where either disabled people or their assailants used prosthetic limbs in attempts to maim, disable, and even murder their victims.
1. Louisiana woman beats her boyfriend to death with her own prosthetic leg.
A homeless woman named Debra Hewitt had previously been charged (and acquitted) twice for murder before the fateful day in 2010 when she stomped down on her boyfriend and then removed her prosthetic leg to smash him in the skull with it, all while balancing carefully on her other leg. His corpse wasn’t found until six weeks later. Hewitt was convicted of murder and is serving a life sentence.
2. Washington man attacks sheriff’s deputy using his own prosthetic arm.
After falling from a six-story window and surviving, Curtis Drovdahl of Big Lake, WA, was fitted with an artificial arm. Six years later, on Christmas Eve, 1998, Drovdahl attacked Mt. Vernon, WA sheriff’s deputy Bart Moody with the artificial arm. Moody was rushed to a hospital to be treated for head injuries, while Drovdahl received a 50-month prison sentence.
3. South Carolina man allegedly shoves amputee off of moped—causing his prosthetic leg to fall off—then beats him with it.
In 2013 according to police in Myrtle Beach, 35-year-old Joel Parrish pushed a man off a moped and “began to kick and punch him.” After noticing that the victim’s artificial leg had fallen off in the melee, Parrish allegedly picked it up and began thrashing the man with it. The victim required stitches above one eye.
4. Drunk woman attacks airplane crew with her prosthetic leg.
In July of this year, a highly inebriated Scottish woman on a plane from Tunisia to Edinburgh allegedly demanded that crew members give her cigarettes and a parachute. Upon being refused, she allegedly slapped a little girl in the face, then took off her artificial leg and began swinging it around threateningly before airplane staff subdued her.
5. Wheelchair-bound North Carolina woman allegedly beats man with her prosthetic leg after argument over groceries.
According to a police report, 29-year-old Charles Maurice Talbert of Gastonia, NC and an unnamed disabled woman on dialysis had been arguing about groceries for two days straight when she finally rose from her wheelchair—ripping out her dialysis tube—and began striking him in the chest and face before removing her artificial leg to attack him with it. The woman told police a different story, claiming that Talbert had initiated the dispute by punching him. Talbert reportedly said his eyeglasses and cell phone were damaged to the tune of at least $300 amid the fracas.
6. Virginia man yanks off other man’s artificial leg and allegedly beats him with it during dispute over stolen pills.
In February of 2004, Michael Clapp of Fredericksburg, VA, confronted his neighbor, Rodney Prophitt, and accused him of stealing a bottle of pills from him. According to police, Prophitt knocked Clapp to the ground, removed Clapp’s prosthetic leg, and began beating him with it. Clapp was treated for a broken nose; Prophitt was charged with felonious assault.
7. Canadian jeweler attacks customer with artificial leg, avoids jail time.
Jewelry store owner Pasquale Bagnulo of Niagara Falls, ON, had lost his leg due to an accident with a drunk driver and was subsequently fitted with a prosthesis. Bagnulo and his son became involved in a 2011 dispute with a customer named David Clark. After Clark allegedly attacked them, they retaliated with pepper spray and the elder Bagnulo’s artificial leg, which authorities classified as a weapon while filing charges. Bagnulo was found guilty but was only sentenced to three years of probation.
8. Pair of white South Carolina men use a prosthetic leg in apparent racially motivated attack.
In November, 2007, two brothers named Brandon and Donald Williford of Chester, SC, noticed that Donald’s daughter had left a Sonic restaurant in a car with an eighteen-year-old black male named Rosevelt McClurkin. They followed the pair to a nearby grocery store, whereupon they pulled McClurkin from the car, allegedly shouted racial slurs at him, and began beating him. At one point Donald Williford removed his own artificial leg and began whomping McClurkin with it. The Williford brothers were charged with assault and battery, although officials declined to file hate-crime charges.
9. One-legged Seattle man swings prosthetic leg at two-legged Seattle man.
During an afternoon street brawl last month in Seattle, a policeman “saw a one-legged man swinging his prosthetic limb at a two-legged man in his mid-20s.” After the combatants became fully aware of the officer’s presence, the two-legged man began walking away while the one-legged man “re-inserted his prosthetic limb.” As the two-legged man was walking away, a third man appeared and hit him in the head with an aluminum baseball bat. According to KOMO News in Seattle, “Nothing further was reported about the one-legged man or his weaponized prosthetic limb.”
10. West Virginia man throws artificial leg at sheriff’s deputy after being arrested on drug charges.
Early this month in Hamlin, WV, 33-year-old William Ernest Smith was arrested outside a pharmacy after a search of his vehicle revealed drug paraphernalia. A statement by his co-accused claimed he had planned to acquire Sudafed for manufacturing methamphetamine. Upon arriving at a courthouse, Smith began acting unruly while making sexual innuendos at female inmates. At one point he allegedly removed his prosthetic leg and threw it at a sheriff’s deputy. Among his numerous charges were disruption of governmental process and disorderly conduct. It is not known whether he and his leg will occupy separate cells should he be convicted.