Man sentenced in child circumcision case - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Man sentenced in child circumcision case

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By Steve Obnesorge - bio l email

LENOIR, NC (WBTV) - A father who admitted to circumcising his infant sons earlier this week was sentenced in Caldwell County court Friday afternoon.

John Marlowe was accused of two felony counts of abuse in the case and the jury convicted him Thursday on one count of misdemeanor child abuse.  They jury was deadlocked in reaching a verdict in the other count and because of this, Judge Robert Ervin declared a mistrial.

On Friday, the court gave Marlowe the maximum sentence of 150 days which must be served after a 12-to-15 year sentence he received for an assault charge in which he was convicted of earlier this year.

Prior to the sentencing on Friday, Marlowe's ex-wife, Amber, pleaded with the court to keep Marlowe in jail as long as possible.  She told the court that he once threatened that he would kill her if she ever told police about the circumcisions or testified against him in court.  She told the court she is terrified that some day he's going to come after her.

As the defendant left the courthouse Friday afternoon, WBTV reporter Steve Ohnesorge asked Marlowe if he still thought what he did was right.  Marlowe responded, "Yes." 

When asked if he would ever circumcise any more children in which he might have in the future, Marlowe said, "Yes."

After he was sentenced, Marlowe told the court he would appeal.

During the proceedings earlier this week, Marlowe said he circumcised his boys for religious reasons, but he never specifically said which faith he followed.  

He was convicted back in May of several assault charges with his ex-wife and children as the victims.  Sentencing in that case was delayed until the trial this week. 

On Wednesday, Marlowe admitted he circumcised two of his children without any anesthetic.  He said God told him to perform the circumcisions.

"The main reason I did it was, the Holy Spirit pressed me to do it," he said.

Marlowe learned how to do the circumcisions, he said, by reading books and the internet.  He used his shirt to demonstrate to the courtroom his surgical method. 

"[I] pulled the skin over the tip and cut it off," he said.

He also revealed that he has circumcised a total of three children:  one in Mecklenburg County and two in Caldwell County.  At this time, he has not been charged in connection with the alleged incident in Mecklenburg County. 

Marlowe says the pain couldn't have been that bad for the infants.  He says he knows because he performed a circumcision on himself a few years ago when he was 30.

"The pain did not overwhelm me or stop me," he said. "Within an hour or so, [I] was able to put in 13 stitches."

He claims he did the right thing with his children and that putting him in jail for it sets a bad precedent. 

On Tuesday, Marlowe confronted his accusers -- his ex-wife and a second woman he claimed he was married to at the time.

Marlowe said this is all about religious freedom and his right to circumcise his children.

"It hasn't been illegal till now, why should it be illegal?" Marlowe said.

Marlowe kept reminding witnesses and the court that this was a landmark case.

"Do you understand what the outcome of the case will do to the state and this country?" he asked.

However, prosecutors say this is not about religious freedom, but instead is about what one man did to his children.

Marlowe's ex-wife, Amber Marlowe, said he used a box knife to circumcise her son.

Sara Fleming, who also lived with John Marlowe, described how he circumcised her child.

"He held the foreskin out, took the box cutter, and made an incision," Fleming she said.

Marlowe didn't deny doing that or how the infants reacted.

Both women said they couldn't stop John Marlowe from performing the procedure because they were fearful for their lives.  Fleming described her escape months later.

"It was necessary for me to leave out a back window with just the clothes I had on," she said, "[I was] running for my life."

Amber Marlowe says she's testifying now because she finally feels safe.

"I'm no longer under your power, I no longer have nightmares of you coming and killing me, I know you are safe behind bars where you can't reach me," she said.

As for the Caldwell County victims who were just a few days old when the circumcisions occurred, one is still in the custody of Department of Social Services.  The second child is with his mother, Sara Fleming.  A doctor told us the children are well and should not have any long lasting physical effects.

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