A group of women were allegedly wronged by the same two-timing, con-artist cheat. With no way of getting even by legal means, they took the law — along with one of the victim’s more delicate bits of anatomy — into their own hands.
The story of wronged women and their misguided revenge that’s all over the Internet has become an object lesson in how modern women are dealing with injustice. And while it’s the subject of much giggling and guffawing, it’s a serious issue, former prosecutor Jeanine Pirro and psychotherapist Robi Ludwig told TODAY’s Natalie Morales Tuesday in New York.
“The guy was a cheater. He’s a con man. He was taking money,” Pirro said. “But at the end of the day, the criminal justice system will identify him as a victim; these women will be identified as criminals.”
“This man basically betrayed all these women. He humiliated them. He made them all feel powerless,” added Ludwig. “They needed to all band together in order to feel that justice could be served.”
It happened last Thursday in a nondescript motel in Stockbridge, Wis. The wife of a man who was cheating with as many as five other women recruited three of those women into a plot to get even with him.
One of the women lured him to the motel, where he agreed to let her tie him up and blindfold him for what was to be a massage. Once he was immobilized, the woman texted the other three women. They entered the room, mocked the man, and allegedly struck him before using a type of super glue to affix his offending appendage to either his thigh or his stomach — news reports differ.
When the man — who, as the victim of a sex crime, has not been identified — started screaming, the women fled, reportedly with his wallet, cell phone and car. He ultimately found his way to a hospital, where he was treated and released, suffering no permanent damage to anything other than what remains of his dignity.
Meanwhile, the four women, including his wife, were arrested and are charged with four criminal counts, including false imprisonment and sexual degradation.
Sisterhood is powerful
And thus, said Pirro, the victimizer became the victim. But in the process, added Ludwig, he empowered and united a group of women who would normally be expected to be rivals.
“This guy was so bad that instead of the women competing with each other, they kind of realized this guy was a con, including the wife. She was kind of the team leader,” Ludwig told Morales. “She said, ‘Hey, listen, I know this guy is kind of a dog. He’s doing this to all of us. Let’s get him back.’
“He almost created a sorority of womanhood where they all banded together, and there’s power when you’re in a group,” Ludwig added.
Pirro pointed out that the sense of powerlessness would be reinforced by the fact that the women knew they’d been cheated, but also knew there was no legal recourse for them; the cad hadn’t broken any laws.
“What charges could they have filed against him?” Pirro asked rhetorically. “Basically none.”
“That’s the problem,” Ludwig said. “When you feel law can’t help you out and can’t punish the person appropriately, then I’m going to take matters into my own hands because it’s only fair. These women were seeking fairness, and this is what they did.”
Unfortunately for the women, the price of revenge has them facing up to six years in prison.
At least one of the women said Monday the story has gotten twisted and she's embarrassed.
“I am disturbed. I am upset. I am having a hard time handling life; an emotional wreck,” Wendy Sewell, 43, of Kaukauna, said in a telephone interview from her home. “I am ashamed.”
Sewell, Therese Ziemann, 48, of Menasha, Michelle Belliveau, 43, of Neenah, and the man's wife, Tracy M. Hood-Davis, of Fond du Lac, are charged with being party to false imprisonment, a felony. Ziemann also is charged with fourth-degree sexual assault.
The women are free on $200 cash bails. Investigators say all the women but Belliveau were romantically involved with the man. Online court records didn't list defense attorneys for any of the women Monday.
The women's plot unfolded last Thursday at the Lakeview Motel, about 30 miles southwest of Green Bay in the tiny village of Stockbridge near the scenic shores of Lake Winnebago.
Ziemann struck the man in the face, according to the complaints. The man told investigators he also was threatened with a gun. Ziemann told investigators she didn't have a gun but may have told the victim, “Do you know how much I want to shoot you?”
Ziemann told investigators she met the man online through Craigslist, fell in love and paid for his use of a room at the motel for the past two months. She said she gave him about $3,000. Then last Wednesday, she learned from the man’s wife that he was married, had other girlfriends and was “using them for money.” She expected the money to be repaid, according to the documents.
During Thursday’s confrontation with the man, Ziemann told investigators Sewell asked him, “Which one do you love more?” and the man's wife made a derisive remark about him being scared.
The man got free from the bed by chewing through one of his bindings, went outside and borrowed a telephone from the motel owner to call police.
Ziemann and Belliveau are sisters and Belliveau didn’t do anything wrong, Sewell said Monday. “She was just there for moral support. She wasn’t even dating the guy. She stood at the door the whole time and didn’t participate or nothing.”
Ziemann’s husband answered the telephone at their home and declined comment. There was no telephone listing for Belliveau.
The man had no telephone listing in Fond du Lac.
Pirro said the episode underlines a reality about modern America: Women are getting more violent.
“We see it in teen gang violence where women are assaulting other women and actually killing other women. And more women are going to prison,” Pirro told Morales. “And they’re not being seen as these maternal, soft mothers who don’t deserve to go to jail.
“They’re being seen as human beings who are as capable of violence as men are.”