A housewife was burned over 60% of her body Thursday when her husband allegedly doused her with nitric acid during an argument, police said.
Valerie Chernoff Elbaum, 35, suffered second- and third-degree burns on her head, face, torso, hands and feet. She was listed in serious condition at the UC Irvine Medical Center burn ward, authorities said.
According to Investigator Bob Gustafson of the Orange Police Department, the attack occurred about 11:40 a.m. as the woman and her 37-year-old husband, Joseph, were arguing about an impending divorce.
The woman was able to call police on the 911 emergency line, Gustafson said. But officers arriving at the Elbaum residence on West Sierra Nevada Way had to kick open the front door so paramedics could get inside. Acid fumes in the house were so strong that several officers later complained of nausea, according to Gustafson.
Joseph Elbaum, who was arrested a short time later when officers spotted his car at Taft Avenue and Batavia Street, had access to acid through his work as a jeweler, Gustafson said. He was booked into Orange County Jail on suspicion of mayhem and assault with a caustic chemical.
The couple's 4-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son were not at home at the time of the incident, Gustafson said, and were released later into the custody of an aunt.