Bucks County

‘Jaw for a Jaw': Chiropractor's Killer Blamed Him for Pain, DA Says

Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub said Joseph O'Boyle “improperly, incorrectly and in a misguided way” blamed the 64-year-old victim

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A 22-year-old Bucks County man became so obsessed with the idea that a chiropractor caused his jaw pain that he broke into the 64-year-old’s clinic and beat him in the jaw until he died, authorities said.

Joseph O’Boyle broke into James Sowa’s Bensalem Township home, which doubled as his practice, on Nov. 2 and hit him three times with a blunt object in the back of the head, causing his skull to fracture, according to a grand jury presentment of the case. Once Sowa was incapacitated, O’Boyle hit him repeatedly in the jaw, according to the presentment.

Sowa died of blunt-force trauma to the head.

“Dr. Sowa was a chiropractor in the Bensalem area and had served his community well to help people heal, which makes his murder somewhat ironic,” Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub said.
“He had never harmed a person. He certainly didn’t deserve this.”

According to the grand jury testimony, O’Boyle’s mother said he had begun complaining about pain in his jaw in February of 2019.  In September of last year, Sowa treated him for the pain, Weintraub said.

Joseph O'Boyle shown in a police mug shot.
Bucks County District Attorney's Office
Joseph O'Boyle shown in a police mug shot.

However, he subsequently complained “incessantly” to family members that his jaw pain had gotten worse and “improperly, incorrectly and in a misguided way” blamed Sowa, the district attorney said.

O’Boyle went on to kill Sowa in a “poetic, perverse irony,” motivated by a “jaw for a jaw” view of revenge, Weintraub said. The 22-year-old was also charged with assaulting a detective during the course of the investigation into Sowa’s killing.

The grand jury testimony indicates O’Boyle has a history of mental health issues. He is being held without bail on homicide, burglary and related charges.

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