NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Were former NYPD Officer Gilberto Valle’s shocking and gruesome ideas about killing and eating women just a twisted fantasy, or was he really in danger of acting on his words?
That is the question in his trial, which began Monday. Both prosecutors and Valle’s own defense attorney confirmed Valle’s cannibalistic fantasies, but the defense said he never planned to carry them out.
As CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported Monday, Valle’s estranged wife told the New York City jury that she went to the FBI after finding disturbing material on his computer detailing a plot to kidnap, kill and eat women.
Kathleen Mangan, 28 — the first government witness at Valle’s federal kidnapping conspiracy trial — wept while on the stand Monday as she testified how her husband emotionally dropped out after she became pregnant.
Valle wiped his brow and put his head in his hands as he listened to his wife’s testimony.
Prosecutors have accused Valle, also 28, of plotting to abduct, torture and eat dozens of women, including his wife. He claims he was only indulging in a fantasy shared online by thousands of others visitors to Internet fetish sites.
Mangan said she became suspicious of her husband’s late night Internet fascination and planted spyware on their shared computer. In so doing, she discovered the websites he had been visiting. Online discussions revealed his plans to “sexually assault these women — to slit their throats and detailed plans to cannibalize these women,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Jackson said in opening arguments.
“I saw a woman covered in blood, hanging. I saw a picture of human feet cut off from the body,” Mangan told the jury.
Two other women were “going to be raped in front of each other to heighten their fears,” while another was going to be roasted alive over an open fire, Mangan testified about the online chats she read.
“The suffering was for his enjoyment and he wanted to make it last as long as possible,” she said.
She then used a common password of his to look at his online chats, and what she saw next made her decide to flee, she told the jury.
“Plans. Plans,” she testified. “I was going to be tied up by my feet and my throat slit.”
In his opening arguments, Jackson said Valle’s bizarre internet banter about cannibalism wasn’t harmless fantasy but a serious plot to abduct, torture and eat “very real women.”
“Make no mistake,” Jackson told the Manhattan jury. “Gilberto Valle was very serious about these plans.”
Jackson told the jury they would see online communications where Valle negotiated $5,000 to kidnap and deliver a victim to a second man, files on his computer proved he had created a detailed plan to conduct his heinous crime and get away with it and statements he made even after he was arrested showed he knew he was breaking the law.
Valle, a college graduate and father of a young child, appeared to be leading a normal life before he began acting “extremely strangely,” Jackson said. It was that behavior that prompted Mangan –- to whom he had been married less than a year – to investigate his Internet activity, according to Jackson.
As CBS 2’s Don Dahler reported, Mangan described a device Valle wrote about making which would hoist women up on a spit over a large fire. In all, he allegedly planned to kidnap, cook and eat as many as 100 women.
But defense attorney Julia Gatto insisted that it was all a twisted and sick fantasy that he shared with others on the Internet.
“Who can blame you if that scares you?” Gatto told the jury in her opening statement, “It’s the stuff of horror movies. But like horror movies, it’s pure fiction. Pretend.”
She said that Valle is accused of a crime he didn’t commit. And Gatto added that if it was a crime to have bizarre thoughts, movie directors and thriller author Stephen King would be in prison.
She even defended the fact that he named his wife and her friends as targets.
“Sexual fantasies often include those we know; those we find attractive,” Gatto said. “It’s sad it’s come to this, but it was purely fantasy. He was fantasizing about the women he knows; about women he finds attractive.”
Valle cried throughout the testimony Monday, even letting out a loud wail when his attorneys showed pictures of him and his toddler daughter. His attorneys said it was the first time he had seen images of his daughter since his arrest in October.
In addition to the threat to kidnap, kill and eat women, Valle is also charged with improperly accessing a police database to track potential victims, officials said.
A conviction on the kidnapping count carries a possible life sentence.
A New Jersey man charged with scheming with Valle to kidnap, rape and murder a Manhattan woman is awaiting trial. He also says he intended no harm.
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