New York cop's cannibalism plot trial opens

His estranged wife weeps over online chats targeting her

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NEW YORK -- The estranged wife of a police officer struggled to keep her composure Monday as she testified about discovering shocking online chats and other evidence on his computer showing that he had discussed killing her and abducting, torturing and eating other women.

"I was going to be tied up by my feet, and my throat slit, and they would have fun watching the blood gush out of me because I was young," Kathleen Mangan-Valle told a Manhattan jury that one chat revealed.

Ms. Mangan-Valle, 27, also read about plans to put one friend in a suitcase, wheel her out of her building and murder her. 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, she said. "The suffering was for his enjoyment, and he wanted to make it last as long as possible," she said.

Ms. Mangan-Valle broke down in tears several times, but the day's emotional peak came when a defense attorney showed her pictures of Officer Gilberto Valle in uniform, feeding their newborn daughter, prompting her and Officer Valle to weep openly as the judge sent the jury away for an afternoon break.

The drama came on the first day of testimony at the closely watched trial of Officer Valle, 28, a defendant whom city tabloids have dubbed the "Cannibal Cop."

Officer Valle is accused of conspiracy to kidnap a woman and unauthorized use of a law enforcement database that prosecutors say he accessed to build a list of potential targets. A conviction on the kidnapping count carries a possible life sentence.

The officer has claimed that his online discussions of cannibalism were harmless fetish fantasies. But in opening statements Monday, a prosecutor said "very real women" were in jeopardy.

"Make no mistake," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Jackson. "Gilbert Valle was very serious about these plans."

Defense attorney Julia Gatto said her client "never intended to kidnap anyone." She added: "You can't convict people for their thoughts, even if they're sick."

Officer Valle, a college graduate and New York Police Department patrolman, appeared to be leading a normal life before "things got bad," his wife said. "Weird stuff started happening."

Ms. Mangan-Valle testified that her husband began asking questions about where she liked to jog, what the lighting was like and whether other people were around. Using spyware on his computer, she said, she uncovered gruesome photos and the names, heights and weights of women. She also found that he had visited a fetish website that featured images of dead women.

"I was scared. ... I'd never seen that before," she said.

Ms. Mangan-Valle last year fled her home and reported his strange behavior to the FBI. Agents later uncovered "a heinous plot to kidnap, rape, murder and cannibalize a number of very real women," Mr. Jackson said.

The officer had attempted to contact potential victims, including a New York City elementary school teacher, to learn more about their jobs and residences, the prosecutor said. His Internet searches included the best rope with which to tie someone up, recipes, human flesh, white slavery and chemicals that can knock someone out, the prosecutor said.

Ms. Gatto countered that there was "no proof of a crime here. The charges are pure fiction." Officer Valle, she said, had always been aroused by "unusual things," including the thought of a woman boiled down on a platter with an apple in her mouth. He found a home at a fetish website with 38,000 registered members, where regulars discuss "suffocating women, cooking and eating them," she said.

The defense has denied that Ms. Mangan-Valle was a potential victim. In court papers, the defense said Officer Valle had made clear that his wife "was unavailable for any kidnapping fantasy."

Officer Valle is expected to take the stand to make the case that it was all role-playing fantasy. The defense also is planning to call experts to explain the fetish subculture and show jurors videotaped testimony from the fetish website's co-founder Sergey Merenkov.

New York psychologist Tiger Howard Devore, a certified sex therapist who specializes in sexual dysfunction and fetishes, said the cannibalism fetish known as voreaphilia isn't common. "For most laymen, they're going to think about it as cannibalism," he said in an interview. "But what it really is, is an obsession about consuming the flesh of the other, and this can have a whole range of expressions. ... It is mostly played out in fantasy, mostly played out in role-playing."



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