Testifying through sobs and horrified grimaces, the wife of alleged cannibal cop Gilberto Valle told a jury Monday about her unexpected discovery of his visits to a kinky "dark fetish" website that eventually led her to believe he planned to torture and kill her.
"I know S&M is popular, but this seemed different," said Kathleen Mangan-Valle, 27, of Nevada, describing her surprise when she clicked on a link in Valle's account on the couple's Apple Mac after breakfast one morning. "The girl shown on the front page was dead."
Mangan-Valle's testimony highlighted an emotional first day at the trial of the NYPD cop accused of plotting in Internet chats to kidnap and eat women, as she recounted some of his gruesome murder plans and the estranged couple broke down in tears and wails when family pictures of a smiling Valle holding the couple's year-old daughter were displayed.
Valle, 28, a six-year NYPD veteran from Queens, was charged in federal court in Manhattan with conspiracy and with misusing a police database after Mangan-Valle fled their home to her parents' house and contacted the FBI last year.
Prosecutor Randall Jackson said in his opening that Valle was "deadly serious" -- searching the Internet for the best rope to bind women and recipes for chloroform, and keeping files on targets he fancied. But defense attorney Julia Gatto told jurors that Valle and the men he chatted with engaged in elaborate fantasy role-playing, but never hurt anyone and never intended to. "It's pure fiction," she said. "It's Gil's porn. It was his kinky little secret."
Mangan-Valle said she moved to New York City after college to become a special-education teacher in the public schools. She met Valle on a dating website. They got married after she became pregnant. She became a stay-at-home mom, while he worked a 3 p.m. to midnight shift. She never drove in the city. "It's scary," she testified.
The marriage, Mangan-Valle said, deteriorated after the baby was born. Valle lost interest in her, staying up until 4 or 5 a.m. on the Internet, and she blamed herself. After finding and asking about the kinky website, she said, things got "scary" -- he kept his loaded gun on the coffee table, encouraged her to jog in the dark, and became upset when she threw out some body-sized footlockers.
Eventually, she testified, she installed spyware on the computer to track Valle's activities. His secret life in chat rooms emerged -- a plan to string her up by her feet and slit her throat while men watched her blood "gush out," and another to rape two of her friends in front of each other "to heighten their terror."
On cross-examination, Mangan-Valle conceded that Valle never harmed her or the child, and that they shared happy moments. But she lashed out when Gatto asked why she had been unwilling to meet the defense.
"You," Mangan-Valle answered, "represent the man who wants to kill me."