By Rich Bockmann
When a federal prosecutor Monday asked Kathleen Mangan-Valle if she was married, the estranged wife of the Forest Hills man known as the “Cannibal Cop” furrowed her brow, hesitating a moment before reluctantly responding “Yes.”
Across the Manhattan courtroom sat Gilberto “Gil” Valle, his dour visage a sharp contrast to the photos of the smiling, baby-faced NYPD officer that have been splashed across newspaper covers since he was arrested last year and charged with a plot seemingly made for tabloid headlines.
The two repeatedly broke out in tears as Mangan-Valle described to the jury how she discovered what the prosecution described as a “heinous plot to kidnap, rape, murder and cannibalize a number of very real women” and what the 28-year-old cop’s defense team called “the stuff of horror movies: pure fiction.”
Mangan-Valle, 27, met the Archbishop Molloy alumnus in 2009 on the dating website Ok Cupid. She had come to the city via Washington state to be a teacher; he had entered the Police Academy in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.
The two bonded over sports, Mangan-Valle told the jury, as well as their connection to law-enforcement (her father is a retired cop). Two years after the young couple met — and with a daughter on the way — they moved from their tiny apartment on the Upper East Side to Forest Hills, close to Valle’s family.
But the mother-to-be started to notice her beau withdraw, staying up later and later into the night on the computer. While she was in the hospital after giving birth to their daughter, she said, Valle visited less often than her friends.
Curious as to what Valle was doing on the computer all night, she decided to take a look and found what she called “disturbing” S&M images on the website The Dark Fetish Network.
“I asked him about it,” she said. “That’s when really weird stuff started happening.”
Thinking she could recapture her husband’s interest if she lost weight, Mangan-Valle began running, but all he was interested in was whether her jogging route was well-lit and if people saw her, she testified.
After her husband became upset that she threw out a large piece of luggage, Mangan-Valle decided to install spyware on the computer that could track his moves online. When she opened the computer again and found “pictures of feet that weren’t attached to bodies,” she said she “realized this was way worse.”
Mangan-Valle headed back to her parents’ home in Nevada, and a few days later she checked the spyware and found a secret e-mail account her husband kept. Inside she found photos of herself and other women her husband knew as well as their names, occupations, heights, weights and plans for each.
“I was going to be tied up by my feet and my throat slit,” she said.
The prosecution said it plans to bring out a number of the women Valle allegedly targeted and show Web searches for “best rope to tie someone up” and “white slavery.”
The government will also attempt to prove he illegally accessed the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database to find background info on one of the women, another crime he is charged with.
“Much of the evidence you’re going to see in this trial is going to be incredibly disturbing to you,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Jackson told the jury in his opening statement.
Valle’s lawyer, Julia Gatto, said her defense will focus on The Dark Fetish Network, a fetish website she said has more than 80,000 registered users and explicitly states its content is simple fantasy.
She said Valle never went out and bought rope to tie someone up and his repeated “plans” to deliver a kidnapped woman to an alleged co-conspirator came and passed without ever being mentioned again.
“It’s the detail that makes it titillating,” she said. “That’s fantasy role-play.”
“You are not deputy agents of the thought police,” she told the jury.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.