- Pub. Date:
They violated one of civilized society’s most sacred taboos, and they’re anathema even in the twisted world of serial murder. Most frighteningly, the cannibal killer hides behind a mask of normalcy, as documented in the vivid profiles of American murderers who ate their victims. Drawn from revealing interviews with family members, authorities, and the killers themselves, Death by Cannibal exposes the secrets behind the most fiendish compulsion of them all.
Gary Heidnik, the financial wizard whose Philadelphia home was a dungeon of sexual slavery, torture, and diabolical feasts.
Albert Fentress, a mild-mannered schoolteacher who lured a teenage boy into the inescapable darkness of his secret obsessions.
John Weber, a country boy who found an outlet for his sick fantasies when he ate his teenage sister-in-law for dinner.
Nathaniel Bar-Jonah, a gourmand and aspiring chef who allegedly shared the remains of his prey with unsuspecting friends.
Marc Sappington, a high school dropout who aimed to outdo his idol, Jeffrey Dahmer, by embarking on a three-day feeding frenzy.
But where does gruesome desire end and true crime begin? The book includes new details on the unprecedented case of “Cannibal Cop” Gilberto Valle, the former NYPD officer who used online forums to describe his fantasies of kidnapping up to a hundred women and of eating “girl meat.”
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Jeffrey Dahmer never sent an e-mail. He never tweeted or shared his plans with anyone via the Internet. Neither did the fictional Hannibal Lecter. And neither did Russian cannibal killer Andrei Chikatilo, who killed fifty-three, mostly schoolgirls and young men, during a twelve-year spree of rape, murder, and cannibalism that lasted from 1978 until his capture in 1990. No one had an inkling, not even his wife. Chikatilo, a schoolteacher, seemed like an average Russian—educated, married with two children, and a lifelong member of the Communist Party.
The five men whose stories are told in the first edition of this book, Albert Fentress, Nathan Bar-Jonah, Gary Heidnik, John Weber, and Marc Sappington, didn’t communicate their diabolical plans in chat rooms or anywhere else. What they did was driven by their compulsions and came out of their own twisted minds. But today’s cannibal killers have websites to guide and validate them. They can swap recipes and techniques in chat rooms, and they can conspire with other like-minded fiends, which is what federal prosecutors said Gil Valle, a young New York City police officer, did.
“The Internet is like atomic energy—it can blow up the world or light up the world depending on different circumstances,” said Fred Berlin, a sexual deviance researcher at Johns Hopkins who works as a forensic analyst for several law enforcement agencies.
Former FBI profiler Mary Ellen O’Toole agrees. “Before the Internet, someone like Dahmer had no way to feed fantasies outside of [his] own imagination. If you are chatting and talking with someone who is on a site like you, and who validates your deviancy, you start to think, maybe I’m not so bad.”
Without the Internet, Armin Meinwes would never have met Bernd Juergen Brandes. Armin, a computer technician from Rotenburg in Germany, desperately wanted to eat a human being, while Bernd, an electrical engineer from Berlin, desperately wanted to be eaten. In Cannibal, author Lois Jones explores their darkest desires, and she details how and why the two men found each other on the Internet. Both men realized their fantasies in March 2001. That’s when Meinwes murdered Brandes. He chopped him into pieces and placed him inside his freezer, next to a pizza. Over the next few weeks, he defrosted and cooked parts of Brandes in olive oil and garlic, eventually consuming forty-four pounds of his flesh. Meinwes told detectives that he dined by candelight, his dinner table was set with his best silverware and dinnerware, and he drank a fine red wine. Brandes’s flesh, he said, tasted like pork.
And without the Internet no one would have heard of Gil Valle, a young New York City policeman dubbed “the Cannibal Cop.” His Internet communications led to his undoing when his newlywed wife read about his chats and e-mails on the computer they shared.
Valle never murdered or kidnapped anyone. He never even attempted an abduction. Nevertheless he was arrested. Lawmen believed they stopped him in the nick of time, while his lawyers claimed he was merely engaged in harmless fantasy. His story made headlines around the world, and has been added to this book—Death by Cannibal: Criminals with an Appetite for Murder—because he clearly had an appetite for murder. He was charged with conspiracy to kidnap and accessing a restricted law enforcement database to gather information about potential targets.
In Cannibal Killers: The History of Impossible Murders, author Moira Martingale wrote, “Cannibalism runs like a blood-red thread through the tapestry of mankind’s history.” If she is correct, then I fear we are in for more Dahmers and Chikatilos, thanks to the Internet. And thanks to a popular song by rapper Kesha, a singer songwriter who has sold more than thirty-five million recordings worldwide.
In a song titled “Cannibal,” she sings these disturbing lyrics:
I eat boys up, breakfast and lunch
Then when I’m thirsty, I drink their blood
Carnivore, animal, I am a Cannibal
In the first edition of this book, I recalled attending a conference in Sarasota, Florida, at which the renowned true-crime writer Ann Rule talked about working at a crisis hotline in Seattle, manning the phones in the wee hours of the morning to counsel men and women in distress. She wasn’t alone in the office. A handsome young man was with her, offering her comforting words and suggestions to ease the despair of callers, too. They became friends.
When their shift ended at 5 a.m., the young man, concerned about Ann’s safety, would walk her to her car and wait until she drove away. When Ann revealed his name, everyone gasped: it was serial killer Ted Bundy and the experience led her to write The Stranger Beside Me.
Bundy was not a cannibal killer. The point is there are strangers beside each and every one of us. No one suspected Jeffrey Dahmer, Andrei Chikatilo, or Armin Meinwes until it was too late. And no suspected Gil Valle, whose arrest, indictment, and trial for bizarre and sordid fantasies indicate that we may be in a Minority Report world where authorities can arrest anyone for their thoughts.
The Cannibal Cop
Killer cops. Shakedown cops. Robber cops. Dope-dealer cops. Even “Mafia cops.”* New Yorkers are no strangers to crime fighters gone bad. But nothing could have prepared them for yet another stain on the NYPD badge—the trial of a veteran policeman whose fetishes seemed darker and more bizarre than even the twisted sexual cravings of the infamous Marquis de Sade.
New York City
February 25, 2013
What turns Gil Valle on is the idea of a woman oiled, bound, laid out on a platter with an apple in her mouth.
Defense Attorney Julia Gatto
The Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse at Foley Square is a veritable fortress of law and justice. The courthouse, named for a former justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, with its ten Corinthian columns and one-hundred-foot wide portico, creates the unmistakable impression that matters of the utmost importance are decided within its gray granite walls.
And they are.
Since the building opened in 1936, justice has been meted out to notorious gangsters, drug kingpins, stock-market fraudsters, and spies.
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were tried there in 1951, amid a national and international media frenzy. Convicted and sentenced to death for passing atomic secrets to Soviet agents, the Rosenbergs were executed in 1953.
In 1985, three simultaneous mob trials involving forty-three notorious gangsters drew extensive media attention. There was “the Pizza Connection Trial”: twenty-one of twenty-two defendants were convicted of conspiracy to smuggle heroin into the United States . . . And “the Gambino Trial”: ten defendants including Gambino godfather Paul Castellano faced charges of operating a stolen-car ring and conspiracy to commit murder. Six were convicted of smuggling stolen cars from Brooklyn to Kuwait, two were convicted of conspiracy to murder. Jurors were unable to reach a verdict for two others . . . And “the Colombo Trial”: crime boss Carmine Persico Jr. and ten other defendants were tried on racketeering charges. Nine were convicted.
One year later, “the Mafia Commission Trial” saw eight mob bosses and underbosses convicted on racketeering charges.
Journalists from near and far packed the neoclassical courthouse when Martha Stewart stood trial for insider trading in January 2004. When, after a six-week jury trial, the good living guru was convicted of obstruction of justice and lying to investigators, reporters returned in droves to report on her sentence—five months in a federal lockup followed by two years’ probation.
In 2005, the trial of rapper Lil’ Kim—real name Kimberly Jones—triggered a media frenzy, too. Jurors convicted the diminutive hip-hop diva of lying to a federal grand jury to protect friends who had been involved in a blazing gun battle outside a New York City radio station. A federal judge sent her to jail, too. Although the Grammy winner was sentenced to a year and a day, her incarceration ended in eight months.
As in those trials, reporters, photographers, and sketch artists were out in full force, along with curious citizens and legal professionals who braved the winter cold for opening day of the “the Cannibal Cop Trial,” the United States v. Gilberto Valle III.
Valle, a veteran New York City policeman, stood accused of conspiracy to kidnap. It had all the earmarks of a precedent-setting landmark case. No one was kidnapped, and the defendant never attempted to abduct anyone, which prompted legal scholars and pundits to speculate that Valle was on trial for his dark thoughts.
It also promised to be the most grotesque trial ever to take place in a Manhattan courtroom. The testimony would be emotional and dramatic, the exhibits gruesome and macabre. The trial was set to get underway inside Courtroom 110 with United States district court Judge Paul Gardephe presiding. There are a hundred and fifty spectator seats in the courtroom, and each one was occupied when Judge Gardephe bounded onto the bench at 12:50 p.m. He directed court officers to escort the jury of six men, six women, and two alternates to the jury box. Following opening statements from federal prosecutor Randall Jackson and defense attorney Julia Gatto, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hadassa Waxman called the government’s star witness to the witness stand.
“I was going to be tied up by my feet and my throat slit, and they were going to have fun watching the blood rush from my body,” a tearful Kathleen Mangan-Valle told the packed Manhattan courtroom.
The twenty-seven-year-old mother and schoolteacher had recently returned to New York from Nevada to testify against her estranged husband Gilberto (Gil) Valle III, the young police officer the media dubbed “the Cannibal Cop.” The six-year veteran of the NYPD was on trial for conspiracy to kidnap women, his wife among them, so they could be raped, killed, cooked, and eaten.
It is a long-held principle of American common law that spouses cannot be compelled to testify against each other. It’s called the marital privilege, and it meant that Kathleen could choose to testify against her husband. The government could not compel her to take the witness stand, nor could the defense prevent her from testifying. The choice was hers alone.
But her testimony would be limited to what she saw and what she did. That’s because defendant Gil Valle had privileges, too. Kathleen could not testify about any conversations, text messages, letters, chats, or e-mails she received from or sent to her husband. Prosecutors were limited, too, barred from introducing anything the young couple wrote or said to each other. Unless the evidence was introduced by the defense, the jury would never hear about the extensive e-mails they exchanged prior to Gil Valle’s arrest. In them Kathleen expressed her feelings of betrayal and implored her husband to reveal the extent of his Internet activities. Nor would jurors hear about his regret and sorrow over what he had done and how it had impacted her.
To the lawmen who investigated Gil Valle and the attorneys assigned to prosecute him, the baby-faced cop was a Hannibal Lecter wannabe, a depraved, flesh-hungry predator armed with a gun, carrying handcuffs, and wearing the badge of authority—his NYPD shield. He was, they decided, about to become a serial cannibal killer.
A federal grand jury charged Valle with two criminal counts: Count One, conspiracy to kidnap, and Count Two, accessing a restricted law enforcement database. His victims would not be randomly snatched off the street. Instead, Valle’s alleged targets were, like his wife, women personally known to him. And they were remarkably similar—young, petite, and athletic with long hair.
To convict, prosecutors would have to persuade the jury that Valle and at least one other person agreed to kidnap at least one of the women, that he knowingly and willingly joined with them in the conspiracy, and that at least one of the conspirators committed an overt act in furtherance of the diabolical plot. A guilty verdict could send the twenty-eight-year-old NYPD veteran to prison for life. The second charge, illegally accessing federal and state law enforcement databases, could send him away for five years.
In their opening statements federal prosecutor Randall Jackson and defense attorney Julia Gatto laid out their views of the gruesome case.
Jackson, a Harvard Law School graduate and the son of a cop, promised jurors that the government would present evidence and testimony to prove that Gil Valle was on the verge of carrying out a “heinous plot to kidnap, rape, murder and cannibalize a number of very real women in order to satisfy a deeply held desire to cannibalize human flesh.”
They would hear, the prosecutor said, that the veteran cop “chose to desecrate the trust that his community placed in him.” And they would learn that Valle repeatedly searched the Internet for information about the tools he would need to carry out his diabolical plans: the best rope to bind someone with, a formula for homemade chloroform, a recipe for cooking human flesh, and more.
They would also learn about the grotesque websites Valle visited, his extensive collection of ghastly autopsy photos, his cache of computer files on dozens of women, his surveillance of his alleged targets, and his research of kidnapping cases.
“Make no mistake,” prosecutor Jackson told the jury. “Gilberto Valle was very serious about these plans.”
Julia Gatto went next. Not surprisingly the veteran defense attorney offered a different point of view.
The government’s case is “pure fiction,” she said, arguing passionately, as she had during months of pretrial wrangling, that Gil Valle never conspired with anyone to kidnap anybody. There is no evidence, not even an allegation, that he had ever acted on his fantasies by kidnapping anyone. It was all “role play,” just a game, a fantasy, like a horror movie or a novel by Stephen King. Gil Valle, she said, did nothing more than engage in dark fantasies on fetish websites.
Her client’s sexual fantasies are deviant and sadistic, the defense lawyer conceded. And she admitted that the young cop is aroused by “unusual things.” She even revealed “his dirty little secret”—he is turned on “by the idea of a woman oiled, bound, laid out on a platter with an apple in her mouth, about to be cooked,” which explains why he “foolishly” engaged in online chats about “suffocating women, cooking and eating them.”
The charges against Valle, Julia Gatto declared, are an overreach by prudish lawmen who just don’t get S&M. They’re prosecuting Valle for his thoughts, she said. The online chats were horrific but they were nothing more than “preposterous, infantile chatter” fueled by a sexual fetish that never posed a threat to anyone. Valle, she said, never revealed his alleged targets’ last names, never attempted to kidnap anyone, never threatened to kidnap anyone, and never gathered any equipment to kidnap anyone. No one was raped, murdered, or eaten.
And Gatto, who studied law at Georgetown University before going joining Federal Defenders of New York, a nonprofit public defender organization that represents federal defendants who cannot afford to hire a private attorney, framed the case in constitutional terms. “This is a really, really important case,” she told the jurors. “You are not coming in here every day doing the hard work just for Gil Valle. You are really doing it for all of us. It is cases like this that [test] bedrock principles—the freedom to think, freedom to say, the freedom to write even the darkest thoughts from our human imagination.”
When Gatto finished, Judge Paul Gardephe directed prosecutors to call their first witness.
“The government calls Kathleen Mangan-Valle,” Hadassa Waxman announced.
The packed courtroom went silent as Kathleen cautiously made her way to the witness stand. She passed a scowling Elizabeth Valle, her mother-in-law, who looked on from the second row of the spectator’s section. And she passed the defense table, where her husband of less than one year sat with Gatto and co-counsels Robert Baum and Edward Zas.
Five months had passed since the estranged couple last laid eyes on each other. They had not had any contact or communication since Valle’s arrest. And this morning they avoided eye contact as Kathleen made her way to the front of the courtroom, raised her right hand, and swore to tell the truth.
For two grueling, tear-filled hours, the young mother, in a pink top, her face framed by her long dark hair, testified about how she discovered her husband’s bizarre secrets—the shocking websites he’d spent hours looking at and the grotesque plans he had for her and other women.
It all came to light one afternoon the previous September, when Kathleen opened the Macintosh laptop the couple shared. She read dozens of her husband’s twisted online chats with a cohort who called himself meatmarketman. Her husband, calling himself girlmeathunter, planned “to stuff me into a suitcase,” she said. He would hog-tie her, then slit her throat, and “watch the blood pour out of me for fun.” And if she cried or begged for her life, “Don’t listen to her. Don’t show her mercy,” meatmarketman advised. Her husband’s cold-blooded reply shocked her: “Gil just said, ‘It’s OK. We’ll gag her,’” she recalled before bursting into tears.
There was more.
Gil, she said, wrote that a college friend “was going to be burned alive.” He also discussed “devising an apparatus so the girls could be on the spit for thirty-minute shifts and be taken down so they would live longer.” Another woman, Kathleen said, “would be roasted alive.” They would suffer “for his enjoyment, and he wanted to make it last as long as possible.”
In yet another shocking online chat Valle discussed raping two women “in front of each other to heighten their fear.” He also talked about kidnapping a young teacher, a former colleague of Kathleen’s. He planned “to get her in her apartment and put her in a suitcase and wheel her out and deliver her for rape and murder.” Kathleen recalled cleaning out a closet in their apartment. She told jurors she threw out a very large suitcase that she found inside. It sparked an angry outburst from her husband. Kathleen did not think anything of it at the time—until she read her husband’s chilling chats with meatmarketman.
During her two hours on the witness stand, Kathleen was repeatedly overcome by emotion, and Judge Gardephe declared several brief recesses to allow her time to regain her composure.
Valle, in a dark suit and tie, his hair closely cropped, sobbed, too. He frequently dabbed his eyes. He did not look at his wife, preferring instead to listen to her testimony with his head down and his face buried in his hands. He became distraught when a photo of him in his police uniform appeared on courtroom video monitors. In the photo, a beaming Valle carried their baby daughter, Josephine, in his arms. The adorable tot wore a pink bunny outfit. “It’s before church, before a Holy Name Society* breakfast,” Kathleen explained as she and her estranged husband both broke into sobs.
The NYPD cop appeared to be a proud dad, but his wife of less than one year told a different story.
They met in the fall of 2009, through OKCupid.com, a dating website. In his online profile Valle listed food as among the things he could never do without, with “Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese” as his favorites. He indicated, however, that he was willing to try other cuisines: “I’ll eat anything and am not picky at all.”
He also described himself as a “very calm individual” with “an endless supply of hilarious short stories from work that can’t be made up.” And he revealed his favorite book—Green Eggs and Ham, a children’s story by Dr. Seuss, the moral of which is you have to try something to know if you will like it.
Kathleen was smitten. “He opened doors and pulled out chairs,” she said. They lived together in a tiny apartment on East Eighty-eighth Street. When Kathleen became pregnant they moved to a two-bedroom apartment in Forest Hills, where they set up housekeeping along with Dudley, an English bulldog, in a six-story apartment building not far from where the NYPD officer grew up.
Valle, Kathleen said, seemed indifferent to her pregnancy. When she had doctor’s appointments, he’d complain. And when she went into labor, she remembered, he made her wait for him to take a shower before driving her to the hospital. Valle was reluctant to tie the knot, but he eventually relented and agreed to do the right thing. They married on June 19, 2012, in a Catholic church, ten months after the birth of their daughter, Josephine.
Kathleen hoped that her husband would become more attentive after she gave birth, but she was disappointed. He showed no interest in sex with her after the delivery. Instead he became even less affectionate and more distant.
Attempts at intimacy were futile because her husband “couldn’t finish,” she said tearfully. He also started spending an inordinate amount of time online, sometimes staying awake into the wee hours of the morning.
In June, shortly after the wedding, she opened the Mac laptop they shared. Gil was still logged in. She saw an icon for a website called darkfetishnet. “It was porn, and it was disturbing,” Kathleen said. “I know S&M is popular, with Fifty Shades of Grey, but this seemed different. The girl on the front page was dead.” Kathleen confronted her husband about his extreme sexual fantasies. That’s when “things got bad,” she said.
She took up jogging “because I thought it would help if I was thinner or prettier.” Her husband, she said, encouraged her to run at night. She became suspicious when he “seemed very interested in my route,” asking if the streets she jogged on were dark or well lit and if there many people around. Kathleen suspected that her husband might be sexting or exchanging instant messages with a real-life lover. To find out she installed spyware on the laptop they shared. What she discovered on September 10, 2012, was worse than anything she had imagined.
“A lot of websites that I’d never seen before, and pictures of feet that weren’t attached to bodies, and pictures of me. I’d never seen anything like this,” she said through tears.
“On one of the websites there was a woman on the front page. She was dangling. She was naked with blood all over her.”
Kathleen also came across a trove of violent and hateful chats, and detailed plans to commit atrocities against women including herself and two others she knew: a college friend of Gil’s whom she met in July, and a former colleague of hers, a schoolteacher she had not seen in more than a year. She also viewed individual electronic files that her husband had created on dozens of other women, many of whom were listed by their first and last names with at least one photo of each as well as their height, weight, and other distinguishing characteristics like their bra cup sizes.
Horrified and fearing that the man she married, the father of her infant daughter, was a madman, Kathleen fled the apartment with Josephine, the Mac laptop, and little else. She spent the night across the street, at a neighbor’s apartment. The next day mother and daughter boarded a flight to Reno, Kathleen’s hometown, where they found a safe haven with her parents.
A few days later she looked at the computer again, and then she called the FBI.
Calling itself “the Biggest Little City in the World,” Reno is four hundred and fifty miles northwest of Las Vegas. Because the city sits more than four thousand feet above sea level on the leeward side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, winter snowfalls are light, and unlike the less-elevated Las Vegas, summer highs rarely hit a hundred degrees.
The city of two hundred and thirty thousand is the seat of Washoe County. Reno began in the mid-1800s as a jumping-off point for pioneers who planned to make their way through the mountains to Central and Northern California. By the 1930s it had become famous as the divorce capital of America. Unlike anywhere else in the United States at the time, Reno divorces were quick and simple. Socialites, celebrities, and average men and women flocked there for what became known as the “Reno cure” for an unhappy marriage.
But Kathleen did not file for divorce. Instead, after a few days with her family, she took the Mac laptop to the FBI’s field office on Sandhill Road. She told agents there what she’d found on it, and that she feared that her police-officer husband planned to kidnap, kill, torture, and cannibalize women.
After viewing some of the chats and images, the agents copied the computer’s hard drive. Kathleen signed a detailed statement. She gave the lawmen keys to the Forest Hills apartment and consent to copy the contents of an older HP laptop she’d left there. The Reno agents sent everything to the bureau’s New York office, where the case was assigned to Squad C-19, the Reactive Violent Crimes Squad, which investigates armed bank robberies, bank burglaries, armored-car robberies, kidnappings, murder for hire, cyber threats, extortion, and crimes on the high seas. It wouldn’t be long before lawmen would uncover what prosecutor Randall Jackson called the “heinous plot to kidnap, rape, murder and cannibalize a number of very real women.”
On September 20, agents and computer technicians began sifting through the contents of the copied hard drive. They obtained a warrant and entered the Valles’ Forest Hills apartment while he was at work. They copied the other laptop’s hard drive and brought it back to their Manhattan office at 26 Federal Plaza. Using a forensic computer analysis program, FBI computer technicians were able to restore deleted files and track online searches. What they found confirmed Kathleen’s worst fears:
• Thousands of visits to fetish websites featuring kidnapping and death.
• Dozens of file folders, each containing photographs of women complete with their names and other personal information.
• Numerous grisly still images and videos including a clip of a stark-naked woman chained hand and foot, crying out as flames burned her crotch.
• Alarming Google searches: “how to tie someone up,” “how to kidnap a girl,” “how to abduct a girl,” “how to knock someone unconscious,” and more.
• Online conversations and e-mails in which the NYPD cop seemed to be plotting with like-minded fiends to kidnap, kill, and cannibalize women.
FBI agents discovered that the NYPD cop had been communicating extensively with three like-minded individuals via the Internet. They connected on darkfetishnet.com, where Gil Valle stated in his profile, “I like to press the envelope, but no matter what I say, it is all fantasy.”
With each one he discussed the logistics of carrying out kidnappings and ways to torture and commit murder. He also described specific women who apparently were in his crosshairs.
Investigators learned their identities: Valle’s former college classmates Kimberly Sauer, a radio-station executive, and Andria Noble, an Ohio prosecutor; Alisa Friscia, a special-education teacher at the Manhattan elementary school where Kathleen once worked; and Kristen Ponticelli, an eighteen-year-old high school student from Queens.
They also identified another likely target: Maureen Hartigan, a young woman who had rebuffed Valle’s romantic overtures years before. Although she had never been specifically mentioned in any of his online conversations, investigators theorized that Valle would target her, too, in order to get even with her for spurning him years before.
Convinced that a dreadful crime was imminent, and that the young NYPD cop was its mastermind, agents interviewed and warned the women as well as others whose names were found on the computers. And they brought the case to federal prosecutors in Manhattan.
FBI special agent Anthony Foto, the case agent, signed off on a criminal complaint charging Valle with conspiracy to “kidnap, kill, cook and eat body parts of women.” The complaint alleged that the conspiracy began in January 2012. Valle was also charged with illegally accessing the National Crime Center Information database to locate potential victims.
To establish probable cause to arrest the NYPD cop, the criminal complaint cited excerpts from electronic communications between Valle and a suspected co-conspirator—CC-1—in which they targeted a woman identified as Victim-1:
July 9, 2012
CC-1: How big is your oven?
VALLE: Big enough to fit one of these girls if I folded their legs . . . The abduction will have to be flawless . . . I know all of them . . . [Victim-1], I can just show up at her home unannounced, it will not alert her, and I can knock her out, wait until dark and kidnap her right out of her home.
CC-1: You really would be better to grab a stranger. The first thing the police force will do is check out a friend.
VALLE: Her family is out of state.
CC-1: I have anesthetic gasses.
VALLE: I can make chloroform here.
CC-1: It’s really hard to dislocate a jaw. Also, how would we put her over the fire, spitting kills the girl. Have to put her into a kind of cage. What is your favorite cut of meat?
VALLE: I was thinking of tying her body onto some kind of apparatus . . . cook her over low heat, keep her alive as long as possible.
VALLE: I love that she is asleep right now not having the slightest clue of what we have planned. Her days are numbered. I’m glad you’re on board. She does look tasty doesn’t she?
CC-1: You do know if we don’t waste any of her there is nearly 75 lbs of food there.
In another online chat excerpted in the criminal complaint, this time with a different co-conspirator (CC-2), Valle and his cohort discussed a price to kidnap and deliver a woman (Victim-2):
February 28, 2012
CC-2: And also, about the price . . . would you do a payment plan or full up front?
VALLE: Full payment at delivery. Just so that you know, she may be knocked out when I get her to you. I don’t know how long the solvent I am using will last but I have to knock her out to get her out of her apartment safely.
CC-2: I definitely want her and how much again?
VALLE: $5,000 and she’s all yours.
CC-2: Could we do 4?
VALLE: I am putting my neck on the line here. If something goes wrong somehow, I am in deep s—. $5,000 and you need to make sure that she is not found. She will definitely make the news . . . It is going to be hard to restrain myself when I knock her out but I am aspiring to be a professional kidnapper and that’s business. But I will really get off on knocking her out, tying up her hands and bare feet and gagging her. Then she will be stuffed into a large piece of luggage and wheeled out to my van.
CC-2: Just make sure she doesn’t die before I get her.
VALLE: No need to worry. She will be alive. It’s a short drive to you. I think I would rather not get involved in the rape. You paid for her. She is all yours and I don’t want to be tempted the next time I abduct a girl.
CC-2: I understand. Also is there anything I can trade you that might knock down the price a bit?
VALLE: No nothing at all. Like I said this is very risky and will ruin my life if I am caught. I really need the money and I can’t take under $5,000.
Also detailed in the criminal complaint:
March 1, 2012
A cellular phone assigned [to] a telephone number belonging to GILBERTO VALLE, the defendant, made and/or received cellular communications [while he was] on the block in Manhattan on which Victim-2’s apartment building is located.
May 31, 2012
GILBERTO VALLE, the defendant, accessed the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and obtained information about a woman whose name matched the name of one of the individual files created by VALLE (“Victim-3”), and stored on the Computer. VALLE did not have authorization to perform that search or to access any information about Victim-3.
The complaint stated that lawmen had recovered reams of e-mails and chats in which Valle conspired with another individual to kidnap, cook, and eat a woman. They also found a sinister “operation plan,” apparently authored by Valle, entitled “Abducting and Cooking [Victim-1]: a Blueprint.”
On October 24, 2012, FBI agents arrested Valle. Knowing that he was armed and concerned that he would resist, the lawmen lured him into the hallway outside his apartment by buzzing him on the building’s intercom. They told him his car, which had been parked on the street, had been damaged. When Valley stepped into the hallway unarmed, FBI special agent Anthony Foto was waiting. With him were NYPD Internal Affairs detectives who took custody of Valle’s firearm, NYPD shield, and police ID.
The next day, just six weeks after Kathleen fled to Reno, United States attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara made a stunning announcement: Gilberto Valle III, a veteran New York City police officer, had been arrested on federal charges of conspiracy to kidnap and illegally accessing the federal National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database.
Valle’s “alleged plans to kidnap women so they could be raped, tortured, killed, cooked, and cannibalized shock the conscience,” the U.S. attorney declared, adding, “This case is all the more disturbing when you consider Valle’s position as a New York City police officer and his sworn duty to serve and protect.”
The case would be prosecuted by the U.S. attorney’s Violent Crimes Unit with veteran prosecutor Hadassa Waxman as lead prosecutor.
“Our investigation is ongoing,” Bharara said, signaling there would be more arrests.
At Valle’s arraignment later that day, Waxman insisted that a kidnap attempt was imminent.
“If he was not arrested, he would have carried out this plan,” the auburn-haired assistant U.S. attorney declared, adding that the NYPD cop, now shackled and wearing a brown jailhouse jumpsuit, spied on some of the women he targeted while in his police uniform and on duty.
Federal magistrate judge Henry Pittman ordered Valle held without bail pending trial. The jurist described the allegations as “very, very serious, unspeakable conduct.” He remanded the young cop to the federal lockup in Manhattan, the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC), where he was placed in isolation for his own protection.
The jaw-dropping charges set off a media feeding frenzy. Story-hungry reporters fanned out across the city to dig up whatever they could about the sordid case. They searched for the identities of the alleged victims and the suspected co-conspirators. And they wanted to know more about Gil Valle.
They learned that he’d grown up in Forest Hills, in a middle-class family. He never got into fights or trouble, never gave his parents, Gilberto and Elizabeth, any problems. After graduating from Archbishop Molloy High School in 2001, he enrolled at the University of Maryland, where he majored in psychology and criminal justice. He graduated in 2005. He joined the NYPD the following year.
Reporters scoured the Forest Hills neighborhood where Gil and Kathleen lived, and they besieged the Twenty-sixth Precinct in West Harlem, where the now-suspended Valle worked. The cops there were mostly tight-lipped, but the few who did speak said they did not believe the charges. Valle was generally low-key. He partnered with a sergeant, driving the marked cruiser they shared to crime scenes and assisting with supervisory activities. There was nothing about him that indicated a penchant for violence. He did his job protecting and serving the public without fanfare, machismo, or bravado. That he was secretly planning to serve women on a platter seemed inconceivable to his fellow officers.
To his neighbors in Forest Hills, Valle was a pleasant young man with a pretty wife, an adorable baby, and a well-trained dog. No one had ever considered him dangerous, at least not until now.
Several neighborhood women admitted they were frightened—“freaked out,” one neighbor said. They wondered if they had been main dishes on Valle’s depraved menu, and if they were small enough to fit into his oven. Another neighbor thought that Valle might have eaten his dog—he didn’t—explaining that the canine had not been seen in a while.
Reporters also reached out to Gil Valle’s teachers, friends, and former classmates.
His fellow students from Archbishop Molloy High School remembered him as a bright and friendly student who starred at third base for the coed Catholic school’s baseball team. Classmates at the University of Maryland in College Park recalled that he wore a New York Yankees baseball cap around campus and seemed like a typical New Yorker, brash and sometimes angry. One college classmate, a woman, told a reporter that his arrest did not come as a complete surprise. “I can’t say I’m shocked,” she said, explaining she recalled hearing Valle making misogynistic jokes.
Reporters checked the young cop’s Facebook page. He’d posted nothing about his schemes to kidnap, cook, and eat women. Instead, he ranted about the court system and dissed New York City. “Fifteen years until I can move the hell out of this rotten scumbag-filled city,” he wrote.
Referring to an ex-convict charged with killing a Nassau County cop eight years after gunning down a citizen, Valle wrote: “Four and a half years for attempted murder, then released and kills a police officer. This state’s court system is an absolute joke. Absolutely outraged.”
Referring to another officer shot in the line of duty, he wrote, “Thug who shot a Queens cop last night was only locked up for numerous armed robberies and attempted murder. Thank you very much liberal court system for letting this guy out.”
The Cannibal Cop case went viral. News of the allegedly flesh-hungry NYPD cop made headlines around the world. But on the day the sensational story broke, it did not make the front pages of New York’s tabloids.
Those banner headlines went to an even more horrific New York story—the heartbreaking murders of three-year-old Leo and six-year-old Lulu Krim, the son and daughter of Marina and Kevin Krim, a CNBC executive. They were found by their mother in the bathtub of the family’s West Seventy-fifth Street apartment, dead from stab wounds. Police charged their fifty-year-old nanny with the killings. The nanny would plead not guilty. As of this writing, she is awaiting trial.
Despite relegating the Cannibal Cop case to inside pages, the tabloids covered the story with relish. The headlines and lead paragraphs from the New York Daily News:
COOK ’EM, DANNO*
COP BUSTED IN PLOT TO KILL & EAT 100 WOMEN
TALKED ON INTERNET OF SLOW-ROASTING “TASTY” VICTIMS
A city cop with a taste for human flesh was charged Thursday with plotting to kidnap, torture, “slow cook” and eat women he tracked down through law enforcement databases.
Accused cannibal cop Gilberto Valle, 28, was living a double life—a married dad and civil servant who moonlighted as a secret psycho straight out of a James Patterson crime thriller, federal authorities revealed.
HUNT CANNIBAL COP’S SICK PALS
A full-court press is on for two co-conspirators who exchanged instant messages with alleged cannibal cop Gilberto Valle about kidnapping and slow-cooking women.
And from the New York Post:
NYPD STEW AS CANNIBAL COP PLOTS TO COOK AND EAT WOMEN:
He wanted to protect and serve women—on a dinner plate!
A newlywed NYPD cop was accused yesterday of moonlighting as an aspiring cannibal—plotting to “kidnap, rape, torture, cook and cannibalize” up to 100 women in a twisted plot discovered by his wife.
NYPD COP IN PLOT TO COOK, EAT WOMEN
Newlywed NYPD Officer Gilberto Valle III, here on his wedding day, conspired to cook and cannibalize women, and even haggled over price, the feds said yesterday.
COP CHICKS’ FREAKASSEE SPOOKED BY “CANNIBAL”
They’re the ladies who might have been his lunch. “Freaked-out” female acquaintances of would-be cannibal cop Gilberto “Gil” Valle yesterday wondered whether they were on his alleged list of 100 ladies to kidnap, rape, torture, cook—and eat.
Within days, however, the gruesome Cannibal Cop case and the heartbreaking Krim murders disappeared from the headlines, washed away by a more compelling story. It would dominate the news for weeks to come, driving news of the impending presidential election to the inside pages, too.
On the morning of October 22, 2012, two days before FBI agents arrested Gil Valle, Tropical Storm Eighteen was born in the western Caribbean near Jamaica. Six hours later it was upgraded to Tropical Storm Sandy. The next day, Valle’s last as a free man, the fast-moving storm became a Category-1 hurricane.
On October 24, Valle appeared in a federal courtroom in shackles to hear the charges against him. Meanwhile, Sandy, now a Category 3, was hammering eastern Cuba. It moved through the Bahamas the next day, weakened a bit, then turned north-northeast. On 8 P.M. on October 29, under a full moon and during high tide, Sandy, now dubbed Superstorm Sandy, made landfall on the Jersey Shore near Atlantic City. The result was a record-setting fourteen-foot storm surge that battered New Jersey and New York through three cycles of high and low tides.
Sandy became the second-costliest hurricane in American history, its damage surpassed only by Hurricane Katrina. Fifteen million people in the Northeast lost power. Lower Manhattan was flooded and most of the area was without power. The New York Stock Exchange suspended operations and city schools remained closed until November 5.
More than one hundred houses burned to the ground in the Breezy Point section of Valle’s home borough of Queens, a neighborhood bordered by Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Flooding and high winds in the nearby neighborhoods of Belle Harbor and Neponsit destroyed homes and took lives. More than thirty thousand New Yorkers were left homeless. Forty-five died, including a resident of the Coney Island section of Brooklyn who was swept away by the Atlantic Ocean as he headed to a hardware store.
Valle and the other prisoners in the MCC were locked down for an entire week. The facility lost power, water, and heat. Toilets didn’t flush. TVs and radios didn’t work. Prisoners panicked. Cut off from the world beyond their cells, they screamed, banged on cell doors, and threw things.
The Cannibal Cop case was all but forgotten until November 8, when Valle and his attorney, Julia Gatto, appeared in federal court before federal district court judge Lewis A. Kaplan to ask for bail. Also in court that day were Assistant U.S. Attorney Hadassa Waxman and Michelle Mechanic, a lawyer representing Alisa Friscia, the woman identified in the criminal complaint as Victim-2.
Valle, prosecutors claimed, would have earned five thousand dollars to kidnap and deliver Friscia to his co-conspirator, a New Jersey man known as CC-2. Her lawyer was in court to object to bail. Her client, she said, had been living in fear since she learned about the alleged kidnap plot from the FBI.
“She’s terrified for her life and safety if he should be released,” the attorney told the judge. “She’s not sleeping. She’s frightened and has confined herself to her home with her mother.”
Judge Lewis reserved decision until the next day when he ruled in favor of Magistrate Pittman’s denial of bail. Valle would remain locked up.
A federal grand jury indicted the NYPD officer in November on two counts. Count One, conspiracy to kidnap, and Count Two, illegally accessing a restricted federal database. Valle was back in court the following Monday, this time before Judge Gardephe, the jurist who would preside over his trial.
Appointed in 2008 by President George W. Bush, Judge Gardephe brought an eclectic legal résumé to the bench. It included a ten-year stint as a prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York City, as well as extensive private-practice experience in criminal defense, civil litigation, and corporate law.
With his attorney beside him, Valle pled not guilty, and with Thanksgiving just three days away, Gatto made yet another passionate bid for bail.
“You have a tough road [sic] to hoe,” the fifty-five-year-old jurist told the defense attorney, referring to her two previous unsuccessful attempts to spring Valle from the federal lockup.
“Pretrial services now recommends release as long as appropriate conditions are set,” the defense attorney told the judge. She had a plan: Valle would be released to his mother’s home. He’d wear a GPS ankle monitor. Besides, Gatto said, a psychiatrist who examined Valle is convinced that he is not a danger.
Arguing against bail, Hadassa Waxman revealed that an FBI expert had also reviewed the case and had reached a different conclusion. That expert, she said, warned that Valle would pursue his plans if released. To bolster her argument against bail, Waxman read aloud an excerpt from a February Internet chat during which Valle discussed his plans for Thanksgiving with a co-conspirator known as Moody Blues.*
“I’m planning on getting some girl meat,” Valle said.
“Really? Tell me more,” Moody Blues responded.
“It’s this November, for Thanksgiving. It’s a long way off, but I’m getting the plan in motion now. She’s not a volunteer. She has to be abducted. I know where she lives. I will grab her from her house.”
The harrowing chats were only “sick, twisted sexual fantasies,” an exasperated Gatto declared in rebuttal. “All over the Web it says no matter how real this sounds, this is all fantasy.” Despite everything Valle had discussed on the Internet, “there’s nothing the government can point to outside the computer.”
But Judge Gardephe was not about to issue a Get Out of Jail card. The NYPD cop would remain in custody, confined to a cell twenty-three hours a day in the facility’s Special Housing Unit. “There has been nothing rational about this case,” the jurist explained. “It is depraved, bizarre, aberrational and, as of now, entirely unexplained, particularly for someone who is a law-enforcement officer.”
But Julia Gatto did not take no for an answer. She appealed to a higher authority, the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan. A three-judge panel quickly rejected that bid for bail, too.
Meanwhile, with the city and the region cleaning up the debris left by Superstorm Sandy, the media spotlight once again fell on the Cannibal Cop case. And no one outside the courtroom was more passionate in defense of the NYPD officer than his mother.
Elizabeth Valle joyfully announced the impending birth of Gil and Kathleen’s baby on her Facebook page: “I’M GOING TO BE A GRANDMA IN OCT!!!!! MY LIFE IS COMPLETE. THANK YOU GOD.”
That was in April 2011. Kathleen gave birth at the end of September. Elizabeth had another announcement a year and a half later, only this time she did not post it on Facebook.
“He hasn’t eaten a human being!” she declared. Enraged at her son’s portrayal by prosecutors and the media, she lashed out. She wanted everyone to know that her son is not a cannibal.
“Look it up in the dictionary, the true meaning of cannibal is that he ate human meat [but] he hasn’t eaten a human being,” the angry mother told a reporter for the New York Daily News.
“This horrible story comes out and then the media runs with it,” she said. “The whole world thinks my son eats people!”
She pointed out that the charges against her son had yet to be proven, and she called his online writings nothing more than “Internet chatter.” She complained that she had not been able to talk to him since his arrest.
She also spoke about her son’s gentler side, how he cared for and loved his infant daughter and his dog, Dudley. And she recalled that before her son’s arrest she’d offer to watch the canine so he could look after baby Josephine. “He’d say ‘Ma, he’s still sleeping, I don’t want to wake him up.’ Does that sound like a freaking person who would harm anybody? He wouldn’t even wake up the dog!”
The young cop’s mother wasn’t the only one rallying to the young lawman’s side. Park Dietz, one of the country’s leading forensic psychiatrists, a recognized expert on sadism and paraphilia—a condition that causes some men to become sexually aroused from violent fantasies—would weigh in, too.
Dietz had examined, studied, and testified as an expert witness—mostly for the prosecution—in some of the most sexually sadistic criminal trials in recent American history, among them cannibal killer and necrophiliac Jeffrey Dahmer and sexual serial killers Arthur Shawcross, Joel Rifkin, and Charles Ng. Going face-to-face with them, he probed the darkest corners of their twisted minds and sick souls.
Other high-profile criminal cases in which he testified include the trials of Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, Washington, D.C., area snipers John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo, and John Hinckley, who attempted to assassinate President Reagan in 1981.
Dr. Dietz helped develop the protocols regarding sexual sadism for the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which provides standard classification of mental disorders according to symptoms. And he is the author of dozens of books and articles on sexual sadism, sexual bondage, pornography, criminality, and paraphilia.
Brought into the case by the defense, the psychiatrist spent eighteen hours over three days interviewing Gil Valle. He administered the Personality Assessment Inventory, a diagnostic tool. He reviewed documents related to the case: Valle’s Internet conversations and writings, the sexually explicit images the FBI recovered from his computer, and FBI reports of interviews with Valle and the women he had allegedly targeted. Dietz also interviewed the accused cop’s parents, Elizabeth and Gilberto (Bill) Jr., and his brother, Daniel.
Dr. Dietz had access to Valle’s NYPD file, which included the results of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a test meant to detect psychopathology. The test, which the NYPD uses to weed out undesirable recruits, showed no clinical psychopathology, Dietz said.
He found no indication that Valle “ever suffered from a psychotic or other mental illness.” He pronounced the NYPD cop “free from psychopathy, antisocial personality, or any other personality disorder associated with violence.”
In his written report to the court, Dietz noted that “Mr. Valle has been sexually stimulated by images and thoughts of other men abducting and binding females since he was a teenager, without ever attempting to abduct or bind a female in any manner whatsoever.”
During their sessions, Valle told the psychiatrist that he experienced erotic arousal in early adolescence by imagining naked women. He became aware that bondage aroused him sexually while viewing a scene in The Mask, the 1994 movie starring Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz in which the character played by Diaz was tied to a tree and terrorized by the film’s villain. He discovered Internet pornography while in high school, and he became particularly interested in bondage websites as a college student. He was too ashamed to reveal his fetish to anyone or to ask anyone to participate in it with him.
Table of Contents
1 Gilberto Valle III: The Cannibal Cop 5
2 Albert Fentress: Middle School Madman 94
3 John Weber: The Husband from Hell 152
4 Gary Heidnik: Stocks and Bondage 212
5 Nathaniel Bar-Jonah: The Gruesome Gourmet 268
6 Marc Sappington: Dahmer's Disciple, Lecter's Legacy 316
What People are Saying About This
Praise for Peter Davidson’s Homicide Miami
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