The Cannibal Cop on Trial
A dispatch from Gilberto Valle’s strange first two days in court.
What, exactly, was in those emails from his account? On Tuesday, FBI special agent Corey Walsh takes the stand. He's an Iraq War veteran and a central-casting G-Man with short chestnut hair parted neatly on one side. At the prosecutors' instruction he begins the endless process of reading out the lurid online chats that he and his colleagues discovered in their investigation. The first set describes a bargain struck between Valle and a co-defendant from New Jersey named Michael Van Hise. In those discussions, Valle claims to be an aspiring professional kidnapper, and they work out a deal in which Valle will deliver one of his friends—a real woman he knows—as a sex slave for Van Hise. The two discuss Van Hise's plans for this victim and how Van Hise intends to rape her right away and then keep her locked up in his house.
Eventually they agree on a price of $4,000 for the kidnapping. Valle promises to drive her over in the trunk of his car one day in February 2012, but when the appointed day arrives, no delivery occurs. The government offers no evidence that Valle and Van Hise discussed this aborted plan again. Instead, the correspondence jumps ahead to another round of negotiations, very similar to the first, except the price is now $5,000. Van Hise never mentions that the price went up, nor that he failed to receive his sex slave the first time around. The two men inexplicably behave as if the first arrangement never even happened.
But this oversight is only inexplicable if you think their plot was real, as opposed to a fantasy role-play that could be varied and repeated from one month to the next. As I pointed out in a preview of the trial a few weeks ago, Van Hise's own wife knows about his sadistic role-plays and says that she is not particularly afraid of them. In January, she told the New York Daily News, “It's disturbing, yeah. But you have to accept your partner's flaws in a marriage.” He's a "big teddy bear," she said, and "as hard-core as a baby." [Update, March 1: The couple does appear to have had some problems in the past. In court on Thursday, prosecutors asserted to the judge (but not the jury) that Van Hise’s wife had kicked him out of the house at one point for “misconduct with her children.”]
The next set of Valle's correspondences—the next of his murderous plots—to be read aloud involved a different co-conspirator: An as-yet-unidentified Brit known online as "Moody Blues" or "MeatMarketMan." [Update, March 1: British newspapers are now reporting that Moody Blues was arrested on Feb. 21 for child pornography. He is allegedly a 57-year-old male nurse from Canterbury named Dale Bolinger.] Unlike Valle or Van Hise, whose online communications tend toward the addle-headed brevity of the compulsive masturbator—simple phrases and ideas, urgently repeated—the messages from Moody Blues are those of a filthy aesthete. He lingers on the details of his fetish with dry precision, presenting himself as a master cannibal with years of experience. "I'm considering going for a Filipino over here," he says at one point. "Any port in a storm, as it were."
As Special Agent Walsh reads through the chats and emails, one imagines Moody Blues as a toothy gent in a windowpane blazer, typing away at his computer as he puffs on a long-stemmed Briar pipe. "I enjoy it all, even the offal," he declares. "Nothing like stuffed heart!" He proposes detaching their victim's hands, cupping them around a gowpenful of rice and chilis, and steaming them up for a nice supper. Then he mentions that he has a recipe for haggis using the lungs and heart, and one for black pudding made from breast fat and blood. At times Moody Blues seems to be slipping into a wholesale Hannibal Lecter impersonation: Before it's done, I'm ready for him to suggest sautéing up her liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
Valle's plot with Moody Blues to kidnap and eat his college friend Kimberly devolves into obsessive recaps of their absurd arrangement. He pretends to have a secluded mountain retreat where the pair could roast Kimberly with impunity in an open-air barbecue. According to their arrangement, the Brit will hop across the pond for Labor Day, so he and Valle can go to Home Depot for supplies and spend a day or two constructing their human rotisserie. It sounds like they're planning for a weekend bro-down.
Other passages read like twisted cybersex, as two ostensibly heterosexual men get each other off in an online chat. They talk dirty about desires so violent and so insane that they could never be realized in real life. The loneliness of this predicament seems to play out in a weird and painful intimacy, and an aching need to push deeper and deeper into shared fantasy. When Valle creates a file on his computer called "Abducting and Cooking Kimberly: A Blueprint"—a key exhibit in the government's case—he emails it to Moody Blues. This is not a highly technical document: Below "materials needed," Valle puts down "sneakers," "gloves" and "a car (have it)." Rather, it might be a prop shared across a circle jerk.