This morning, Gilberto Valle, the "cannibal cop" of the New York Police Department, was found guilty of a conspiracy to kidnap his wife, his college friend, and two other women, and then to rape, torture, and eat them. It took the jurors 16 hours to reach their verdict. Valle will be sentenced in June, and could get life in prison.
What exactly did the cannibal cop do? Here's one thing: Last May, five months before the 28-year-old police officer was arrested by the FBI, Valle met up with a friend online. The friend suggested via instant message that they work together on a story. "OK, sounds fun," Valle said. They began to craft a tale about a restaurant that cooks and serves human flesh. (They'd met on a site called Dark Fetish Net, a sort of Facebook for perverts.) The imaginary business would need a boss, the friend proposed, perhaps a German woman named Serena. "Yeah," typed Valle, "I love women who help with the cooking." They chatted back and forth like this, trading notions for their project. "Nicely done, flowing very well," said the friend before signing off.
In July, Valle had another chat with a different online friend—a man called "Moody Blues." Their conversation flowed very well. Moody Blues, a male nurse who lives in England, pretended to be a connoisseur of cannibalism: He said he'd eaten lots of women and offered up his favorite recipes. Valle responded that he'd been working on a document called "Abducting and Cooking Kimberly: A Blueprint," and promised to send it over. That Word file had a photo of his real-life friend from college, Kimberly Sauer, and a list of supplies that he would need to carry out a crime. It also gave a set of made-up details about the victim: a fictitious last name, date of birth, alma mater, and hometown.
Then he and Moody Blues agreed to cook and eat Kimberly together over Labor Day, at Valle's secluded place "up in the mountains," a spot accessible via "lots of winding roads." Valle lived in an apartment building in Queens. Moody Blues never left his home in England. September came and went, and neither said a word about their killers' getaway.
Now the jury has decided that Valle's chat with Moody Blues, and several others he conducted, weren't phony stories like the one about the restaurant, but murderous plots they meant to carry out. That is to say, the jurors believed that three facts about the case had been proved beyond a reasonable doubt: First, that a genuine conspiracy existed; second, that Valle joined that conspiracy with the intent of participating in it; and third, that at least one member of the conspiracy did something substantive to carry out the crime.
On its face the verdict doesn't make much sense. Even if Valle and his friends had really meant to kill someone, then what did they do to make it happen? The government said that Valle conducted recon and surveillance. He traveled down to visit Kimberly in July, and drove past her workplace; later, they shared a meal. But Kimberly herself suggested where and when to meet for brunch. And if Valle was really on a murderous mission, why'd he bring along his wife and baby?
The government also claimed that Valle had done practical, strategic research for his crimes. He'd looked up recipes for chloroform, and downloaded photos of his victims to an "organized filing system" on his computer. He even went so far as to alphabetize the list of 80 women, and then he used that list to choose his targets.
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