The New York City policeman accused of planning to abduct women, cook and eat them went on trial yesterday with US prosecutors planning to show that he used a restricted law enforcement database and did surveillance on potential victims.
The baby-faced officer was expected to take the stand as his defence tried to argue that it was all fantasy, that his online chats were so offensive and over-the-top that they couldn't be taken seriously.
"I'm planning on getting me some girl meat," 28-year-old Gilberto Valle allegedly wrote in one chat room. "It's this November, for Thanksgiving . . . she has to be abducted."
Mr Valle's wife testified against him last night.
A criminal complaint claims that Mr Valle created a computer file cataloguing at least 100 women with their names, addresses and photos.
A conviction on the kidnapping count carries a possible life sentence.
The defence has been bolstered by pretrial rulings that will allow Mr Valle's lawyers to call expert witnesses expected to give jurors a tutorial on online sexual deviance and fetishes.
As she struggled to stay composed, Mr Valle's estranged wife testified that she was shocked to find he had visited a website featuring a photo of a dead woman and other gruesome images.
"It was porn. It was disturbing," Kathleen Mangan told a Manhattan jury about the fetish website.
"I know S&M is popular with 'Shades of Grey'," she said in reference to the popular book series by EL James, "but this was different."
A college graduate and father of a young child, Mr Valle appeared to be leading a normal life before "things got bad", his wife said. "Weird stuff started happening."
She testified her husband began asking questions about where she liked to jog, what the lighting was like and whether other people were around.
A clinical sexologist will testify about sexually explicit websites that "resemble improvisational theatre", court papers say.
A forensic psychiatrist and criminologist who examined Mr Valle contends most men "who have sexually sadistic fantasies . . . engage in no harmful actions toward others."
A New Jersey man charged with scheming with Mr Valle to kidnap, rape and murder a Manhattan woman is awaiting trial.
The trial continues.