A New York City police officer dreamed up plots to kidnap, torture, cook and eat at least 100 women whose photos, names and addresses he pulled from a confidential law enforcement database, authorities have said.
Gilberto Valle's fantasies about cannibalising women - in one, he said he hoped to "cook her over low heat, keep her alive as long as possible" - were retrieved in a trail of emails, computer files and instant messages in online fetish chat rooms, and authorities on Thursday said he was arrested because he was taking steps to carry them out.
None of the women was harmed, although a prosecutor said some of the women knew Valle and he had stalked at least two of them at home or work - once in his police car, in a "very intimidating fashion". Authorities said he had had lunch with one of them.
Valle's estranged wife tipped authorities off to his chilling online activity, leading to his arrest, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official wasn't authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing case.
Valle, 28, was held without bail on charges including kidnapping conspiracy and unauthorized use of law enforcement records.
US magistrate Judge Henry Pitman called the charges against him "profoundly disturbing... the most depraved, most dangerous conduct that can be imagined", and said it was even more troubling because he is a police officer.
Pitman said the charges of the steps Valle took to carry out the plot "suggest more than just talk".
'Tying her body'
One document on Valle's computer was titled "Abducting and Cooking (Victim 1): A Blueprint", according to the criminal complaint.
The file also had the woman's birth date and other personal information and a list of "materials needed", including a car, chloroform and rope.
"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 allegedly wrote in one exchange in July, the complaint says.
In other online conversations, investigators said, Valle talked about the mechanics of fitting the woman's body into an oven [her legs would have to be bent], said he could make chloroform at home to knock a woman out and discussed how "tasty" one woman looked.
"Her days are numbered," he wrote, according to the complaint. That woman told the FBI she knew Valle and met him for lunch in July.
Valle, who could face life in prison if convicted, sat quietly in a red T-shirt and jeans at his court appearance, answering one question with "yes, your Honour." No one answered the door to his home Thursday in a quiet, middle-class Queens neighborhood.
Public defender Julia Gatto had asked for bail, saying the Valle was only guilty of a "deviant fantasy".
"There's no actual crossing the line from fantasy to reality," Gatto said. "At worst this is someone who has sexual fantasies about people he knows and he talks about it on the internet."
'They speak for themselves'
But Valle was arrested because he was too close to carrying out the "grotesque and disturbing" plots, assistant US attorney Hadassa Waxman said. He had "plans to kidnap, rape, torture, kill and eat the body parts of young women, some of whom the FBI has identified and they acknowledge knowing the defendant for a period of time," she said.
Valle had created a computer catalogue with records of at least 100 women with their names, addresses and photos, the complaint says. Some of the information came from his unauthorized use of a restricted law enforcement database, authorities said. He claimed, according to the complaint, that he knew many of them.
"The allegations in the complaint really need no description from us," said Mary Galligan, acting head of the FBI's New York office. "They speak for themselves. It would be an understatement merely to say Valle's own words and actions were shocking."
The complaint alleges that in February, Valle negotiated to kidnap another woman for someone else, writing, "$5,000 and she's all yours".
He told the buyer he was aspiring to be a professional kidnapper, authorities said.
"I think I would rather not get involved in the rape," the complaint said. "You paid for her. She is all yours, and I don't want to be tempted the next time I abduct a girl."