The wife of a New York City police officer on trial on charges that he conspired to kidnap, torture, kill and eat women objected to a defence lawyer's characterisation of what she saw on her husband's computer as pornography.
"It wasn't porn. That was dead people," 27-year-old
Kathleen Mangan-Valle told defence attorney Julia Gatto on Monday in an emotion-packed opening day of testimony that took a federal court jury in Manhattan into some of the darkest corners of sexually driven activity on the internet.
"I don't know why you keep calling that stuff porn."
The testimony came soon after a prosecutor insisted that Gilberto Valle was intent on conspiring to kidnap, kill and cook women he knew, including his wife.
Gatto told jurors the 28-year-old officer wanted only to share extreme sexual fantasies on the internet with like-minded people, some of the 38,000 registered to a website that caters to those interested in asphyxiation and cannibalism.
At times speaking through sobs and twice crying so hard that the judge ordered breaks, Mangan-Valle described coming across grisly photographs last summer on a website that was a regular stop for Valle, the baby-faced man she met in October 2009 through an internet dating service.
Gatto tried to soften the image of her client by showing jurors pictures of a uniformed Valle and the couple's 1-year-old daughter, a moment that caused the wife on the witness stand and eventually the officer at the defence table 30 feet away to cry out amid sobs.
She asked Mangan-Valle about good times with friends the couple had shared and their wedding last June.
"The wedding was nice. The marriage was not," Mangan-Valle said.
Mangan-Valle made clear there were no mixed emotions when she told Gatto why she did not agree to speak with defence attorneys prior to the trial.
"You're representing the man who wants to kill me. No, I don't want to talk to you," she said.
A prosecutor, Hadassa Waxman, had asked her earlier to describe what she found after she put a tracking device on a computer used by her husband to see what websites he visited and what he wrote to others in emails and instant chats. She said she learnt she was a target.
"I was going to be tied up by my feet and my throat slit and they would have fun watching the blood gush out of me because I was young," she said.