A horrific-sounding kidnap-rape-killing plot ended up with two men convicted Friday of conspiring to carry out gruesome torture-murders of numerous women, including the wife and family members of one of the men, some of whom were girls under the age of 10.
But the two men, retired New York high school librarian Robert Christopher Asch and New Jersey auto mechanic Michael Van Hise, never actually carried out any such crimes and they consistently maintained that they were only indulging in fantasies, albeit sick and perverse ones. They never planned or intended to harm anyone, they said.
The two were originally named as co-conspirators with so-called “cannibal cop” Gilbert Valle who was convicted last year of making plans to kill women and eat them. Valle, too, never carried out his depraved fantasies.
Van Hise was arrested in January of 2013 and charged with offering to pay Valle $5,000 if the “cannibal cop” would procure a woman for him, a candidate for rape, torture and killing by Van Hise.
A third man, Massachusetts hospital police officer Richard Meltz was also arrested and charged in the kidnap-rape-killing conspiracy. Meltz entered a guilty plea in the kidnap-rape-killing plot in January of this year.
According to prosecutors, Asch and Van Hise took their fantasies too far to be treated as harmless, even though they never attempted to abduct or harm any potential victims. Van Hise is said to have e-mailed pictures of his wife, young nieces, his sister-in-law and stepdaughter, saying that he wanted Asch to help him torture, rape and kill the family members.
Prosecutors also say that the two drove through Trenton, New Jersey, scouting locations where bodies could be safely disposed.
Asch was also convicted of plotting to commit atrocities against another woman who, unbeknownst to Asch, was an undercover FBI agent. As part of his scheme to kidnap, rape and kill her, Asch purchased a taser, a whip, handcuffs and gynecological instruments, prosecutors alleged.
“This trial is about Michael Van Hise and Christopher Asch planning and agreeing to hurt women — real, live women. This was not a joke, folks,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Hadassa Waxman told the jury in a New York courtroom Tuesday.
On the other hand, the lawyer for 24-year-old Van Hise said her client took his fantasy scenarios with such little seriousness that he actually discussed them with his wife.
Van Hise’s kidnap-rape-killing fantasies were “no different than writing a script for a horror movie or torture porn,” said attorney Alice Fontier.
Asch’s lawyer said that the retired librarian’s stalking of the undercover FBI agent was simply “role-playing.”
“It’s creepy, OK. But it was a safe activity,” said Brian Waller.
The men could go to prison for life when they are sentenced in the kidnap-rape-killing conspiracy.