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Opening statements scheduled for Thursday in rape-murder plot trial of 2 men

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Opening statements are set to begin in the trial of a New Jersey man and a former Manhattan school librarian charged with conspiring to rape, torture and murder women and children.

The case stems from a prosecution that resulted in the conviction of a New York City police officer last year on cannibalism-related charges. A jury of eight women and four men were sworn in as jurors on Wednesday. Openings are to start Thursday morning.

Prosecutors say family members of 23-year-old defendant Michael Vanhise of Trenton, N.J., were described as targets in Internet chats Vanhise had with 61-year-old co-defendant Robert Christopher Asch.

Defence lawyers say conversations in 2012 and 2013 were sexual fantasy chats never meant to harm anyone. The trial is expected to last up to three weeks.

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