Los Angeles

Michael Gargiulo Convicted in Brutal ‘Hollywood Ripper' Killings

The case was dubbed the "Hollywood Ripper" killings because of the violent nature of the crimes

What to Know

  • Michael Gargiulo, 43, is charged in the slayings of two women and an attempt to kill a third in their LA-area homes
  • One of the victims was preparing to meet actor Ashton Kutcher at her Hollywood apartment on the night of the killing
  • The case was called the "Hollywood Ripper" killings because of the violent nature of the stabbings

Jurors reached guilty verdicts Thursday in the trial of a man accused of fatally stabbing two women and trying to kill a third in a series of violent and calculated attacks at the victims' Southern California homes. 

Prosecutors portrayed Michael Gargiulo, 43, as a "stone-cold serial killer who preys on women," ambushing victims in a series of calculated attacks. The cases were called the "Hollywood Ripper" killings because of the brutal nature of the attacks. 

Gargiulo was convicted of first-degree murder in the Feb. 22, 2001 killing of 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin in her Hollywood home. Ellerin had been preparing to go out that night with actor Ashton Kutcher, who testified during the trial. He also was convicted of murder in the Dec. 1, 2005 slaying of 32-year-old Maria Bruno in her El Monte apartment.

The murder charges include special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder while lying in wait.

Gargiulo was found guilty of attempted murder stemming from an April 2008 attack on 26-year-old Michelle Murphy. She survived eight stab wounds during the attack in her Santa Monica apartment.

He could face the death penalty. The sanity phase of the trial is expected to begin Tuesday.

Jurors arrived at a verdict on the fourth day of deliberations. 

Prosecutors portrayed Gargiulo as a "stone-cold serial killer who preys on women," ambushing them in a series of calculated attacks.


Gargiulo is awaiting trial separately in Illinois on a murder charge stemming from the Aug. 14, 1993, slaying of 18-year-old Tricia Pacaccio, who was the sister of one of his friends. She was killed outside her home.

Deputy District Attorney Dan Akemon told jurors last week that Gargiulo -- whom he called the "boy-next-door killer" -- targeted the women in "frenzied knife attacks" that are "inextricably linked." 

One of Gargiulo's attorneys, Daniel Nardoni, suggested that other men were responsible for the deadly attacks, telling jurors that there was no DNA evidence inside the victims' homes to link the killings to Gargiulo. He has said that his client denies killing Ellerin, Bruno and Pacaccio.

Another defense attorney, Dale Rubin, said the attempted murder charge involving Murphy -- in which DNA evidence allegedly linked Gargiulo to the attack -- was the "only count in which the prosecution has shown Mr. Gargiulo was in her apartment and attacked her." 

But the defense attorney cited an expert's conclusion that Gargiulo suffered from dissociative identity disorder, arguing that it could have caused him to go into an "amnesiac" or fugue state during the attack on Murphy.

In his rebuttal argument, Akemon countered the defense's claim that Gargiulo woke up in the middle of the attack on Murphy and apologized while running away, calling that account a "complete fabrication." He questioned why Gargiulo would be apologizing if he just woke up, and said it was not reasonable to conclude that the defendant was in a fugue state or "unconscious" at the time of each of the attacks.

The jury heard testimony May 29 from Kutcher, who told jurors that he showed up at Ellerin's home to pick her up after speaking with her on the phone, knocked on the door, peered through a window and saw what he believed was red wine spilled on the carpet. The actor testified that he left Ellerin's home because he thought she had already gone out with a friend.

Kutcher said he learned the next day what had happened to her, spoke to police and was "freaking out" because he knew his fingerprints would be on the front door of her home. He said he and Ellerin were acquaintances.

Gargiulo was arrested in June 2008 by Santa Monica police in connection with the attack on Murphy and was subsequently charged with the killings of Ellerin and Bruno. He was charged in 2011 in Illinois with Pacaccio's slaying.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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