Michael Thomas Gargiulo charged in stabbing deaths of two LA woman and attempted murder of Santa Monica woman.
By Sam Catanzaro
Opening statements began this week in the trial of a 43-year-old serial killer from Santa Monica charged in the stabbing deaths of two Los Angeles women in addition to an attempted murder of a woman in Santa Monica.
On Thursday, prosecutors described Michael Thomas Gargiulo, the “Hollywood Ripper”, of Santa Monica as a methodical predator who stalked victims before breaking into their homes.
Gargiulo is suspected of the murders of 22-year-old fashion designer Ashley Elleri in her Hollywood Hills home in 2005 and of 23-year-old Maria Bruno at her El Monte apartment. Elleri was the then-girlfriend of Ashton Kutcher. In addition, Gargiulo faces charges for the 2008 attempted murder of a neighbor in her Santa Monica home. Illinois prosecutors also charged him in 2011 for the August 14, 1993, murder of Tricia Pacaccio, an 18-year-old Glenview woman who was repeatedly stabbed outside her home.
Murder charges against Gargiulo include special circumstance allegations of murder by means of lying in wait.
“What you will hear is that Michael Gargiulo, for almost 15 years, was watching, always watching,” said prosecutor Daniel Akemon. “And his hobby was plotting the perfect opportunity to attack women with a knife in and around their homes.”
In the Santa Monica case, Gargiulo’s DNA was found in the blood splatter at the scene of the crime. The victim, Michelle Murphy, was reportedly in bed in her Euclid Street home when she awoke with a knife plunged into her. Murphy fought off the attacker and survived the incident.
Prosecutors described Gargiulo as a serial sexual-thrill killer and are seeking the death penalty.
The trial is expected to last around six months and include testimony from approximately 250 witnesses, including possibly Kutcher. Gargiulo has pleaded not guilty.
Gargiulo is expected to be extradited to Illinois after the Los Angeles trial wraps up.