August 2, 2021 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Santa Monica Serial Killer Found Sane in Murders of Two Women

Michael Thomas Gargiulo found guilty in stabbing deaths of two LA woman and attempted murder of Santa Monica woman.

By Sam Catanzaro

A 43-year-old Santa Monica man was found sane yesterday for the murders of two women and the attempted murder of a female neighbor that spanned seven years, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office announced.

A six-man, six-woman panel deliberated for several hours before making the finding against Michael Gargiulo (dob 2/15/76).

Gargiulo was found guilty last week of two counts of first-degree murder with the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and lying in wait, making him eligible for the death penalty. He also was convicted of one count of willful, deliberate and premeditated attempted murder and attempted escape.

The penalty phase of the trial is expected to begin Sept. 9.

Gargiulo was found guilty in 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 was found guilty 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.

“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 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.

Gargiulo is expected to be extradited to Illinois after the Los Angeles trial wraps up.

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