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A Murder Trial Years in Making: 3 Deaths, An Alleged Serial Killer and Chilling Reason Ashton Kutcher Knock Unanswered

  Michael Gargiulo, victims, Tricia Pacaccio, Ashley Ellerin, Maria Bruno, Michelle Murphy

AL SEIB / LA TIMES POOL / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

The story is like something out of a movie, just awful, It was too right.

On the night of February 21

, 2001 Ashley Ellerin had just come out of the shower and was getting ready for an evening when she was stabbed to death by Michael Gargiulo, prosecutors claiming in their capital murder against the 43-year-old who is in trial for killing two women and attempting to murder another.

Gargiulo has not claimed guilty of all counts.

The body of the Orin, which is just outside the entrance to the bathroom, was not found before 11am. 9 a day when her roommate, Jennifer Disisto, returned to the rented bungalow they shared on Pinehurst Road in Hollywood. Paramedics pronounced Ellerin dead at. 9:28 on February 22. She had been stacked 47 times, where 12 of the wounds were considered lethal on their own, and there were many defensive wounds on the hands and right forearm.

In a Strange Only in Hollywood Twist, Ashton Kutcher staring at The 70s Show at that time had been her date of the previous evening . He later told the police – and testified at the hearing on Wednesday – that he had last spoken to Ellerin at 8:24 pm to confirm their plans. They had to attend a Grammy after party together. He called again shortly after. when he was over, but she did not pick up. The actor knocked around at. 10:45, he said. There was no answer. He peered through the window and recalled how he looked like wasted wine on the carpet.

Her car was in the driveway, but he thought she could be angry with him because he was late and deliberately did not respond so he left.

"He believed at the time he was standing up," said Los Angeles County lawyer, Dan Akemon, in his opening statement, when Gargiulo's attempt was initiated earlier this month. "We now believe that the evidence shows that it was actually blood, and Ashley had already been murdered."

  Ashton Kutcher, 2001

Jim Smeal / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Ellerin, 22, was a student at LA's Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising (FIDM) as well as a part-time stripper, and, according to Kutchers testimony, she had met friends in December 2000.

"She had tons of boyfriends," LAPD Homicide Detective Tom Small told LA Weekly in 2010. "At that time, Kutcher was still coming up. He had not yet created his big-time credentials , they met through a common friend friendly thing. They went out a couple of times. "Kutcher said in court that he was dating someone else when he first met Ellerin, so he introduced her to a friend and the two was short dated.

He Then went to Ellerin's home about two weeks before she died for a housewarming party and both singles at that time planned to have dinner and drinks.

On February 21, 2001, the original plan for him was to pick her up at 8 am, but he was invited to see Grammys at a friend's house. He said in court that he called Ellerin at 7:30 to tell her that he would be later than 8, then called again to keep her set up at his place of residence. He left an answering machine, then rang back from her roommate Jens phone and said the house phone didn't work. It was 8:24 pm She told him she was just out of the shower and had to dry her hair, Kutcher reminded, so his delay was not a problem.

One of the first detectives on the scene later reminded to see a dryer on the toilet seat.

  Michael Gargiulo, Ashton Kutcher Witness information

AL SEIB / LA TIMES POOL / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

According to Kutcher, shortly after. At 10 pm he called to say he was on his way and there was no answer. He decided not to go right there, Kutcher said, because he would not just show up without touching the base. But when he got there at. 10:45, he might have thought she was angry with him for being so late, so she wouldn't come to the door. He tried the front door, he testified and locked.

He spoke to the police the next day, and he recalled during cross-examination, though he was "freaked out" because he knew his fingerprints would be on the door handle and he tried to share all the little details he could Remember with detectives.

"Don't worry, you're not a suspect," defense lawyer Daniel Nardoni assured him Wednesday.

  Ashton Kutcher, Court

GENARO MOLINA / AFP / Getty Images

According to the prosecution, Ellerin first crossed the roads with Michael Gargiulo several months before her death. Gargiulo lived nearby with a girlfriend, and he had seen Ellerin and a friend outside her in the fall of 2000. Gargiulo approached to ask if he could help them make a flat tire and then gave them a business card that Advertised for his air conditioner repair services.

Although Gargiulo may have been a legitimate repairman, the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office has claimed he was also a "serial sexual tension killer" double the "Hollywood Ripper" in media reports – whose crimes include 1993 murder at 18-year-old Tricia Pacaccio in Chicago, where Gargiulo, a native of Illinois, lived before moving to LA

He is in court in LA for Ellerin's murder and in 2005 killing 32-year-olds Maria Bruno in El Monte, California, and attempted murder in 2008 by Michelle Murphy who survived being attacked with a knife and was the first witness of the prosecution when the trial began earlier this month years of delays. He is also accused of first-degree murder in Pacaccio's slaying in Chicago and is expected to be extradited to trial when it ends.

Gargiulo has also refused to kill Pacaccio.

He has been in prison since he was arrested in June 6, 2008, allegedly attacking Murphy.

Gargiulo "was a kind of bang and turkey-t-artist," LA County Sheriff's Detective Mark Lillienfeld, who investigated Bruno's death, told LA Weekly in 2010. "He told a number of people he was in the cinema and was a high-end plumber for celebrities and were friends with them, he would meet and be kind and connect with these women and form a superficial relationship with them – and eventually they would end up dead. is every woman's nightmare. "

Gargiulo even once spoke of Chicago to Ellerin and her former roommate Justin Peterson, who said he once faced Gargiulo the day after he saw him parked outside their house in the morning.

"He started to continue with how the fact he couldn't go home last night, Peterson said 48 hours " because the FBI was waiting for him at home to gather DNA samples from Chicago, In some cases or some murder, his best friend girlfriend was murder red or whatever. And I said, "Well, what are you hiding?" And he immediately put his leg up on the couch and started pulling out a knife as you know, strapped to his ankle. At that time I hurried him out of the house. "

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the killings of Ellerin and Bruno. They claim that Gargiulo hides in a clear look with the perfect tire – a permanent job, a wife and a child.

" What no one knew for many years is that Michael Gargiulo led a double life, "Akemon charged.

  Ashley Ellerin

AL SEIB / LA TIMES POOL / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

] Or friends told the police that Gargiulo, who lived a block away , at one point his heaters got stuck after she met him, but then would appear uninvited to the bungalow, and on several occasions he was spotted parked outside, apparently to see the place.

"Ashley knew I had an event with him, and she knew how I felt, "said Justin Peterson later LA Weekly reported in November 2010." She didn't seem worried. She was a wonderful person who wanted friends with everyone. "

" Probably someone came to the door, "Detective Tom Small said," and the rest is history. She knew the guy, and according to the people who knew her, if she knew you, she would let you in. "

" A sense of trauma just came over me, "Jennifer Disisto told 48 hours ] in 2011, reminding how she found Ashley's body." I thought maybe the person was still there, and I got out a bit and came to the car … and calling from my cell phone 911 … It still traumatizes me to this day. "

After a trial hearing (Kutcher did not testify, a detective interviewing him, testifying to what the actor told him), a judge on June 30, 2010 condemned the case to proceed to the trial. date, but no one believed that it would take nearly nine years to get started. The Los Angeles Times is the decade long delay in attempting this case largely due to Gargiulo's switching lawyers several times and for about three years he represented himself.

"[T] here was a … very narrow window with the opportunity for someone to enter the house and murder Ashley, and who this person was, must have seen "Akemon argued in court. Kutcher's testimony was used to help establish the timeline of alleged events. Hans was one of about 250 names in the list of potential prosecution witnesses in the case.

Daniel Nardoni, Gargiulo's lawyer, opposite in its opening Declaration that the prosecution would not be able to provide physical evidence that bound his client to Ellerin's death.

"The information we have is that [the suspect] introduced himself [to the victim] as warming and aviation," Small told 48 hours in 2011. "In the end, we got some additional information. bring some pictures and identify him as Michael Thomas Gargiulo. "

Four years after Ellerin was killed, the criminal complaint further claims that Gargiulo" literally slaughtered "his neighbor Maria Bruno in her El Monte apartment.

"Apartment No. 20 is where Maria Bruno lived," Lillienfeld told CBS News 48 Hours in 2011. "So he has a good clear shot if he looks through the window straight down to his place. He has a very clear shot at her front door and both living room window and kitchen window. "She had been killed in bed; her husband, Irving Bruno, as she was divorced, found her mutilated body. He told the 911 shipment that her breasts had been knocked off and one of her nipples was sitting over her mouth.

Investigators found a blue surgical bootie with a few drops of Bruno's blood on it outside her front door; they say DNA from its elastic band later matched with Gargiulo, and they found similar boots, which he apparently wore at work, on the suspect's ceiling when they searched his home.

"She was a mother and a wife and a daughter and a sister," said Lillienfeld about Bruno on 48 hours . "She was all those things. She had come to this country from El Salvador as a youth … She met and married her husband when she was a young woman … she had 2-year-old twins and then I believe in a 4 year old and a 5 year old. "

  Daniel Nardoni, Michael Gargiulo, Ashton Kutcher

Al Seib-Pool / Getty Images

Also according to the Los Angeles DA's criminal case, Gargiulo was 17, when he mortally stabbed Tricia Pacaccio outside the front door of her family's home in the upscale Chicago suburb of Glenview in August 1993. Her father found her the next morning with sore on the neck, shoulders and chest. She was a new high school graduate who was due to start at Purdue University one week after she was killed.

At one point, Gargiulo filed a friend of his in Tricia's murder, but later resumed his statement. A decade later, tests showed that DNA collected from under Tricias fingernails belonged to Gargiulo, who was a friend of his younger brother.

Although the DNA match was made in 2003, Gargiulo was not accused of Pacaccio's murder until 2011, when two Witnesses appeared after seeing a special 48 hours on Gargiulo – an unsatisfactory event for the girl's parents who explained a previous explanation that DNA alone was not enough to arrest him because it could have come from "casual contact." They suggested that Gargiulo would never be charged in Chicago if he had first been charged with murder in LA and that maybe two other women would be alive if more had been done more in the first place.

"My husband and I both feel that what Cook County did when they found DNA, instead of pursuing Michael, told the false excuses why DNA was on her. How pathetic," Tricia's mother, Diane Pacaccio , told Chicago magazine.

"As long as he only murdered my daughter, they didn't break. They didn't do anything about it," she said. "They were willing to make it an open case forever. Again, how pathetic."

"[The Cook County detectives] actually traveled over these things and did everything they could," Detective Small told LA Weekly in 2010 before Gargiulo was accused in Chicago. "It was the state's law office that did not file … I am not excited about everything in their investigation. In full circumstances and physical evidence out there, we would prosecute it. Frankly, I think it is a bunch of shenanigans, but that is not my word . "

  Michael Gargiulo

Santa Monica Police Dept.

Helps the Cook County case together, two witnesses identified at the time that "Witness D" and "Witness E" had come forward in LA to say that Gargiulo told them he had killed someone in Chicago, information he allegedly trusted in the late 1990s while working with "D" and "E" at the Rainbow Bar & Grill on Sunset Boulevard where he was a bouncer. According to LA Weekly he was fired by the job he held in 1999 after he hit a customer.

The July 2011 Gargiulo arrest warrant in the Pacaccio murder, obtained by the Chicago Tribune, stated that he had told "D" that he had stabbed someone and first told "E" that he had buried a body, but then said, "I'm just talking. I actually left the bitch on the steps of death."

Some of Pacaccio's family members are also on the witness record for this trial.

"Fighting for this case continues with me forever," Diane Pacaccio told reporters this month. "And that's how it gets."

  Daniel Akemon, Michael Gargiulo, Ashton Kutcher

Al Seib-Pool / Getty Images

"All the victims were young, outgoing women, all the attacks at night suffered all the victims several years, all the victims were stabbed with the knife , each victim was attacked in or around her home and close to Mr. Gargiulo, "said Dan Akemon in court. 19659004] After Michelle Murphy was attacked in the bedroom on her Euclid Avenue apartment in Santa Monica in April 2008, DNA was collected from this scene matched through a national database of samples collected from the Pacaccio crime scene.

"About 25 days after my samples are sent to the Crime Laboratory, I am informed by a criminal that … we actually have a hit, a DNA hit," Santa Monica Police Sgt. Richard Lewis told 48 hours in 2011. "A profile that was determined I got a fight."

Gargiulo was arrested 24 hours later. He was later accused of Ellerin's death and then Bruno's in December.

Living in Santa Monica in 2008, the suspect shared an alley with Murphy, and she told the police that they had greeted each other outside on occasion.

She had been sleeping for about an hour on the night of April 28, 2008, when she was stabbed in her bed, Murphy knew this month. She managed to fight for her attacker by grabbing the knife blade with both hands and being able to kick him from her. At some point in the fight, he cut his wrist, left some of his blood on her bedspread and pulled back into the tray. She recalled that the man said, "I'm sorry," when he ran away.

Her attacker apparently had climbed through an open living room window. After flowing through the front door, Murphy locked it, closed the window and called his girlfriend (now her husband) and then called the police. She was taken to the hospital where she needed stitches and surgery on her hand. She never lived in that apartment again, Murphy testified.

Pictures presented in court showed her bloody handshake on the rug as she stumbled out of bed, her blood-spattered bathroom when she examined her wounds and the blood-spreading cell phone she used to call the police.

Prosecutors have estimated that this lawsuit will last about six months.

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