A Homicide Trial Years within the Making: three Deaths, an Alleged Serial Killer and the Chilling Motive Ashton Kutcher’s Knock Went Unanswered


The story is like one thing out of a film, solely horrifyingly, it is all too actual.

On the night time of Feb. 21, 2001, Ashley Ellerin had simply gotten out of the bathe and was about to prepare for an evening out when she was stabbed to loss of life by Michael Gargiulo, prosecutors have alleged of their capital homicide case in opposition to the 43-year-old, who’s on trial for the killings of two girls and the tried homicide of one other.

Gargiulo has pleaded not responsible on all counts.

Ellerin’s physique, mendacity simply outdoors the doorway to the toilet, wasn’t discovered till about 9 a.m. the subsequent day, when her roommate, Jennifer Disisto, returned to the rented bungalow they shared on Pinehurst Highway in Hollywood. Paramedics pronounced Ellerin useless at 9:28 a.m. on Feb. 22. She had been stabbed 47 occasions, with 12 of the injuries thought of deadly on their very own, and there have been quite a few defensive wounds on her fingers and proper forearm.

In an odd only-in-Hollywood twist, Ashton Kutcher, who was starring on That ’70s Present on the time, had been her date for the prior night. He later advised police—and testified in courtroom on Wednesday—that he had final talked to Ellerin at eight:24 p.m. to substantiate their plans. They have been speculated to attend a Grammys after-party collectively. He referred to as once more shortly after 10 p.m. when he was on his manner over, however she did not decide up. The actor knocked at round 10:45 p.m., he stated. There was no reply. He peered by way of the window and recalled seeing what to him appeared like spilled wine on the carpet.

Her automobile was within the driveway, however he thought she is perhaps mad at him as a result of he was late and purposely not answering, so he left.

“He believed at that time he had been stood up,” Los Angeles County Deputy District Legal professional Dan Akemon stated in his opening assertion as Gargiulo’s trial acquired underway earlier this month. “We imagine now the proof will present that was truly blood, and Ashley had already been murdered.”

Ashton Kutcher, 2001

Jim Smeal/Ron Galella Assortment by way of Getty Pictures

Ellerin, 22, was a scholar at L.A.’s Trend Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in addition to a part-time stripper, and, in line with Kutcher’s testimony, she had met the actor in December 2000 by way of buddies.

“She had tons of boyfriends,” LAPD Murder Detective Tom Small advised LA Weekly in 2010. “At the moment Kutcher was nonetheless developing. He hadn’t established his big-time credentials but. They met by way of a mutual pal. It was a pleasant factor. They went out a few occasions.”

Kutcher stated in courtroom that he was relationship another person when he first met Ellerin, so he launched her to a buddy and the 2 of them briefly dated.

He then went to Ellerin’s dwelling about two weeks earlier than she died for a housewarming get together and, each single by then, they made plans to get dinner and drinks.

On Feb. 21, 2001, the unique plan was for him to select her up at eight p.m., however he was invited to look at the Grammys at a pal’s home. He stated in courtroom that he referred to as Ellerin at round 7:30 to inform her he’d be later than eight, then referred to as once more to maintain her posted on his whereabouts. He left a voicemail, then she referred to as again from her roommate Jen’s telephone, saying the home telephone wasn’t working. It was eight:24 p.m. She advised him she was simply out of the bathe and was going to dry her hair, Kutcher recalled, so his lateness wasn’t an issue.

One of many first detectives on the scene later recalled seeing a blow dryer on the bathroom seat.

Michael Gargiulo, Ashton Kutcher Witness Info


In response to Kutcher, shortly after 10 p.m. he referred to as to say he was on his manner over, and there was no reply. He determined to not go straight there, Kutcher stated, as a result of he did not wish to simply present up with out touching base. However when he acquired there at 10:45, he thought maybe she was mad at him for being so late and that is why she would not come to the door. He did strive the entrance door, he testified, and it was locked.

Speaking to police the subsequent day, he recalled throughout cross-examination, he was admittedly “freaked out” as a result of he knew his fingerprints can be on the doorknob and he tried to share each little element he might bear in mind with detectives.

“Don’t fret, you are not a suspect,” protection legal professional Daniel Nardoni assured him Wednesday.

Ashton Kutcher, Court


In response to the prosecution, Ellerin first crossed paths with Michael Gargiulo a number of months earlier than her loss of life. Gargiulo lived close by, with a girlfriend, and he had seen Ellerin and a pal outdoors her place within the fall of 2000. Gargiulo approached to ask if he might assist them repair a flat tire, after which he gave them a enterprise card promoting his air conditioner restore providers.

Whereas Gargiulo might have been a official repairman, the Los Angeles District Legal professional’s Workplace alleges he was additionally a “serial sexual-thrill killer”—dubbed the “Hollywood Ripper” in media reviews—whose crimes embrace the 1993 homicide of 18-year-old Tricia Pacaccio in Chicago, the place Gargiulo, a local of Illinois, lived earlier than transferring to L.A.

He is on trial in L.A. for Ellerin’s homicide, in addition to the 2005 killing of 32-year-old Maria Bruno in El Monte, Calif., and the tried homicide in 2008 of Michelle Murphy, who survived being attacked with a knife and was the prosecution’s first witness when the trial started earlier this month after years of delays. He is additionally charged with first-degree homicide in Pacaccio’s slaying in Chicago and is anticipated to be extradited to face trial when this one concludes.

Gargiulo has additionally denied killing Pacaccio.

He has been in jail since being arrested on June 6, 2008, for allegedly attacking Murphy. 

Gargiulo “was sort of a braggart and bulls–t artist,” L.A. County Sheriff’s Detective Mark Lillienfeld, who investigated Bruno’s loss of life, advised LA Weekly in 2010. “He advised quite a lot of folks he was within the films and was a high-end plumber for celebrities, and was buddies with them. He would meet and befriend and affiliate with these girls, and kind a superficial relationship with them—and finally they’d find yourself useless. He is each lady’s nightmare.”

Gargiulo allegedly even talked about Chicago to Ellerin and her former roommate Justin Peterson, who stated he confronted Gargiulo as soon as, the day after he noticed him parked outdoors their home within the early morning hours.

“He began to go on about how the truth that he could not go dwelling final night time,” Peterson advised 48 Hours, “as a result of the FBI was ready for him at his dwelling to gather DNA samples from Chicago, some case or some homicide, his greatest pal’s girlfriend was murdered, or no matter. And I stated, ‘Properly, what do you must cover?’ And he instantly put his leg up on the sofa, and began to drag out a knife that was, like, you already know, strapped to his ankle. At that time, I rushed him out of the home.”

Prosecutors are searching for the loss of life penalty for the murders of Ellerin and Bruno. They allege Gargiulo was hiding in plain sight with the right cowl—a gentle job, a spouse and a toddler.

“What nobody knew for a few years is that Michael Gargiulo was main a double life,” Akemon charged.

Ashley Ellerin


Associates of Ellerin advised police that, after she met him, Gargiulo, who lived a block away, at one level mounted her heater, however then would present up uninvited to the bungalow, and on a number of events he was noticed parked outdoors, seemingly watching the place.

“Ashley knew I had ‘an incidence’ with him and he or she knew how I felt,” Justin Peterson later stated, LA Weekly reported in November 2010. “She did not appear involved. She was a tremendous one that would make buddies with everybody.”

“Most likely somebody got here to the door,” Detective Tom Small stated, “and the remaining is historical past. She knew the man, and in line with the individuals who knew her, if she knew you, she would allow you to in.”

“A way of trauma simply came to visit me,” Jennifer Disisto advised 48 Hours in 2011, recalling how she discovered Ashley’s physique. “I assumed perhaps the particular person was nonetheless there, and I kinda ran out, and attending to the automobile… and calling from my mobile phone, 911… It nonetheless traumatizes me to this present day.”

After a pretrial listening to (Kutcher didn’t testify; a detective who interviewed him testified as to what the actor advised him), a decide dominated on June 30, 2010, that the case ought to proceed to trial. No date was set, however absolutely nobody thought it will take nearly 9 years to get underway. In response to the Los Angeles Instances, the decade-long delay in attempting this case is basically as a consequence of Gargiulo switching attorneys a number of occasions and for about three years he was representing himself.

“[T]right here was a…very slender window of alternative for somebody to get into the home and homicide Ashley, and whoever that particular person was will need to have been watching,” Akemon alleged in courtroom. Kutcher’s testimony was used to assist set up the timeline of alleged occasions. His was certainly one of about 250 names on the checklist of potential prosecution witnesses within the case.

Daniel Nardoni, Gargiulo’s legal professional, countered in his opening assertion that the prosecution would not have the ability to current any bodily proof that tied his shopper to Ellerin’s loss of life.

“The data we’ve got is that [the suspect] launched himself [to the victim] as a heating and air man,” Small advised 48 Hours in 2011. “In the end acquired some extra data. Was in a position to provide you with some photographs and determine him as Michael Thomas Gargiulo.”

4 years after Ellerin was killed, the prison criticism additional alleges, Gargiulo “fairly actually butchered” his neighbor Maria Bruno in her El Monte house. 

“House No. 20 is the place Maria Bruno lived,” Lillienfeld advised CBS Information’ 48 Hours in 2011. “So, he sort of has a fairly clear shot, if he is wanting by way of the window proper all the way down to her place. He has a really clear shot at her entrance door, and each front room window and the kitchen window.”

She had been killed in mattress; her husband, Irving Bruno, who she was separated from, discovered her mutilated physique. He advised the 911 dispatcher that her breasts had been slashed off and certainly one of her nipples positioned over her mouth. 

Investigators discovered a blue surgical bootie with a couple of drops of Bruno’s blood on it outdoors her entrance door; they are saying that DNA from its elastic band later matched with Gargiulo, and so they discovered comparable booties, which he apparently wore for work, in the suspect’s attic after they searched his dwelling.

“She was a mom and a spouse and a daughter and a sister,” Lillienfeld stated about Bruno on 48 Hours. “She was all these issues. She had come to this nation from El Salvador as an adolescent…She met and married her husband when she was a younger lady…she had 2-year-old twins after which I imagine a Four-year-old and a 5-year-old.”

Daniel Nardoni, Michael Gargiulo, Ashton Kutcher

Al Seib-Pool/Getty Pictures

Additionally acording to the Los Angeles D.A.’s prison case, Gargiulo was 17 when he fatally stabbed Tricia Pacaccio outdoors the entrance door of her household’s dwelling within the upscale Chicago suburb of Glenview in August 1993. Her dad discovered her the subsequent morning with wounds to her neck, shoulders and chest. She was a latest highschool graduate who was scheduled to begin at Purdue College every week after she was killed.

At one level, Gargiulo implicated a pal of his in Tricia’s homicide, however later recanted his assertion. A decade later, checks confirmed that DNA collected from underneath Tricia’s fingernails belonged to Gargiulo, who was a pal of her youthful brother.

Although the DNA match was made in 2003, Gargiulo wasn’t charged with Pacaccio’s homicide till 2011 when two witnesses got here ahead after watching a 48 Hours particular about Gargiulo—an unsatisfactory flip of occasions for the woman’s mother and father, who slammed a earlier rationalization that the DNA alone wasn’t sufficient to arrest him as a result of it might have come from “informal contact.” They prompt that Gargiulo would by no means have been charged in Chicago if he hadn’t been charged with homicide in L.A. first., and that maybe two different girls can be alive if extra had been carried out extra within the first place.

“My husband and I each really feel that what Prepare dinner County did is, as soon as they discovered DNA, as a substitute of pursuing Michael, they made false excuses on why DNA was on her. How pathetic,” Tricia’s mom, Diane Pacaccio, advised Chicago journal in 2011.

“So long as he murdered solely my daughter, they did not care. They did not do something about it,” she stated. “They have been keen to go away it an open case endlessly. Once more, how pathetic.”

“[The Cook County detectives] truly went again over these things and did every thing they may,” Detective Small advised LA Weekly in 2010, earlier than Gargiulo was charged in Chicago. “It was the State’s Legal professional’s Workplace that’s not submitting…I’m not aware of every thing of their investigation. In totality of the circumstances and bodily proof out right here, we might prosecute it. Frankly, I believe it’s a bunch of shenanigans, however it isn’t my say.”

Michael Gargiulo

Santa Monica Police Dept.

Serving to the Prepare dinner County case alongside, two witnesses recognized on the time as “Witness D” and “Witness E” had come ahead in L.A. to say that Gargiulo advised them he had killed somebody in Chicago, data he reportedly confided within the late 1990s whereas working with “D” and “E” on the Rainbow Bar & Grill on Sundown Boulevard, the place he was a bouncer. In response to LA Weekly, he was fired from that job, which he held in 1999, after he hit a buyer.

The July 2011 warrant for Gargiulo’s arrest in the Pacaccio homicide, obtained by the Chicago Tribune, said that he had advised “D” that he had stabbed somebody and at first advised “E” he had buried a physique, however then stated, “‘I am solely kidding. I truly left the bitch on the step for useless.'”

A few of Pacaccio’s relations are on the witness checklist for this trial as effectively.

“Combating for this case goes on with me endlessly,” Diane Pacaccio advised reporters this month. “And that is the way in which it is gonna be.”

Daniel Akemon, Michael Gargiulo, Ashton Kutcher

Al Seib-Pool/Getty Pictures

“The entire victims have been younger, outgoing girls, all the assaults occurred at night time, all the victims suffered a number of stab wounds, all the victims have been stabbed with the knife, every of the victims was attacked in or round her dwelling and in shut proximity of Mr. Gargiulo,” Dan Akemon stated in courtroom.

After Michelle Murphy was attacked within the bed room of her Euclid Avenue house in Santa Monica in April 2008, DNA collected from that scene was matched by way of a nationwide database with samples collected from the Pacaccio crime scene.

“About 25 days after submitting my samples to the crime lab, I am knowledgeable by a criminalist that…we even have successful, a DNA hit,” Santa Monica Police Sgt. Richard Lewis advised 48 Hours in 2011. “A profile that was decided I did get a match.”

Gargiulo was arrested 24 hours later. He was subsequently charged in Ellerin’s loss of life after which Bruno’s that December.

Dwelling in Santa Monica in 2008, the suspect shared an alley with Murphy, and he or she advised police that they’d greeted one another outdoors every now and then. 

She had been sleeping for about an hour on the night time of April 28, 2008, when she was stabbed in her mattress, Murphy testified this month. She managed to battle off her attacker by grabbing the knife blade with each fingers and was in a position to kick him off of her. In some unspecified time in the future within the wrestle he lower his wrist, leaving a few of his blood on her bedspread and trailing into the alley out again. She recalled the person saying, “I am sorry,” as he ran away.

Her attacker had apparently climbed by way of an open front room window. After he fled by way of the entrance door, Murphy locked it, closed the window, referred to as her boyfriend (now her husband) after which referred to as police. She was taken to the hospital, the place she wanted stitches and surgical procedure on her hand. She by no means lived in that house once more, Murphy testified.

Images offered in courtroom confirmed her bloody handprint on the carpet when she stumbled getting away from bed, her blood-spattered toilet as she surveyed her wounds, and the blood-spattered mobile phone she used to name police.

Prosecutors have estimated that this trial will final roughly six months.

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