‘Hollywood Ripper’ found guilty of 2 counts of murder
A California jury found Michael Gargiulo, aka the “Hollywood Ripper,” guilty Thursday of the murders of two women and the attempted murder of another.
The verdict came after months of testimony and evidence and four days of deliberation. The sentencing phase is set to begin Tuesday.
Gargiulo faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole.
The trial surrounding what became known as Hollywood Ripper killings began in Los Angeles in May, as lawyers for the prosecution and the defense framed their arguments.
The 43-year-old was charged with the murders of Ashley Ellerin and Maria Bruno, in addition to the attempted murder of Michelle Murphy in 2008.
In his opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Dan Akemon painted a picture of a vicious killer who charmed his victims as a helpful neighbor and handyman before he broke into their homes and stabbed them to death, CNN affiliate KABC reported.
“His hobby was plotting the perfect opportunity to attack women with a knife in and around their homes,” he told the jury.
“All of the victims were young, outgoing women,” the prosecutor said. “All of the attacks occurred at night. All of the victims suffered multiple stab wounds. All of the victims were stabbed with the knife. Each of the victims was attacked in or around her home and in close proximity of Mr. Gargiulo.”
Scores of witnesses took the stand, including actor Ashton Kutcher, who went to Ellerin’s home the night she was killed.
Ellerin was killed the night of Feb. 21, 2001, court documents said. That night, according to prosecutors, Ellerin missed a date with Kutcher, who had invited her to an after-party for the Grammy Awards.
When she didn’t show up, Kutcher went to her home and peered inside.
“Mr. Kutcher looked in the window and saw what he thought was spilled wine on the floor,” Akemon told the jury, according to KABC. “We believe now the evidence will show that was actually blood, and Ashley had already been murdered.”
She had been stabbed 47 times.
During his May 29 testimony, the actor fielded questions for about 35 minutes, saying he figured Ellerin had left the house because he was late. He realized all the lights were on despite the front door being locked, and knocked a couple more times with no reply, figuring maybe she was upset with him.
“I thought it odd the lights were all on. I didn’t want to be the guy looking through her window,” Kutcher said adding that the place looked a little bit of a mess. “Then I saw what I thought was red wine on the carpet.”
After Kutcher found out what happened to Ellerin, he called the police because his fingerprints were on her door and he was “freaking out,” he said. Kutcher was never considered a suspect, according to police.
Defense attorney Daniel Nardoni argued prosecutors had no evidence to link Gargiulo to Ellerin’s murder.
“I can assure you at the conclusion of that presentation of evidence, you’ll not find one single bit of physical evidence attributed to Ms. Ellerin’s death,” Nardoni said, per KABC.
Gargiulo was also linked to the murder of Bruno, whose ex-husband discovered her mutilated body in 2005, KABC said.
Prosecutors alleged Gargiulo’s first victim was 18-year-old Tricia Pacaccio, who was killed in 1993 in Chicago when Gargiulo was just 17.
It wasn’t until 2008, when Gargiulo accidentally cut himself as he allegedly attacked Michelle Murphy, that investigators were able to link his DNA to the other killings, KABC reported.
CNN’s Lauren M. Johnson contributed to this report.