Jury Finds Serial Killer Guilty of 2 Murders over Last 18 Years, Including One in SM
Prosecutor described Michael Gargiulo as he a "stone-cold serial killer who preyed on women."
August 20, 2019
A 43-year-old man was found guilty today of the brutal slayings of two women and trying to kill another woman over a seven-year period, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced.
Jurors deliberated for more than three days before finding Michael Gargiulo guilty 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 attempted murder and attempted escape.
The sanity phase of the trial is expected to begin Aug. 20.
One victim was a Hollywood woman set to go out that night with actor Ashton Kutcher. Another victim was a Santa Monica woman who survived being stabbed eight times in her apartment.
Police accused him of the Feb. 22, 2001, killing of 22- year-old Ashley Ellerin in her Hollywood home and the Dec. 1, 2005, slaying of 32-year-old Maria Bruno in her El Monte apartment. The murder charges include special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder while lying in wait.
He was also an attempted murder charge stemming from an April 2008 attack on 26-year-old Michelle Murphy, who survived being stabbed eight times, along with an attempted escape charge.
In February 2001, Gargiulo broke into the Hollywood Hills home of 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin and killed her by repeatedly stabbing her.
Gargiulo murdered and mutilated his 32-year-old neighbor Maria Bruno while she was asleep in December 2005. Both had lived in an apartment complex in El Monte, prosecutors said.
Three years later, the defendant attacked Michelle Murphy, 26, in her Santa Monica home and stabbed her. She fought off Gargiulo who was her neighbor and was cut during the struggle. DNA evidence and details of that attack connected him to all three crimes, prosecutors said.
Gargiulo also has been charged in the 1993 slaying of Tricia Pacaccio, 18, in the Chicago area. Prosecutors were able to present details about the murder as supporting evidence during the trial.
Deputy District Attorney Dan Akemon told jurors last week that Gargiulo -- whom he called the "boy-next-door killer" -- targeted the women in "frenzied knife attacks" that are "inextricably linked."
One of Gargiulo's attorneys, Daniel Nardoni, suggested that other men were responsible for the deadly attacks, telling jurors that there was no DNA evidence inside the victims' homes to link the killings to Gargiulo. He has said that his client denies killing Ellerin, Bruno and Pacaccio.
Another defense attorney, Dale Rubin, said the attempted murder charge involving Murphy -- in which DNA evidence allegedly linked Gargiulo to the attack -- was the "only count in which the prosecution has shown Mr. Gargiulo was in her apartment and attacked her."
But the defense attorney cited an expert's conclusion that Gargiulo suffered from dissociative identity disorder, arguing that it could have caused him to go into an "amnesiac" or fugue state during the attack on Murphy.
"In other words, he can't premeditate. He can't deliberate," Rubin told the panel later about his client.
In his rebuttal argument, Akemon countered the defense's claim that Gargiulo woke up in the middle of the attack on Murphy and apologized while running away was a "complete fabrication." He questioned why Gargiulo would be apologizing if he just woke up, and said it was not reasonable to conclude that the defendant was in a fugue state or "unconscious" at the time of each of the attacks.
The prosecutor called Gargiulo a "stone-cold serial killer who preys on women" who lived near him and laid in wait for the perfect opportunity to attack them at night in or near their homes in "totally planned killings."
The three women who were killed each had injuries to their breasts, with Ellerin and Bruno being attacked shortly after having sex with men who had left their homes, according to Akemon.