She Was Murdered Just Before Her Date With Ashton Kutcher

Alleged serial killer Michael Gargiulo goes on trial in California
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted May 3, 2019 10:05 AM CDT
Updated May 3, 2019 11:16 AM CDT
Alleged Serial Killer's Trial May Feature Ashton Kutcher
Michael Gargiulo listens to his defense attorney Daniel Nardoni's opening statement in Los Angeles Superior Court on his trial on murder charges Thursday, May 2, 2019.   (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool)

He's known as the "Hollywood Ripper" and the "Boy Next Door Killer," and he's now on trial in Los Angeles. Michael Gargiulo, 43, is accused of using his job as an air-conditioning repairman to murder two women in the LA area between 2001 and 2008 in what prosecutors call sexual thrill kills, reports NBC Los Angeles. Authorities say he nearly killed a third woman, but she fought back and survived. Separately, Gargiulo also is accused of killing a teenage neighbor in Illinois back in 1993, when he was just a teen himself. One more element in the high-profile trial that began this week: One of the women murdered in LA was dating Ashton Kutcher at the time. Details and coverage:

  • Kutcher angle: On Feb. 21, 2001, Kutcher went to pick up 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin for a date, reports the Los Angeles Times. When she didn't answer, he peeked in a window and spotted what he thought was spilled wine on the carpet, per the Washington Post. It was actually blood—Ellerin had been stabbed nearly 50 times. Kutcher left, not thinking anything was wrong, and Ellerin's body was found the next day by a friend. Kutcher may be called to testify as a witness in the trial. Gargiulo was a neighbor of Ellerin's who did repair work at her house and befriended her.

  • Other California cases: Gargiulo is accused of stabbing 32-year-old Maria Bruno to death and brutalizing her body in 2005. He also is accused of attempting to kill Michelle Murphy in 2008, but authorities say she fought back, causing Gargiulo to cut himself, then say, "I'm sorry" before leaving, per the Post. It was blood left behind from that attack that led to his arrest. Gargiulo lived near both women and knew Murphy.
  • First death: When the California trial is over, Gargiulo is expected to be extradited to Illinois to face trial in the 1993 murder of 18-year-old Tricia Pacaccio, who lived down the street from Gargiulo and was found stabbed to death by one of the entrances to her home. Gargiulo, then 17, was her brother's friend. It wasn't until 2003 that authorities matched DNA from Pacaccio's fingernails to Gargiulo, who by then had moved to California. Also by then, Ellerin had been killed. It took another five years for an arrest to be made.
  • The trial: "What you will hear is that Michael Gargiulo for almost 15 years was watching, always watching," prosecutor Daniel Akemon said Thursday in his opening statement, per the AP. "And his hobby was plotting the perfect opportunity to attack women with a knife in and around their homes." Gargiulo has pleaded not guilty.
  • Deeper dives: An LA Weekly story from 2010 and a CBS 48 Hours Mystery report from 2011 offer lots of background and interviews with victims' families.
(More serial killer stories.)

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