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Aspiring Actor Found Guilty in California Slayings

Michael Gargiulo convicted of killing two women, attempting to kill a third
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 15, 2019 3:41 PM CDT
In this May 2, 2019 file photo Michael Gargiulo, right, appears with his defense attorney Daniel Nardoni in Los Angeles Superior Court for opening statements on his trial on murder charges in Los Angeles.   (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool, File)
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(Newser) – A jury on Thursday found an aspiring actor who was described by prosecutors as a serial killer guilty of fatally stabbing two women and attempting to kill a third in their Southern California homes, the AP reports. After three days of deliberations, the Los Angeles jury reached the verdict against 43-year-old Michael Gargiulo, who is also awaiting trial for a similar killing in Illinois in 1993. Gargiulo was convicted in the murder of 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin, in her Hollywood home in 2001 on a night when she was supposed to have drinks with Ashton Kutcher, who testified at the trial. Her father sat in court for the verdict. Gargiulo was also convicted of the 2005 murder of 32-year old Maria Bruno in her El Monte home, and with the 2008 attempted murder of Michelle Murphy, who fought off her attacker in her Santa Monica apartment and forced him to flee.

Jurors also found that Gargiulo was guilty of several special-circumstance allegations, including lying in wait and multiple murders, that make him eligible for the death penalty or life in prison with no possibility of parole. A final phase of the trial is set to start Tuesday, with jurors to determine whether Gargiulo was sane at the time of the killings. Gargiulo sat in court in a lavender dress shirt and slacks with eight sheriff's deputies standing behind him. He showed no reaction as the clerk read the verdict. With little physical evidence tying him to the scenes of two murders, prosecutors urged jurors to look at the cases connectively, citing uncannily similar patterns in attacks that were all in places near his residence at the time. They dubbed him the "Boy Next Door Killer." Allowed to cite evidence from the Illinois case, they said all four attacks were the work of a skilled serial killer who studied the lives, homes and habits of victims that he stabbed quickly, powerfully and repeatedly with a knife that he knew how to use, and studied ways to cover his tracks.

(Read more serial killer stories.)

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