‘Hollywood ripper Michael Gargiulo’ who killed Ashton Kutcher’s girlfriend on trial

Opening statements began in the Los Angeles murder trial of an airconditioning repairman charged with the stabbing deaths of two women and a suburban Chicago teenager for sexual gratification.

Michael Gargiulo’s trial began with a prosecutor outlining the California cases for jurors, calling the crimes “the methodical and systematic slaughter of women.”

“What you will hear is that Michael Gargiulo for almost 15 years was watching, always watching,” prosecutor Daniel Akemon said. “And his hobby was plotting the perfect opportunity to attack women with a knife in and around their homes.”

media_cameraMichael Gargiulo in 2008. Picture: AP
media_cameraMichael Gargiulo in court. Picture: AP

Gargiulo, 43, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and an attempted-murder charge stemming from attacks in the Los Angeles area between 2001 and 2008, including the death of actor Ashton Kutcher’s former girlfriend.

Gargiulo was arrested in 2008 after DNA evidence linked him to the killings.

media_cameraAshton Kutcher is expected to testify. Picture: Splash
media_cameraAshley Ellerin dated Ashton Kutcher. Picture: LAPD

He was subsequently separately charged with killing 18-year-old Tricia Pacaccio, whose father found her fatally stabbed on their family’s doorstep, house key still in hand.

Prosecutors told the jury Gargiulo boasted “I left the b**ch for dead” after slaughtering Pacaccio.

They are seeking the death penalty.

Mr Akemon detailed how he said Gargiulo would stalk his victims before striking.

His method “was to first identify a target who lived near him, acquaint himself with that victim and her habits and routines, and then watch, shadow, stalk and hunt down the victim relentlessly as part of his plan to kill,” Mr Akemon said.

Gargiulo was living a “double life”, the court heard.

On the one hand he was a husband and father, on the other, “he was attacking women and killing them and he was able to go undetected for almost 15 years,” said Mr Akerman.

media_cameraPhotos of the deceased and Michelle Murphy, who survived an attack, are displayed in court during opening statements in the trial of Michael Gargiulo. Picture: AFP

Gargiulo’s defence lawyer is expected to give his opening statement later today.

One of Gargiulo’s lawyers has previously said Gargiulo denies any involvement in the killings and that though he lived near all the victims, that doesn’t make him guilty.

Gargiulo’s trial is expected to take six months.

Kutcher is among the possible witnesses who could be called to testify.

media_cameraMichael Gargiulo, right, talks to his defence lawyer Daniel Nardoni in Los Angeles. Picture: AP

His ex-girlfriend, 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin, was found dead in February 2001 in her Hollywood Hills home.

Kutcher, who had just started appearing in the television series That ‘70s Show and is now married to actress Mila Kunis, told police he went to pick up the fashion student-model for a post-Grammy Awards party, but she did not answer the door.

He checked a back window and spotted what he thought were red wine stains on the carpet and then left.

media_cameraAshton Kutcher went on to marry his That ‘70s Show co-star Mila Kunis. Picture: Supplied

Her body was discovered the next day by a friend.

Ellerin was stabbed 47 times and almost had her head severed from her body.

The third victim in the case, 32-year-old Maria Bruno, was found stabbed to death in her apartment in suburban El Monte in 2005. Her breasts had been cut off.

The fourth victim, Michelle Murphy, survived a stabbing attack in her Santa Monica apartment in April 2008. She is expected to be the prosecution’s star witness in the trial, which could last up to six months.

“He went in and found Michelle sleeping. He leaned over her and stabbed her with a knife,” Mr Akerman said.

Murphy woke up and immediately started fighting her attacker.

“She managed to get her legs out from under her and she kicked Gargiulo causing him to cut his wrist with his own knife.

“Bleeding profusely,” he said, “’I’m sorry’ and ran out of the door.”

Originally published as Hollywood ripper: ‘I left the b**ch for dead’

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