Jury Reaches Verdict in Murder Case Involving Death of Ashton Kutcher’s Friend
After three days of deliberation, a Los Angeles jury has come to a verdict in the so-called Hollywood Ripper murders.
The jury found Michael Gargiulo, 43, guilty of first-degree murder in the deaths of Ashley Ellerin, 22, and Maria Bruno, 32. He was also found guilty of attempted murder in the stabbing of Michelle Murphy, 26.
All three violent attacks took place in the Los Angeles area between 2001 and 2008. He is also awaiting trial in Illinois for the 1993 murder of Tricia Pacaccio.
Gargiulo had pleaded not guilty to the crimes.
In May, Ashton Kutcher testified in the case. Ashton and Ashley were set to attend a Grammys party in L.A. together the night she was killed in 2001.
Prosecutors believe that Gargiulo stabbed Ellerin 47 times while she was getting ready for the party.
According to People, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Dan Akemon told the courtroom during the trial's opening statements, “We believe she had just exited the shower and was getting ready to go out with Mr. Kutcher when she was attacked from behind.”
Nathan Solis of Courthouse News reported in May that Kutcher told the court that he wasn't dating Ashley, but this was to be their first date.
The original plan was to go out to dinner before the party, but he was at a friend's house watching the Grammys and was running late.
They decided to grab drinks instead. The last time he spoke with her was around 8:30 p.m. He left a few messages afterward, explaining, “I was trying to take her on a date and didn't want to seem eager."
When Kutcher stopped by her home, he peered through the window and saw red wine stains on the floor. "It was not alarming to me," he said, explaining he had attended a party there in the past. He did try the door and told the court, "I remember the next day, after I heard about what happened, and I went to the detectives and said, 'My fingerprints were on the door,' and I was freaking out.”
CBS News reports Ashley's body was discovered by her roommate the next day.
According to People, Gargiulo lived in Ellerin's neighborhood and offered to help her fix a tire outside her home in 2000. He was a 24-year-old air-conditioning repairman and former bouncer at the Rainbow Bar & Grill. Meanwhile, Eonline.com says she was a stripper and fashion student.
Friends later told police that Gargiulo would show up to her home uninvited or park outside.
Courthouse News says victim Maria Bruno had been out with her estranged husband the night she was killed in 2005. Bruno's husband left her El Monte apartment around 3 a.m. and when he returned the next day at 8 a.m., he found Maria with her throat slashed and a breast cut off and placed on her mouth.
Michelle Murphy was able to fight off Gargiulo when he attacked her with a knife in her Santa Monica apartment in 2008. In the process of their struggle, he cut himself and left blood on her bedspread, linking him to the crime. His DNA was also found under her fingernails.
Tricia Pacaccio, 18, was found stabbed to death outside her home in Glenview, Illinois. Gargiulo, who was 17 at the time, was reportedly friends with Tricia's brother. Gargiulo's DNA was found under her fingernails.