A jury in California recommended the death sentence on Friday for the so-called “Hollywood Ripper,” a blood-thirsty murderer who’d been convicted in August of fatally stabbing and butchering two women at their homes, including Ashton Kutcher’s then-gal pal.
Michael Gargiulo, 43, will learn his ultimate fate on February 28, when a judge is set to sentence him on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
Among Gargiulo’s victims was 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin, who was found in her Hollywood home with 47 stab wounds in February 2001.
On the night of her murder, Ellerin had been due to go on a date with Kutcher, then an up-and-coming young actor.
Kutcher testified at Gargiulo’s murder trial that he was late to pick Ellerin up, but had been repeatedly calling her to let her know he was delayed.
When he ultimately arrived at her door in Hollywood Hills, she didn’t answer. Kutcher testified that he figured he’d been stood up — but in fact, she had been slain by Gargiulo.
He said he had looked through a window and seen what he thought was red wine spilled on the floor before leaving, assuming she had already gone out.
The second murder victim was Maria Bruno, a 32-year-old mother of four and neighbor of Gargiulo who was attacked in her sleep in December 2005 and “quite literally butchered,” prosecutors said.
Those who testified at the trial included Gargiulo’s teenage son, who pleaded with the jury to spare his dad’s life, and Michelle Murphy. She was stabbed eight times in her home by Gargiulo in April 2008 but survived.
Murphy said she woke up on that fateful night to find a man straddling her while he stabbed her in the arms and chest. She managed to fight him off and as he fled from the apartment he yelled “I’m sorry,” she testified.
Prosecutors during the trial described Gargiulo, an air-conditioning repairman, as a ruthless killer who targeted women who lived near him and waited for the perfect opportunity to attack them at night in or near their homes in “totally planned killings.”
Gargiulo was arrested following the attack on Murphy in 2008 in her Santa Monica apartment.
His defense team has argued that he should not get the death sentence, describing their client as a mentally ill man who suffered abuse while growing up.
When his trial in Los Angeles ends, Gargiulo is set to be transferred to Illinois where he is facing charges for the 1993 murder of Tricia Pacaccio, 18, who was killed in front of her home after an evening out with friends.
Gargiulo at the time lived near Pacaccio’s home in the Chicago area and was friends with her brother. Years after the murder, when Gargiulo was already living in Los Angeles, his DNA was matched to the crime scene thanks to improved testing methods.
With Post wires
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