Americas

‘Hollywood Ripper’ Michael Gargiulo sentenced to death for murder of two women

A man known as the “Hollywood Ripper” has been sentenced to death for the murder of two women and attempted killing of a third.

Michael Gargiulo, 45, was convicted almost two years ago, but delays due to procedural problems and the COVID pandemic means it was only on Friday that he was ordered to death row.

The families of his victims wept in court as Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler announced the sentence, saying: “Everywhere that Mr Gargiulo went, death and destruction followed him.”

Gargiulo’s case first came to prominence as one of his victims died before they were due to go on a date with actor Ashton Kutcher two decades ago.

The 45-year-old was convicted of the 2001 killing of fashion designer Ashley Ellerin, 22, and also the 2005 murder of 32-year-old mother-of-four Maria Bruno.

Ms Ellerin had been due to go on a date with the then up-and-coming comedy star Kutcher, who has since starred in The Butterfly Effect and Two And A Half Men.

During the trial, the court heard testimony from the actor, who would have been around 23 at the time.

He spoke of how Ms Ellerin did not answer the door at her Hollywood home when he went to pick her up, and after looking inside he noticed what he thought were wine stains – marks which were actually her blood.

Ms Ellerin was found with 47 stab wounds.

Her father, Michael Ellerin, told the court he was tempted to recreate his wife Cynthia’s “mournful scream and primal wailing after finding out that Ashley had been murdered”.

“It marked the beginning of an altered, diminished, heartbreaking life,” he said.

The second killing took place at Ms Bruno’s home in east Los Angeles in 2005.

Her body was found with her breasts cut off and her implants removed.

Gargiulo was also found guilty of the 2008 attempted murder of Michelle Murphy in her flat in Santa Monica.

Ms Murphy spoke of how she fought off her attacker, asking the court: “How is it fair that one person’s actions can destroy the lives of so many?”

The murderer fled the scene of that incident but left behind a trail of blood – a fact which led to his arrest.

Gargiulo had worked as an air conditioning and heating repairman, bouncer, and aspiring actor.

He was also known in US media as “The Chiller Killer” and by prosecutors as “The Boy Next Door Killer”, as he lived near his victims before stalking and attacking them.

Gargiulo claims he was prevented from testifying by his legal team, saying he was going to death row “wrongfully and unjustfully” after the Californian jury recommended a death sentence.

The judge agreed with the recommendation but it’s unlikely it will be carried out any time soon, as the state of California has not executed anyone since 2006 and the current governor has halted executions while in office.

Gargiulo will now be extradited to the state of Illinois, where he will stand trial for the 1993 killing of Tricia Pacaccio.

California prosecutors used evidence from this case to demonstrate a pattern of behaviour.

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