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He’s been dubbed the “Boy Next Door” and the “Hollywood Ripper;" he's been tried and convicted of wielding a knife and hacking at least two women to death.
But to his teenage son, he was just Dad.
“I don’t see a psychopath. I don’t see a murderer. All I see is [my] father,” the 16-year-old boy testified to a panel of jurors at the Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday during the sentencing phase of Michael Gargiulo’s trial.
Gargiulo, 43, was convicted on Aug. 15 of murdering two women, including a woman actor Ashton Kutcher was dating, who died in a pool of her own blood inside her Hollywood Hills bungalow almost two decades ago.
He faces either life in prison or the death penalty.
Gargiulo’s son explained to jurors that he hoped his father would not be sent to certain death.
“I feel like I need him. I don't want my dad to be killed,” he said, according to City News Service.
The father and son have maintained a bond through letters and phone chats, and the convicted killer has told him to keep up his grades and show his mother respect, the outlet reported.
The teen’s testimony concluded the sentencing phase of the trial for a man Deputy District Attorney Dan Akemon suggested “led a life of crime and violence that has left a swath of death, grief and destruction behind him,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
For his long blood trail, Akemon said, Gargiulo shouldn’t be allowed to live.
“He has earned and deserves the maximum penalty of death,” he said.
The prosecutor described Gargiulo as a “serial-sexual-thrill killer,” who used his air conditioner repair job to gain trust and access to his human prey.
One victim was Ashley Ellerin, 22, a fashion student, who was dating Kutcher.
On Feb. 22, 2001, the couple was supposed to go on a date.
Kutcher testified during the trial that he was puzzled when he approached Ellerin’s door.
“I knocked on the door. There was no answer. Knocked again. And once again, no answer,” he testified, according to The Associated Press. “At this point I pretty well assumed she had left for the night, and that I was late, and she was upset.”
Before he left, he peeked through the window and spotted what he thought were wine stains on her floor.
Ellerin’s roommate later discovered her body lying in the hallway near her bathroom. Authorities determined later that she had been stabbed 47 times and almost decapitated.
“I remember the next day after I heard about what happened, I went to the detectives and said, ‘My fingerprints are on the door,’” Kutcher explained. “I was freaking out.”
The "Ripper" struck again on Dec. 1, 2005, when 32-year-old mother of four Maria Bruno was killed inside of her El Monte apartment.
Gargiulo had moved into Bruno’s residential complex and ”mutilated” her as she slept, according to Courthouse News.
Akemon said that Gargiulo stabbed Bruno 17 times, including cutting off one of her breasts and resting it on her mouth.
On Tuesday, one of Gargiulo’s surviving victims, Michelle Murphy, 27, testified that she still relives the trauma he inflicted.
She recalled how she awoke to find Gargiulo invading her bedroom, lurking over her with a knife in his hand.
“I was fighting with everything I had,” Murphy told jurors of the night she managed to send Gargiulo scurrying away, according to PEOPLE.
Gargiulo’s defense attorney, Dale Rubin, tried to soften the reputation of his client. He said Gargiulo was severely traumatized by years of abuse as a child, and that he was mentally ill.
"The district attorney called Mr. Gargiulo a serial killer. The district attorney called Mr. Gargiulo a psychopath. The district attorney called Mr. Gargiulo psychotic. These are mental issues," the defense attorney said, according to City News Service. "In this country we don't execute the mentally ill."
Authorities also have linked Gargiulo to the horrific 1993 slaying of Tricia Pacaccio, 18, who was found dead on her Illinois doorstep, stabbed 17 times, according to The Chicago Tribune. Once his sentencing is complete, Gargiulo is expected to stand trial for that murder.
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