Ashton Kutcher believed he had botched a first date when 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin didn’t answer the door on Feb. 21, 2001.
But the real reason the fashion student didn’t answer the door was much more sinister. She had been stabbed 47 times, including having her throat slashed. The attack seemingly occurring while Ellerin was getting ready to attend a Grammy’s party with the actor.
Kutcher took the stand Wednesday morning to recount the details of the fateful night in a Los Angeles courtroom as part of the murder trial of alleged serial killer Michael Gargiulo, known as the “Hollywood Ripper.” Gargiulo is accused of stalking and viciously killing three women, including Ellerin—all of whom he had lived near at the time of the murders.
Kutcher said he’d met Ellerin at a housewarming party a few weeks before the Grammy’s and had planned to take her out for the first time on the night she died, according to TMZ.
The actor had called Ellerin around 7:30 p.m. to tell her that he planned to watch the awards show at a friend’s house but was planning to pick her up later.
They talked again at 8:24 p.m. when she told him she had just gotten out of the shower and planned to dry her hair, Kutcher told the jury.
The pair had planned to meet later for dinner, but Kutcher was running late and called her again around 10 p.m. She didn’t answer, so he left her a message saying they may have to skip dinner and just get drinks instead.
When he arrived around 10:45 p.m., he found all the lights were on at the home, but Ellerin never answered the door.
“I knocked on the door. There was no answer. Knocked again. And once again, no answer,” he said in court according to The Los Angeles Times. “At this point I pretty well assumed she had left for the night, and that I was late, and she was upset.”
He peered through the door and saw that it looked messy—even noticing what he thought was spilled red wine on the floor.
“I didn’t really think anything of it,” he said. Assuming Ellerin had gotten angry that he was late, Kutcher decided to leave.
He didn’t realize the real reason his date hadn’t come to the door until the next day when he heard she had been found by her roommate savagely murdered.
“I was freaking out,” he said, according The Times.
Kutcher said he immediately went to talk with police and admits he had initially been concerned that his fingerprints would be found on door knob.
Prosecutors believe Kutcher’s testimony provides crucial details about the timing of Ellerin’s death and shows that Ellerin must have been killed within a very small window of time, according to CBS News.
Prosecutors believe Gargiulo is a “serial, psychosexual thrill killer” who stalked his victims before the vicious attacks.
They say Ellerin met Gargiulo when he offered to help her change a tire, but he later began showing up at her home uninvited and witnesses reported seeing him in a park near her home watching her before she was killed.
Gargiulo, a former bouncer at Rainbow Bar & Grill and air conditioner repairman, is also accused of killing his teenage neighbor Tricia Pacaccio on the front porch of her Chicago home in 1993 and young mother Maria Bruno, 32, in 2005.
Prosecutors say all three victims lived near Gargiulo at the time of their deaths.
A fourth woman, Michelle Murphy, was brutally stabbed in her Santa Monica home in 2008 but managed to survive. Gargiulo’s DNA was reportedly found at the scene.
“What you will hear is that Michael Gargiulo for almost 15 years was watching, always watching,” prosecutor Daniel Akemon told the jury in his opening statements according to the Associated Press.
“And his hobby was plotting the perfect opportunity to attack women with a knife in and around their homes.”
Gargiulo has denied his involvement in any of the murders.
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