For a decade and a half, accused “boy next door killer” Michael Gargiulo allegedly butchered women from Illinois to California at their own homes, usually while they slept. Prosecutors say Gargiulo is a “serial sexual thrill killer” who watched, waited, and stalked his victims where they lived before knifing them — often dozens of times. And he typically lived footsteps away from the women he preyed on.
Gargiulo, whose trial began last week in Los Angeles, is facing two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder for the slayings that occurred between 2001 and 2008.
For years, authorities say, the air conditioner repairman and former bouncer who's been dubbed the “Hollywood Ripper,” carried out "the methodical and systematic slaughter of women." He snuck up on his victims and pounced on them knife-in-hand, in what prosecutors are calling “blitz-type knife attack[s],” according to CBS News.
"He collected real-time intelligence on the victims and then manipulated the circumstances to provide himself with the perfect opportunity to pounce and kill in blitz-type knife attacks," said prosecutor Daniel Akemon.
Authorities say that in 2001, Gargiulo fatally stabbed fashion student — and Ashton Kutcher’s then-girlfriend — Ashley Ellerin 47 times. Many of those wounds were up to six inches deep, and one even punctured her skull, according to police.
It “took out a chunk of skull like a puzzle piece,” Det. Tom Small testified, according to Chicago Magazine.
The LA Times reported that Gargiulo began stalking Ellerin at her Hollywood Hills home after helping her change a tire on her car. Ellerin was reportedly supposed to attend a Grammy Awards after party with Kutcher the night she was killed. The former “That ‘70s Show” actor is a possible witness in Gargiulo’s trial.
Tom Brennan, a retired state trooper and independent investigator, who has investigated other murder cases involving blitz attacks, told Oxygen.com that victims of such stabbings rarely have time to react or defend themselves.
“A blitz-type attack is an attack in which the victim is totally taken by surprise,” said Brennan. “It’s totally unexpected. It prevents the victim from in any way from protecting themselves from the attack.”
He added that such quick and vicious attacks, especially with so many punctures, are typically very “personal” acts.
“Quite often when you see that number of stab wounds ... if it is a blitz-type attack, the perpetrator is usually known to the victim and it’s usually a very personal crime,” said Brennan. “The number of stab wounds is [generally] a demonstration of the anger the perpetrator has for the victim and quite often, the perpetrator may be experiencing some sort of sexual satisfaction because the number of stab wounds are associated with penile penetration.”
Prosecutors say Gargiulo killed for “psychosexual gratification.” Gargiulo was caught after attempting to kill 27-year-old Michelle Murphy, who awoke to Gargiulo stabbing her and managed to fight him off and survive. DNA evidence then linked him to the murders of Ellerin and 32-year-old Maria Bruno.
He’s also accused of slaughtering 18-year-old Tricia Pacaccio on the front door of her Illinois home in 1993, according to the LA Times. The high school graduate was reportedly stabbed 17 times.
Gargiulo’s expected to stand trial in Illinois following his trial in California, which is expected to last six months. Gargiulo has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. He could face the death penalty in California if convicted.
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