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Crime News Serial Killers

Who Was Tricia Pacaccio, The ‘Hollywood Ripper’ Michael Gargiulo's First Alleged Victim?

Tricia Pacaccio was stabbed to death in 1993, a murder that shocked the small town of Glenview, Illinois.

By Gina Tron
Michael Gargiulo's Victims

The serial killer dubbed the “Hollywood Ripper,” thought to be responsible for preying on and murdering a string of women, was found guilty of killing two women, and attempting to kill a third, in August 2019.

Michael Gargiulo, 43, was found guilty of two charges of murder and one of attempted murder after a jury deliberating for three days, KTLA reported.

The air conditioner repairman, who prosecutors said used his job to gain access to victims, killed 22-year-old fashion student Ashley Ellerin in 2001 in her Hollywood home after stabbing her 47 times. He then murdered 32-year-old Maria Bruno in 2005, a mother of four, who he also stabbed several times.

He also attempted to kill his neighbor Michelle Murphy in 2008, but she fought back and was able to escape.

The shocking case will be reexplored in the 90-minute special, "Snapped: Notorious Hollywood Ripper," premiering Sunday, April 19 at 7/6c on Oxygen as part of the network's "12 Dark Days of Serial Killers" event.

Before those three gruesome attacks, he may have killed another: Tricia Pacaccio, who was just 18 when she died. 

She was stabbed 12 times outside her own Glenview, Illinois home back in 1993, according to a 2011 Chicago Tribune report. Gargiulo has been charged in that death, but has not yet stood trial for her gruesome murder. So who is this possible first victim, still in need of justice?

Who was Pacaccio? 

Pacaccio was a popular recent Glenbrook South High School graduate, according to the Chicago Tribune. Her shocking death rocked her suburban town, which currently has a population of a bit less than 50,000, located just miles away from Chicago.

Carolyn Murnick’s memoir, “The Hot One: a Memoir of Friendship, Sex, and Murder,” which focuses mostly on the murder of Ellerin, Murnick’s childhood friend, explains that the teen’s tragic death pushed the neighborhood to “go into crisis mode.”

“Glenview wasn’t the sort of place where things like this happened,’ Murnick wrote.

She noted that news outlets depicted the slain teen as “about as wholesome as they come. [...] Everyone loved the whole Pacaccio family.”

Murnick explained that while her friend Ellerin was sometimes unfairly depicted as a party girl, “no defense attorney could parade her [Pacaccio’s] sex life and drug use for a jury to see, as if it had some bearing on why she had been murdered.”

Pacaccio was everybody’s buddy back in high school. She befriended all cliques: everyone from the band geeks to the straight A-students, according to Murnick’s book.

"She was a beautiful person, inside and out,” her friend Karen Isenberg Jones told Reader’s Digest. “She was genuinely nice to everybody.”

Pacaccio was killed right before she was supposed to head to Purdue University to study engineering and environmental issues, according to the Chicago Tribune. She had gone out with her friends on August 13, 1993 for a scavenger hunt, and had left at 1 a.m. to drop a friend off on her way back home. 

She wouldn't make it inside, however: Her father found her body the next morning on their steps.

Her friends and classmates and boyfriend were all questioned after her death. The boyfriend was quickly ruled out as a suspect.

The man now accused of killing her was her neighbor, who lived just a block away. Gargiulo, along with other neighbors, was interviewed by police but apparently police did not find him suspicious at that time, according to “The Hot One.”

He later moved on to Los Angeles, where his crimes against women would catch up to him. He has yet to be sentenced, but he faces the death penalty for the murders. He is expected to be extradited to Illinois after his sentencing to stand trial for Pacaccio's death.

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