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Jury Finds Former Santa Monica Resident Guilty of Double Murder

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By Jorge Casuso

August 16, 2019 -- A convicted serial killer known as the "Hollywood Ripper" was found guilty by a jury Thursday of murdering two women and attempting to murder a third in her Santa Monica apartment across the alley from his home.

The jury must now decide if Michael Gargiulo, 43, was sane when he committed what prosecutors said were "frenzied knife attacks" on the three young women who lived near near him in three areas of LA.

If the jury determines he was sane, Gargiulo could be sentenced to death.

The former handyman and aspiring actor was arrested by Santa Monica police for the 2008 attempted murder of Michelle Murphy, who lived across the alley from Gargiulo on the 1200 block of 12th Street.

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Prosecutors said the killer stabbed Murphy eight times before she fought him off, becoming a key witness for the prosecution in the three-month-long trial.

While in jail, Gargiulo was tied to the murders of 22-year-old Hollywood resident Ashley Ellerin in 2001 and the 2005 slaying of 32-year-old Maria Bruno in her El Monte apartment.

According to a report in Reuters, Gargiulo "sat impassively, leaning forward slightly in his chair, as the jury verdict was read."

In the final argument Friday, prosecutors called Gargiulo a "stone-cold serial killer" who would lay in wait at night to attack his victims ("Final Arguments End in Trial of Accused Serial Killer Arrested in Santa Monica," August 9, 2019).

The defense countered that DNA evidence only tied Gargiulo to his attack on Murphy in her Santa Monica Apartment and that he suffered from a mental disorder that put him in an amnesiac state when he attacked his victim in her bed.

Jurors will determine next week whether Gargiulo was sane at the time of the crimes. If they determine that he was, prosecutors will begin the penalty phase of the capital trial.

Gargiulo is expected to be extradited to his home state of Illinois to face charges in the 1993 stabbing death of Tricia Pacaccio, 18, a senior at Glenbrook South High School in the Chicago area, where he lived at the time.

Pacaccio was found stabbed to death on her front doorstep, clutching her door key, police said. Gargiulo was 17 at the time.

"As with the murders of Ashley Ellerin and Mrs. Maria Bruno, the attack on Ms. Pacaccio was notable for the extreme violence of her attacker," prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Gargiulo stabbed Ellerin 47 times in her Hollywood Hills home in February 2001, nearly decapitating her ("Serial Sexual-Thrill Killer' Arrested by Santa Monica Police Goes on Trial," May 1, 2019).

In his 2005 stabbing of Bruno, prosecutors said he “quite literally butchered her -- stabbing her multiple times, slitting her throat, slicing off her breasts, and staging them for family members and police to find."

Gargiulo's trail captured international headlines for the sensational nature of the killings and because Ellerin was actor Ashton Kutcher's girlfriend.

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