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Serial Sexual-Thrill Killer' Arrested by Santa Monica Police Goes on Trial

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

May 1, 2019 -- The trial of a suspected serial killer who lived in Santa Monica when he was arrested for the 2008 stabbing of a local woman is scheduled to start Thursday, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorneys office.

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Michael Gargiulo, who faces two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder for three stabbing attacks in the Los Angeles area that took place between 2001 and 2008, the DA's office said.

Michael Gargiulo
Michael Gargiulo (Courtesy Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department)

Gargiulo -- who prosecutors describe as “a serial sexual-thrill killer who engages in the systematic slaughter of beautiful women" -- was arrested by Santa Monica police for attempting to murder a female neighbor on April 28, 2008.

The attack on Michelle Murphy, who lived across the alley from Gargiulo on the 1200 block of 12th Street, took place shortly before midnight when the victim was alone in her apartment unit sleeping, prosecutors said.

"Ms Murphy was fortunate enough to wake up as Gargiulo attacked her," prosecutors said. "Ms. Murphy fought with Gargiulo, who was stabbing her viciously all over her arms and chest.

"Ms. Murphy was able to get her legs in a position to kick Gargiulo, causing him to cut his own wrist with the knife and then flee."

Investigators matched Gargiulo's DNA in a database system to the blood left at the crime scene, prosecutors said. Gargiulo was arrested in July.

While in jail for the attempted murder, he was tied through DNA evidence to two killings in the Los Angeles area and one in suburban Chicago ("Santa Monica Suspect Tied to Three Killings," September 2, 2008).

The first LA area victim, Ashley Ellerin, 22, was found stabbed to death in her home in the Hollywood Hills in February 2001, when she was dating actor Aston Kutcher.

Prosecutors allege Gargiulo, who lived in an apartment nearby, would show up at Ellerin’s doorstep unannounced.

On the night of her murder, Gargiulo entered her home and stabbed her 47 times, nearly decapitating her, prosecutors allege.

Gargiulo also was charged with the 2005 stabbing death of Maria Bruno, 32, in Monterey Park, police said.

According to prosecutors, Gargiulo attacked Bruno as she slept and “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."

DNA evidence also tied Gargiulo to 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.

"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.

After his arrest in Santa Monica, Gargiulo, who became known as the "Hollywood Ripper," became a prime suspect in the murder of ten women whose images were pulled off his home computer ("Santa Monica Man Could Be Serial Killer," March 9, 2009).

The victims resembled each other, and in every case the murderer used a knife in the attacks, according to LA homicide detectives.

Gargiulo will be extradited after the LA trial to Illinois, where he was charged in 2011 with Pacaccio’s murder, according to the Los Angeles DA.

Prosecutors said Gargiulo, who was an air conditioning repairman when was arrested by Santa Monica police, preyed on young attractive women whom he killed at night.

Opening statements in the trial are scheduled for Thursday.

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