A man nicknamed the “Hollywood Ripper” has been sentenced to death for the murder of two women by burglary and the attempted murder of a third in a long overdue case dating back 20 years.
Family members of the victims wept when Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler sentenced Michael Thomas Gargiulo, 45, on Friday.
“Wherever Mr. Gargiulo went, death and destruction followed him,” Fidler said at the all-day hearing.
Gargiulo’s case received increased attention because one of his victims was about to go on a date with actor Ashton Kutcher, who testified at the trial in 2019.
The sentencing, delayed by procedural issues and the pandemic, came nearly two years after a jury convicted Gargiulo and recommended his execution.
Gargiulo was found guilty of the murder of Ashley Ellerin, a 22-year-old fashion design student, at her Hollywood home in 2001 while she was preparing to date Kutcher. At trial, Kutcher said he was late to pick up Ellerin, who did not answer his door.
He looked inside to see bloodstains that he thought were spilled wine. Prosecutors used it in their closing arguments, suggesting that Ellerin was killed by another man who was jealous of Kutcher.
Ellerin was found with 47 stab wounds.
Her father, Michael Ellerin, who had been visiting his daughter from Northern California hours before she was killed, was one of the relatives of several victims who spoke at the hearing about their suffering as they waited years for justice.
He said he was tempted to mimic the “heavy cry and primal cry of his wife Cynthia after learning that Ashley had been murdered.”
“It marked the beginning of an altered, diminished and heartbreaking life,” he said.
Gargiulo was also convicted of the murder of Maria Bruno, 32, a mother of four, at her home in El Monte, east of Los Angeles, in 2005.
Additionally, he was convicted of the 2008 attempted murder of Michelle Murphy, who rejected him at her Santa Monica apartment, forcing him to flee and leave a trail of blood that also led to his eventual arrests for the other two murders. Murphy was the key witness at the trial.
“To this day, staying overnight just creates a world of fear in me,” Murphy said in court before sentencing.
She wept as she talked about meeting the families of the two women who did not survive her attacks.
“How is it fair that one person’s actions can destroy the lives of so many?” she said.
Gargiulo, a former air conditioning and heating repairman, janitor, and aspiring actor, was dubbed the Hollywood Ripper, but prosecutors also knew him as “The Boy Next Door Killer” because he lived close to the victims he stalked and later attacked in their homes.
He spoke before his sentencing, angrily complaining that his lawyers prevented him from taking the stand in his defense.
“I’m going to go to death row unfairly and unfairly,” said Gargiulo, who sat in court in the orange jail suit and face mask and showed no visible reaction to his sentence.
“I wanted to testify and my fundamental choice was blocked.”
Gargiulo was unlikely to be sentenced to death any time soon. California has not executed anyone since 2006 and Governor Gavin Newsom has stopped executions while in office. But the courts have been proceeding on the assumption that executions will one day resume.
Gargiulo was expected to be extradited to his hometown in Illinois for the 1993 murder of Tricia Pacaccio.
Prosecutors at his trial in California were allowed to present extensive evidence from that case as they sought to establish a pattern and present Gargiulo as a serial killer.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism