Hollywood Ripper: Death Penalty for Killer of Ashton Kutcher Ex-Girlfriend

A jury in California has recommended that Michael Gargiulo, the man dubbed the “Hollywood Ripper” and “The Boy Next Door Killer,” be sentenced to death. The 43-year-old was convicted of murder, attempted murder and attempted escape in August. He was found guilty of killer 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin in 2001 and 32-year-old Maria Bruno in 2005. Gargiulo was also convicted of attempting to murder Michelle Murphy in 2008.

Additionally, Gargiulo is awaiting trial in his home state of Illinois for the 1993 killing of his friend’s sister, 18-year-old Tricia Pacaccio, who was murdered on the night of her high school graduation.

The prosecution asked for the death penalty, arguing that Gargiulo “has led a life of crime and violence that has left a swath of death, grief and destruction behind him.” The judge will decide in February 2020 whether or not to sentence Gargiulo to death as recommended by the jury.

The trial received added attention because Ellerin was the girlfriend of actor Ashton Kutcher at the time of her murder. The That 70s Show star testified during the trial about the night of her death, saying he went to pick her up for a date but when she didn’t answer the door he figured she was just upset with him.

“I knocked on the door. There was no answer. Knocked again. And once again, no answer,” Kutcher said in court. “At this point I pretty well assumed she had left for the night, and that I was late, and she was upset.”

Gargiulo first met Ellerin while helping her change a flat tire. On the night of her killing, he showed up to her apartment uninvited and unannounced. He entered the residence and stabbed Ellerin 47 times, including slashing her throat so brutally that she was nearly decapitated.

The 2005 slaying of Bruno occurred in the El Monte apartment complex where both the victim and Gargiulo lived. He attacked Bruno in her sleep and, according to court documents, "quit literally butchered her.” He sliced off both her breasts and put one on her mouth.

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Murphy, his third would-be L.A. victim, was able to fight him off in her bedroom and escape. She testified that Gargiulo said, “I’m sorry” as she ran away.

He is also charged with attempting to escape jail in 2008.

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