Jury finds ‘Hollywood Ripper’ Michael Gargiulo sane at time of knife attacks

Michael Gargiulo appears in court with attorney Dan Nardoni.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A jury on Thursday found Michael Gargiulo sane at the time of three knife attacks he carried out in the Los Angeles area, paving the way for prosecutors to pursue the death penalty.

Gargiulo, 43, who’s been dubbed both the “boy next door killer” and the “Hollywood Ripper,” was convicted of murdering Ashley Ellerin, 22, and Maria Bruno, 32, and attempting to kill Michelle Murphy, who was 26 at the time, in attacks in the Los Angeles area between 2001 and 2008. The jury deliberated a few hours over two days before reaching its verdict.

Gargiulo’s defense attorneys argued that their client suffered from a mental disorder that left him in a “fugue state” — unable to recall his actions
— during Murphy’s attack. They also said he suffered “monstrous” abuse as a child that led to monstrous results as an adult.


Prosecutors told jurors that Gargiulo “knew exactly what he was doing in these well-planned attacks.”

They said Gargiulo’s series of stabbings began in the Chicago area in 1993 with the killing of Tricia Pacaccio, 18. He is charged in that slaying in Chicago.

The penalty phase is expected to begin next month.

Prosecutors said Gargiulo entered Ellerin’s home and stabbed her 47 times, slashing her throat so severely that he almost decapitated her. Actor Ashton Kutcher was set to go on a date with her that night.

In 2005, prosecutors said, Gargiulo attacked Bruno as she slept and “quite literally butchered her,” slicing off her breasts and placing part of one on her mouth.

In the last attack, in April 2008, the woman fought him off and survived.