How ‘Serial, Psychosexual, Thrill Killer’ Michael Gargiulo Got Caught
The convicted murderer, dubbed the “Hollywood Ripper”, “watched and waited” for the opportunity to stab his female neighbors, prosecutors say.
A serial killer who prosecutors said “watched and waited” for “the perfect opportunity” to attack his victims now sits on death row in a California prison.
Michael Gargiulo, dubbed the “Hollywood Ripper,” brutally murdered at least two women and attempted to kill a third who lived near him in the Los Angeles area.
The 46-year-old air-conditioner repairman’s crimes were so grisly that after he was caught, prosecutors in court filings called Gargiulo a “serial, psychosexual, thrill killer.”
At Gargiulo’s 2019 trial, prosecutor Dan Akemon told the jury the murderer relied on “blitz-style knife attacks” to kill two women and attempt to slay a third.
In 2000, Gargiulo, then 24, first met 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin when he stopped by her bungalow in Hollywood to ask if she needed his help fixing a flat tire.
Ellerin lived a block away from Gargiulo, and he began to show up uninvited, according to her friends. Other times, he was spotted parked in a vehicle outside the fashion student’s home and appeared to be surveilling it.
On the evening of Feb. 21, 2001, Ellerin was supposed to go on a date with actor Ashton Kutcher, but when he arrived late, she never answered the door and he assumed she had stood him up. Instead, she was lying dead inside the house after Gargiulo stabbed her almost 50 times while she was getting ready.
Nearly five years later, on Dec. 1, 2005, Gargiulo struck again in El Monte and stabbed his 32-year-old neighbor, Maria Bruno, 17 times, killing her.
The cold-blooded murderer finally made a mistake that got him caught in 2008.
On April 28 that year, Gargiulo attempted to murder Michelle Murphy, then 26, while she slept at her home in Santa Monica. According to reports, Gargiulo slashed her in the arm, but she was able to fend him off when she woke up, and he fled — but not before he cut himself and left his blood on her bedding, according to PEOPLE.
Police matched DNA evidence collected after the attack to Gargiulo, and he was arrested two months later, on June 6, 2008.
Gargiulo’s DNA was also a match with forensic evidence found underneath the fingernails of Tricia Pacaccio, an 18-year-old who was stabbed to death in 1993 outside her family’s home in Glenview, Illinois.
According to reports, Gargiulo, then 17, lived near Pacaccio at the time and he was friends with her brother.
In August 2019, a jury in Los Angeles found Gargiulo, a father of two, guilty of murdering Ellerin and Bruno and attempting to murder Murphy.
Gargiulo, who was also known as the “Chiller Killer,” was sentenced to death in July 2021.
He is expected to be extradited to Illinois, where he will stand trial for Pacaccio’s murder.
Investigators believe the convicted killer could have as many as 10 victims.
For more on Gargiulo's crimes, stream "The Hollywood Ripper" episode of People Magazine Investigates now on discovery+.