Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler sentenced Michael Gargiulo to death for murdering two Los Angeles women Friday.
Gargiulo — known infamously as the “Hollywood Ripper” — was sentenced for two home-invasion murders and the attempted murder of a third woman. Gargiulo also faces a murder charge in Illinois for the murder of 18-year-old Tricia Pacaccio.
The death sentence comes nearly two years after Gargiulo’s conviction where a jury recommended his execution. In 2019, a Los Angeles jury found Gargiulo guilty of murdering 22-year-old fashion design student Ashley Ellerin in 2001 and 32-year-old mother Maria Bruno in 2005. Gargiulo was also found guilty for the attempted murder of Michelle Murphy in 2008.
The case drew increased attention given Ellerin’s plans to go out with actor Ashton Kutcher the night Gargiulo murdered her. Kutcher, who testified in the 2019 trial, said that Ellerin had not answered the door when he came to pick her up and had assumed she had stood him up.
Both Ellerin and Bruno were viciously stabbed to death in their Los Angeles homes. In 2008, when Murphy awoke to Gargiulo stabbing her arm, she kicked her attacker, forcing him to flee while leaving a trail of blood. Gargiulo’s DNA sample from Murphy’s bedspread and sheet was used to identify him as Pacaccio’s murderer, given the match found from the DNA under Pacaccio’s fingernails.
Murphy stood as a key witness during the 2019 trail. “To this day, spending the night alone creates a world of fear in me,” Murphy said.
On June 6, 2008, Gargiulo was arrested by the Santa Monica Police Department and was charged the attempted murder of Murphy. He was later charged with the murders of Ellerin, Bruno and Pacaccio.
Gargiulo was initially called the “Hollywood Ripper” due to the violent and brutal nature of his murders — he stabbed Ellerin 47 times and multilated Bruno in her sleep. But prosecutor Dan Akemon thought “The Boy Next Door Killer” was better suited, given that he lived nearby his victims and obsessed about them prior to the murder.
Gargiulo’s death sentence comes during California Governor Gavin Newsom’s moratorium on the death penalty, which he signed in March 2019. The moratorium stands while Governor Newsom is in office.