Man accused of murdering Ashton Kutcher's friend and others used "blitz-type knife attacks," prosecutors say

"Hollywood Ripper" trial begins

The trial of an alleged serial killer known as the "Hollywood Ripper" is underway in Los Angeles where prosecutors say Michael Gargiulo attacked four women with a knife, killing three of them. His alleged crimes go back to 1993 and stretch halfway across the country.

"48 Hours" correspondent Maureen Maher, who has been covering the story for 10 years, reports from Chicago where investigators say the accused serial killer got started. They say it won't come to an end until he faces a judge and jury in Chicago, too.

Opening Statements Begin In Trial Of Serial Killer Michael Gargiulo
Michael Gargiulo appears in court for opening statements in his murder trial on May 2, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.  Pool / Getty Images

Gargiulo sat without emotion in a Los Angeles courtroom, listening to prosecutors describe him as a "serial sexual-thrill killer." Prosecutors accuse 43-year-old Gargiulo of murdering three women – including 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin, who was friendly with Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher
 
"He collected real-time intelligence on the victims and then manipulated the circumstances to provide himself with the perfect opportunity to pounce and kill in blitz-type knife attacks," said deputy district attorney Daniel Akemon.

On the night of the 2001 killing, Kutcher went to Ellerin's home to pick her up for a party but left after she didn't answer the door. Ellerin's body was found the next morning outside her bathroom. She had been stabbed more than 47 times, prosecutors said.

Kutcher has avoided talking publicly about the case but he is expected to be called as a witness during the trial. Investigators believe the killing started eight years earlier. They say in 1993, Gargiulo killed his neighbor while living in Illinois. The body of 17-year-old Tricia Pacaccio was found on her backdoor steps by her father. 

Pacaccio's murder went unsolved until "48 Hours Mystery" aired a report on her case in 2011. Following the broadcast, two new witnesses came forward. Within weeks, Gargiulo was charged in connection with her 1993 death.
 
After Gargiulo moved to Los Angeles, police say the former handyman and boxer found new victims. In 2005, he allegedly killed 32-year-old Maria Bruno, a mother of four who lived in his apartment complex.

A muffled 911 call reveals the moments after Gargiulo allegedly attacked then 26-year-old Michelle Murphy in 2008. Murphy, who'd been woken up to someone stabbing her, somehow managed to fight off her attacker and survive. Gargiulo was later arrested after prosecutors say his DNA was found at the scene.

Gargiulo  could face the death penalty in California but regardless of the verdict out west, the Pacaccios – the family in suburban Chicago – have told us the Cook County state's attorney intends to have Gargiulo immediately transferred back there to face murder charges, some 26 years after Tricia's death.

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