testified at a Los Angeles murder trial Wednesday that he went to pick up a 22-year-old fashion-design student to go out one night 18 years ago and left when she did not answer her door, only to learn the next day that she had been lying inside dead. The actor said from the witness stand that he had kept waiting for hours on Feb. 21, 2001, when he arrived at her Hollywood home, where he had been to a party about a week earlier.
"I knocked on the door and there was no answer," Kutcher said in the packed downtown courtroom during the trial of Michael Gargiulo, who is charged with killing Ellerin and another woman. "I knocked again, and once again, no answer. At this point I pretty well assumed she had left for the night, and that I was late, and she was upset."
Kutcher said he looked through the window and saw what he thought were wine stains on the floor, but did not find that alarming, and left. "I remember the next day after I heard about what happened, I went to the detectives and said, 'My fingerprints are on the door,'" Kutcher testified. "I was freaking out."
Prosecutors said Gargiulo, 43, killed three women, including Ellerin, who was friends with the actor. On Wednesday, Kutcher said he had called Ellerin in the afternoon from the set of "That '70s Show," where he had just finished rehearsing. He last spoke to her at about 8:30 p.m., when he said he was at a friend's house and she was just getting out of the shower.
"48 Hours" correspondent Maureen Maher reported that during opening statements, prosecutors told jurors they believe Ellerin was attacked from behind by Gargiulo after she exited her shower. Around 10:45 p.m., Kutcher arrived to take her to a Grammys party. According to deputy district attorney Daniel Akemon, Kutcher looked in the window when he arrived at Ellerin's home and thought he saw wine spilled on the floor. "We believe now the evidence will show that was actually blood," Akemon said.
Ellerin was found brutally stabbed to death by her roommate the next morning.
Prosecutors describe Gargiulo as a "methodical and systematic" killer. He is accused of attacking at least four women, three in California and one in Illinois.
Michelle Murphy, the prosecution's first witness, was allegedly Gargiulo's only survivor. Prosecutors claim Murphy battled for the knife they say Gargiulo used to stab her, cutting him, and leaving his DNA at the crime scene – DNA that was found years earlier on another victim, Tricia Pacaccio, across the country.
The family of 18 year-old Tricia was called to testify in this trial because of the similarities between Tricia's 1993 death in suburban Chicago and the three cases from L.A. County. Investigators believe Pacaccio was Gargiulo's first victim.
Her murder was unsolved until 2011, when two witnesses came forward after watching a report on the case. Within a few weeks, Gargiulo was indicted, but has not yet been tried. His attorneys deny he killed anyone.