Ashley Ellerin, left, Tricia Pacaccio, center, and Maria Bruno. The three young, beautiful woman all met the same tragic fate 15 years apart. Investigators have linked their brutal, stabbing deaths through DNA to the same man: Michael Gargiulo. On Aug. 15, 2019, jurors found Gargiulo guilty of murder in the deaths of Bruno and Ellerin and and the 2008 attempted murder of Michelle Murphy, who fought off her attacker.
Credit: CBS News
Tricia Pacaccio, 18, in her high school graduation photo. The recent graduate was returning home from a night out with friends when she was brutally and fatally stabbed on the doorstep of her family's Glenview, Ill., home on Friday, Aug. 13, 1993.
"Trisha (left) was an amazing girl - was probably one of the most energetic and happy people I've ever seen," says high school friend Karen Jones, right. Says Tricia's mother, Diane, "She had a great attitude about everything. And she knew what she wanted out of life."
Starting about a year after Tricia's death, Michael Gargiulo, a friend of Tricia's brother who lived in their neighborhood, began drawing attention to himself with some strange behavior - he began bringing Tricia's parents gifts. Rick and Diane Pacaccio alerted police.
Eight years and thousands of miles from the scene of Tricia Pacaccio's murder, Ashley Ellerin, 22, a small-town girl from northern California, was enjoying life in Los Angeles. But it all came to a tragic end in February 2001.
For, Ashley Ellerin, center, life in Hollywood in 2001 was a whirlwind of work, friends and fun. "She was just beautiful, and fun, and spontaneous," says friend Chris Duran.
On Feb. 21, 2001, Ellerin and actor Ashton Kutcher were planning to attend a Grammy party together. When Kutcher arrived at her home, she never answered the door. According to police interviews, Kutcher looked in the windows and saw what he thought was wine spilled on the floor. It turns out it was a pool of blood -- Ellerin had been brutally stabbed to death the night before.
"She was amazing. You know, just amazing," her close friend Justin Peterson tells "48 Hours." It was Ashley Ellerin's friends that gave detectives that first and only clue pointing them to a young man Ellerin had met in the neighborhood months earlier: Michael Gargiulo. They say he was "fixated" with Ashley.
It was 2005 when Maria Bruno, 32, was fatally stabbed in her sleep in the Los Angeles suburb of El Monte. In a frightening coincidence, her new apartment was just steps away from where Michael Gargiulo lived.
Recently separated from her husband, who kept custody of their children, Maria Bruno was just getting her new life started. Investigators say it was just 10 days before her murder that she moved into her new apartment building -- specifically chosen for its security. Investigators say her attacker climbed in through a kitchen window and attacked the defenseless woman in her sleep.