Episode #32: Michael Gargiulo, AKA the Hollywood Ripper

Summary of the Case:

Tricia Pacaccio

In 1993, Tricia Pacaccio was an 18-year-old woman living near Chicago, getting ready to head off to college. But on August 14th, she would be brutally stabbed to death on her own front lawn while coming home late at night. There were several suspects, but nothing tied anyone directly to the murders. DNA would be found on or under her fingernails, but the technology was not sophisticated enough yet to test it. One of the suspects, Michael Gargiulo, would move to LA to start a new life.

Ashley Ellerin

In 2001, Ashley Ellerin was a socialite in Hollywood, and casually dating Ashton Kutcher. She lived near and was acquaintances with Michael Gargiulo, but began distancing herself from him because of his bizarre behavior. On February 21st, Ashton came to Ashley’s house to pick her up for a date. However, she never came to the door. The next day her body would be discovered by her roommate. Ashley had been brutally stabbed to death. Friends would tell the police about the weird neighbor Michael, but nothing directly tied him to the crime scene. By now, DNA technology had improved, and Cook County investigators were trying to get DNA tests for all the suspects in Tricia Pacaccio’s death, including Michael Gargiulo. Unable to track him down, Cook County police partnered with LA police, who were also investigating Gargiulo for the murder of Ashley. Police were able to track down Michael and get the DNA sample, but it would take a while for the DNA sample to come back with a result.

Maria Bruno

By 2003, Michael had gone through a series of relationships, but was living alone in December when a newly separated mother of 4 Maria Bruno moved into the apartment across the courtyard from Michael. Two weeks after moving in, Maria would be found brutally murdered in her home. The killer had entered through her kitchen window, and stabbed her to death. The only evidence left behind was a blue boot covering (booty) outside the apartment, with Maria’s blood on it. Although Michael frequently wore the same booties in his work as an HVAC repairman, the booty was not directly connected to him. Michael was again a suspect in a homicide case, but there was no direct evidence that linked him to it. By now the DNA from Tricia Pacaccio’s case had returned, and the DNA on her fingernails did belong to Michael. However, only one swab had been used for her fingers. There was no way to know if Michael’s DNA had been under her fingernails, indicating a struggle, or on the back of her fingernails, indicating a casual encounter. Michael continued to remain free.

Michelle Murphy

In 2008, Michael was living and working in Santa Monica. On April 28th, she went to bed, to awake hours later to a man straddling her and stabbing her. The assailant had scaled her second story building, cut her screen, and entered her room to stab her. She fought back, cutting the assailant, and he eventually fled, but had left his DNA behind. The DNA was tested and came back as a positive hit for Michael Gargiulo. Michael would be arrested and placed on trial for the murders of Ashley Ellerin, Maria Bruno, and attempted murder of Michelle Murphy. He was also charged with the murder of Tricia Pacaccio, but since that murder had been in another state, her murder charges were not part of the Californian trial. Michael was found guilty of the murder of Ashley Ellerin, Maria Bruno, and attempted murder of Michelle Murphy. Although his lawyers claimed Michael had disassociate identity disorder (multiple personalities), the jury found that Michael was sane at the time of the attacks. Following his sentencing, he will be extradited to Illinois to stand trial for the murder of Tricia Pacaccio.

Sources for this Episode:


48 hour video

Access Online

LA Weekly

Reader’s Digest

Reader’s Digest 2

Daily Beast article

NBC Article
LA Times

US News Online
Daily News

Wikipedia California 

Study on DID
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