Jurors are set Thursday to hear opening statements in the trial of a Santa Monica man charged with murdering two women, including a young fashion designer who dated actor Ashton Kutcher.
Michael Thomas Gargiulo, 43, could face the death penalty if convicted of the Feb. 22, 2001, slaying of Ashley Ellerin and the Dec. 1, 2005, killing of Maria Bruno. Ellerin, a 22-year-old fashion designer who dated Kutcher, was found stabbed to death in her Hollywood Hills home. Bruno, 32, was fatally stabbed in her El Monte apartment.
The murder charges include the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder by means of lying in wait, along with allegations that he used a knife in the commission of the crimes.
Gargiulo also is charged with the attempted murder of a third woman on April 28, 2008, along with attempted escape in June 2008.
He has remained behind bars since he was arrested in June 2008 by Santa Monica police in connection with an April 28, 2008, knife attack on a woman in her home. He was subsequently charged with the two killings.
Authorities in Illinois charged him in 2011 with the Aug. 14, 1993, slaying of Tricia Pacaccio, an 18-year-old Glenview woman who was repeatedly stabbed outside her home.
Gargiulo had been investigated for years as a potential assailant in the attack on Pacaccio, who was stabbed 12 times outside her family’s home, authorities said. The victim’s father discovered her body.
Gargiulo — who has a 1997 felony conviction for burglary in Cook County, Illinois, — lived one block away from the high school graduate at the time of the slaying and was good friends with one of her two younger brothers, according to an arrest warrant filed in Cook County.
Investigators determined in 2003 that a small amount of Gargiulo’s DNA was on Pacaccio’s fingernails, but could not determine if the DNA had come from casual contact from being in her home and around her, according to a statement released by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.
Following the airing of a CBS “48 Hours Mystery” show on Gargiulo, two people who had worked with him in the late 1990s at a Los Angeles-area bar reported to authorities that he had “stabbed up the girl” and “left the bitch on the step for dead,” according to prosecutors in Cook County, Illinois.
“We have never given up on Tricia Pacaccio or her family and their search for justice in this case,” Anita Alvarez, Cook County State’s Attorney, said in a statement released shortly after Gargiulo was charged in Illinois. “It has been a very difficult and challenging investigation, but we are extremely pleased to be finally bringing this charge and hopefully providing some measure of closure to a family that has been devastated by a violent crime that no one should have to endure.”
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