Trial Begins For 'Hollywood Ripper', Alleged Killer Of Ashton Kutcher's Girlfriend
Michael Gargiulo, 42, is accused of killing Ashley Ellerin and at least two other women.
Gargiulo, dubbed "the Hollywood Ripper", will soon face court over the alleged murder of three women -- Maria Bruno, Tricia Pacaccio and 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin, whom Ashton Kutcher was dating at the time of her death in 2001.
After years of delays, much to the distress of the victims' families, the jury selection for the alleged killer's trial is now set to commence. There are also rumours circulating that Kutcher will face the alleged killer to testify in court.
On February 21, 2001 -- the night of Ellerin's death -- Kutcher had planned to watch the Grammy Awards at his friend's house before attending post-awards show parties with Ellerin, his girlfriend of a few months.
When she asked to join the then-23-year-old actor at his friend's house to watch the awards show, Kutcher refused -- but promised he would come over after the ceremony.
Following the show, Kutcher then tried to call Ellerin to no avail, and went to her house at about 10:45 pm. Seeing her maroon BMW was in the driveway, he assumed she was home and knocked on the door several times, but she did not respond.
Kutcher then peered in the side window and "saw what he thought was red wine pooled on the floor," LAPD officer Detective Thomas Shevolek testified.
"He figured she was upset" because he was late, and "she brushed him off. So he left," Shevolek added. However, unbeknownst to the star, Ellerin's body lay dead, slumped by the bathroom just metres away.
Ellerin's body was discovered at approximately 9am the next morning by her roommate, Jen Disisto.
She had suffered 47 stab wounds, 12 of which were deemed fatal. Her neck organs had suffered extensive trauma, and her windpipe and right artery had been cut in two.
"I remember it like it was yesterday," Disisto recalled.
"I entered the house. And Ashley was laying across the two stairs -- absolutely blue and covered in blood."
"A sense of trauma just came over me," she continued. "I thought maybe the person was still there, and I kinda ran out, and getting to the car... and calling from my cell phone, 911. ... It still traumatises me to this day."
Court documents published in the National Enquirer claimed the killer had "slashed Ms. Ellerin's throat so violently [he] nearly decapitated her."
"After she was murdered her body was left displayed in a... demeaning pose that was sexual in nature" the documents read.
Image: InTouch Magazine
Ten years later, Detective Small of the Los Angeles Police Department -- one of the first on the scene of Ellerin's murder -- still remembered the horrific nature of what he walked into.
"I observed quite a large amount of blood... and not too short a distance was Ashley's body," he recalled.
"A lot of anger. A lot of rage. Somebody had isolated Ashley Ellerin to kill her and was very, very angry when he did it... It just was a very bad scene. Probably one of the worst I've seen."
Friends of Ellerin later told police about Gargiulo, who was a neighbour of Ashley's and who they say was fixated with her, constantly showing up at her house at strange hours.
"The information we have is that he introduced himself as a heating and air guy," Small said. "Ultimately got some additional information. Was able to come up with some photos and identify him as Michael Thomas Gargiulo."
Justin Peterson -- a former roommate and friend of Ellerin's -- revealed that he had previously warned his friend about Gargiulo after he and other friends had an uneasy feeling about him.
"I was walking. And then saw him sitting in his car at the end of the street with the motor running," Peterson said.
"And I keep calling Ashley, like, 'Where did you find this guy? This is very odd. Why is this guy in front of our house at 2:00, 3:00 in the morning?'"
It was following that incident that Peterson decided to confront him.
"He started to go on about the fact that he couldn't go home last night, because the FBI was waiting for him at his home to collect DNA samples from Chicago, some case or some murder, his best friend's girlfriend was murdered, or whatever. And I said, 'Well, what do you have to hide?' And he immediately put his leg up on the couch, and started to pull out a knife that was, like, you know, strapped to his ankle," Peterson explained.
"At that point, I rushed him out of the house."
Seven years later on June 6, 2008, Gargiulo was arrested after DNA evidence was recovered from the Santa Monica apartment of another woman, Michelle Murphy, who survived an alleged knife attack in April of that year.
Prosecutors called Gargiulo "a serial, psycho-sexual thrill killer who engages in the systematic slaughter of beautiful women because he takes sexual pleasure from manipulating, stabbing and killing his victims."
This week, the court clerk from the Los Angeles Criminal Justice Centre revealed that jury selection would start on April 15.
Ellerin was the second of two of Kutcher's former girlfriends to have met with premature death, with his Just Married co-star Brittany Murphy, whom he dated from 2002 to 2003, passing away in 2009. An inquest found that Murphy died from pneumonia complicated by an iron deficiency and multiple prescription drug intoxication.