Michael Gargiulo, the serial killer dubbed the “Hollywood Ripper,” was sentenced to death Friday for the murders of Ashley Ellerin, 22, and Maria Bruno, 33.
Gargiulo’s lawyers had argued that he was “in a fugue state” and did not remember killing Ellerin in 2001 and Bruno in 2005, but he was found competent to stand trial and, in 2019, was convicted of the murders, as well as a near-fatal attack on Michelle Murphy, who testified against him.
Although Governor Gavin Newsom put a moratorium on the death penalty for as long as he’s in office, and Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón is a staunch opponent of capital punishment, Gascón made an exception for Gargiulo, 45—who stabbed Ellerin 47 times in her Hollywood bungalow just hours before she was supposed to go on a date with Ashton Kutcher, and who prosecutors say “quite literally butchered” Bruno in her El Monte apartment complex—and did not order prosecutors to oppose the death penalty.
Gargiulo, also called the “Boy Next Door Killer” because he lived close to his victims, protested his innocence at sentencing and blamed his lawyers for his conviction, saying he was prevented from testifying. His attorney, Daniel Nardoni, told Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler that “it’s not right to execute a mentally ill person,” NBC 4 reports.
“In this case, everywhere that Mr. Gargiulo went, death and destruction followed,” Fidler said in denying the defense’s motion for a new trial, adding that the circumstances of the attacks were “completely vicious and frightening.”
The case against Gargiulo was brought by Gascón’s predecessor, Jackie Lacey, and although Gascón did not order prosecutors to take death off the table, he did instruct them to read a statement saying that the district attorney “does not believe the death penalty is an appropriate punishment in any case.”
Fidler shut down that request, saying he “read and considered” Gascón’s statement but did not allow it to be read in court.
Ellerin’s father, Michael, said he wanted it on the record that he objected to Gascon’s “political intrusion into my daughter’s murder trial,” and that Governor Newsom had “no right to ignore the documented will of the voters,” with his personal halt on executions.
Still, it will likely be a long time before Gargiulo’s sentence is executed, if it ever is. California has not executed anyone since 2006 and a total of 13 people have had death sentences carried out since capital punishment was reinstated in California in 1977.
Gargiulo is still awaiting trial in Illinois for the 1993 murder of 18-year-old Tricia Pacaccio, who was stabbed to death on the front doorstep of her Glenview, Illinois, home after celebrating her high school graduation.
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