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Here’s What Happened in the ‘Hollywood Ripper’ Opening Statements


It’s a case over 25 years in the making. Opening statements are being held Thursday in the murder trial of Michael T. Gargiulo. Prosecutors in Los Angeles, California said this defendant, also known as the “Hollywood Ripper,” is responsible for multiple, brutal attacks on women dating back decades.

His behavior stretched back to when he killed neighbor Tricia Pacaccio in 1993 back when he lived in Cook County, Illinois, said Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Daniel Akemon.

Gargiulo is charged in California over the 2001 murder of 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin, 2005 murder of 32-year-old Maria Bruno, and the attempted murder of Michelle Murphy. This last incident is pretty key. She was home alone on April 28, 2008 while her roommate was out of the country, according to the prosecution. Murphy left the second floor window open to let a breeze in. Gargiulo allegedly climbed up to the railing ledge, sliced through the screen, and stabbed Murphy as she slept.

But something happened: Murphy successfully fought back, and survived, prosecutors said. She kicked him, and this caused him to cut himself with his knife, authorities said. He ran away bleeding, and yelling that he was sorry, said the prosecution.

His DNA left at the scene resulted in the arrests in the three murders. Ellerin was stabbed 47 times and found dead outside her bathroom, according to the opening statement. Gargiulo allegedly attacked her from behind, almost decapitating her when he cut her throat.

The murder of Bruno was no less brutal.

The prosecutor said that Gargiulo had a pattern of living near his targets. Ellerin’s friends said he butted into her life by offering to change a tire for them, getting access to her home to fix a furnace, and beginning to show up uninvited. The defendant allegedly later moved into a Santa Monica apartment across an alley from Murphy, and was able to see into her home, said the prosecution.

Defense lawyer Daniel Nardoni told jurors that they’ll see no physical evidence tying Gargiulo to Ellerin’s murder. That included fingerprints, he said.

The defense said that there was no DNA on the screen or window of Bruno’s home. A neighbor who knew Gargiulo also didn’t identify the defendant when law enforcement showed him photos of individuals who resembled an alleged prowler in the area, said the defense.

Jurors are also expected to hear evidence of what’s called a Perkins operation. In this case, law enforcement agents in disguise tried to get Gargiulo to confess after he was arrested for allegedly attacking Murphy, said the defense.

Note: This article was updated to reflect the defense opening statement.

[Image via Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department]

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