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Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
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Ex-Girlfriend Testifies in ‘Hollywood Ripper’ Trial

For Grace Kwak, it began with a flyer with the photo of a woman who was murdered in an apartment complex in El Monte in 2005.

LOS ANGELES (CN) – For Grace Kwak, it began with a flyer with the photo of a woman who was murdered in an apartment complex in El Monte in 2005.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department flyer was posted in a restaurant bathroom, but what scared her was the address on it: The murder took place at the same apartment complex where Kwak lived with her then-boyfriend, Michael Gargiulo.

Kwak testified in a Los Angeles County courtroom Thursday that Gargiulo revealed he knew the victim, helped her carry her groceries and he even said she was beautiful.

The woman on the flyer was Maria Bruno, then 32, who was brutally murdered and mutilated in her apartment. Kwak was pregnant at the time and Gargiulo was the father.

“I talked to Michael. I’m not sure if I took the flyer to show him,” Kwak told jurors. “I remember saying about our address being on there and about something happened over there. It was scary.”

Gargiulo is on trial, charged with the murders of two woman and the attempted murder of a third woman in the Los Angeles area between 2001 and 2008. But prosecutors say his first victim was a woman who was killed in an Illinois suburb in 1993, when Gargiulo was just 17.

Gargiulo lived near his victims, fixated on them and methodically stalked them before he attacked, prosecutors have told jurors during the capital murder trial.

Gargiulo and Kwak moved into an apartment in El Monte in 2005, the same complex where Bruno was murdered in December of that year. The couple lived across the courtyard from Bruno, and prosecutors say Gargiulo would have been able to see when Bruno was at home as she would have had to cross the courtyard to get to her front door.

On Dec. 1, 2005, Bruno was murdered in her bed. Prosecutors say Gargiulo entered Bruno’s apartment through a window wearing blue surgical booties over his shoes. They say he then slashed her throat and cut off her breasts in an attempt to remove her breast implants.

Bruno’s estranged husband discovered her body the following morning.

A blue bootie found near the apartment had drops of Bruno’s blood and Gargiulo’s DNA around the elastic band, according to forensic analysis. Kwak testified she saw Gargiulo wear blue booties for his job as an air conditioning repairman.

She moved out of their apartment while she was pregnant due to trouble in their relationship and lived with her parents. Kwak told detectives she believed Gargiulo was spending most of his time with another woman with whom he also had a child.

Defense attorney Daniel Nardoni asked Kwak why she told detectives that she thought Gargiulo did not live at the El Monte apartment back when Bruno was murdered.

She answered that sometimes Gargiulo wouldn’t come home at all while they were living together. Nardoni pressed the issue.

“Even when he was living with me, he was in and out,” said Kwak, adding she doesn’t recall if she saw Gargiulo in December 2005 because she had already moved to her parents’ home.

“I was getting ready to have the baby,” said Kwak.

Testimony is set to resume on Monday.

Categories / Criminal, Trials

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