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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, December 7, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Penalty Phase Kicks Off in Trial of ‘Hollywood Ripper’

Family members testified Monday about the effects the brutal killings of two women had on their lives during the penalty phase in the capital murder trial of Michael Gargiulo.

LOS ANGELES (CN) – Family members testified Monday about the effects the brutal killings of two women had on their lives during the penalty phase in the capital murder trial of Michael Gargiulo.

In August, a Los Angeles jury convicted Gargiulo for the 2001 murder of Ashley Ellerin at her Hollywood home, the 2005 murder of Maria Bruno and the 2008 attempted murder of Michelle Murphy, who fought back and survived.

Prosecutors called him the “Boy Next Door” killer, because Gargiulo lived near each of his victims, a spree prosecutors believe began in 1993 with the murder of 18-year-old Tricia Pacaccio in her suburban Illinois neighborhood. Her murder was uncharged in Los Angeles County, but jurors were presented on the facts in the case.

During opening arguments in the penalty phase of the trial on Monday, Deputy District Attorney Dan Akemon called Gargiulo “a sadistic, thrill-killing psychopath who kills and maims for his own personal pleasure.” He told the jury they would decide on either life in prison without parole or death.

“You will be given the power to make that choice. There is nothing in between,” said Akemon.

Defense attorney Dale Rubin told the jury there are some 730 people on California’s death row. He said no matter what the jury decides, Gargiulo will die in prison.

“The question is when,” said Ruben. “Is it going to be in God’s time or is it going to be in your time?”

Jurors will hear additional testimony throughout the week and make their decision next week.

Prosecutors said Gargiulo murdered three women and sexually assaulted or threatened other victims over several years. That included holding a knife to a neighbor, and two women testified during the trial that he raped them after their relationships with him ended.

Jurors listened to emotional testimony from Ashley Ellerin’s parents, who described their daughter’s murder.

Michael Ellerin said his family did not have a memorial for their daughter.

“We have her ashes. And could not see putting her at rest until justice had been served,” said Michael Ellerin, adding maybe that day is ahead with the trial nearing an end.

Cynthia Ellerin said her daughter was a gifted artist accepted to UCLA’s school of fine arts. At age five, Ashely Ellerin told her mother to listen to a new song she had heard at kindergarten.

“Listen to the lyrics, mom,” Cynthia Ellerin recalled her daughter saying as they listened to Louie Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.”

“When I hear that song today it breaks my heart. That song was Ashley,” said Cynthia Ellerin.

Tricia Pacaccio’s family testified in court about the 26 years that have passed since she was left for dead on her front porch.

Her mother, Dianne Pacaccio, still maintains her daughter’s room as it was in 1993 and uses the room as a place to introduce her grandchildren to the aunt they never had the chance to meet.

Her younger brother, Douglas Pacaccio said he often dreams about his sister, who was set to leave for Purdue University less than a week before she was murdered. The last time he saw his sister was during an outing with all their friends who met up at their high school parking lot.

When asked by prosecutors what he last said to his sister, Douglas Pacaccio answered, “I love you. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Categories / Criminal, Trials

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