Woman Says She Fended Off Attack by Suspected ‘Hollywood Ripper’

LOS ANGELES (CN) – Michelle Murphy woke up in her bed after a man entered through her second-story apartment window and stabbed her right arm and chest with a serrated knife. Murphy, then 26, fought back and wrapped her hands around the blade to fend off the attack.

In a sobering testimony Monday in a Los Angeles County Superior courtroom, Murphy recalled how she kicked her attacker while she was being stabbed in her bed.

“I grabbed at the knife. I was trying to hold the knife to get some leverage to keep it from stabbing me,” said Murphy. “I brought my legs toward my chest to kick him off me.”

Murphy’s kick knocked her attacker off the bed and into her bedroom door. Murphy said her attacker ran out her apartment and said, “I’m sorry.”

Prosecutors say Murphy’s attacker was her neighbor, Michael Gargiulo, now 43. They also believe she is the only known survivor of what they say was a 7-year crime spree of stalking and attacking women between 2001 and 2008.

Gargiulo listened in court as Murphy described how her attacker straddled her body and repeatedly brought down a knife in a stabbing motion. Murphy said she asked the man – clad in a dark hoodie – “Why are you doing this?” during the attack. The man did not respond, Murphy said.

Prosecutors say they know Gargiulo was the attacker because when Murphy kicked him off her body, he accidently stabbed himself on the wrist and bled on a comforter. Deputy District Attorney Daniel Akemon said forensic experts have confirmed it was Gargiulo’s DNA.

On the witness stand, Murphy and jurors listened to her 911 call made from her Santa Monica apartment on April 28, 2008. Jurors also saw photos of stab wounds to Murphy’s upper chest, right arm and hands as well as images of her apartment including blood stains in a bathroom sink, windowsill, bedspread and a bloody handprint on a hallway carpet.

After the attack, Murphy managed to lock her door and window and call her boyfriend, Vincent Biunno. Biunno called 911 first, after which a dispatcher called Murphy on her cellphone. In the audio played for jurors, Murphy cried out loudly after officers arrived at her apartment.

Deputy District Attorney Garrett Dameron asked Murphy if she recognized Gargiulo’s van parked across from her parking spot in an alleyway. Murphy said sometimes the driver would wave to her and a few times she waved back.

Prosecutors say Gargiulo, 43, lived near his victims, fixated on them and methodically stalked them before he attacked. At the time, Murphy lived in an apartment across from Gargiulo’s apartment and he would have been able to see into her apartment from where he lived.

Other victims also lived close to Gargiulo, prosecutors say, including Ashley Ellerin, 22, of Hollywood who was murdered in 2001 and Maria Bruno, 32, who was murdered in 2005 in El Monte. They believe Gargiulo’s first victim was 18-year-old Tricia Pacaccio, who was stabbed to death on her front porch in Glenview, Illinois, in 1993. Gargiulo was 17 years old and friends with Pacaccio’s younger brother at the time.

The trial, which started May 2, continues Tuesday.

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