Ashton Kutcher could help to put away a serial killer accused of slaying three women and possibly responsible for as many as 10 murders — including the actor’s former girlfriend.
The trial of accused murderer Michael Gargiulo is set to begin in Los Angeles this week, where Kutcher will take the witness stand to recall the night in 2001 when his then girlfriend Ashley Ellerin was brutally stabbed to death in her Hollywood Hills home.
THE MURDER OF ASHLEY ELLERIN
Kutcher was at the height of his Dude Where’s My Car? and That ‘70s Show fame when he began dating Ellerin, a 22-year-old fashion student and part-time stripper.
According to the statement he gave to police, on the night of the murder Kutcher and Ellerin had a plan to meet up late after he attended a party at a friend’s house to watch the Grammys.
When the show wrapped, Kutcher tried to call Ellerin twice, but she didn’t pick up. Assuming she was annoyed at him for not inviting her to his friends’ party, wanting to make peace, he drove to her place behind the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Sunset Strip at around 10.45pm.
When he got there, Kutcher told police, all of the lights were on and his girlfriend’s maroon BMW was parked in the driveway. But when he knocked on the door there was no answer.
Peering in the window, Kutcher recalled seeing what he thought was red wine spilt on the floor. Thinking Ellerin may have had some drinks and gone to bed, he drove home.
It wasn’t until the next day he would learn it was not red wine, but blood. His girlfriend’s body had been laying slumped just out of view after she had been stabbed 47 times.
Ellerin’s killing was especially violent and brutal. According to the coroner’s report, Ellerin had been stabbed so many times that she was almost decapitated.
One of the blows was so violent it removed a piece of her skull “like a puzzle piece”.
Her body was left posed in a sexually suggestive position.
Ellerin’s flatmate, Justin Peterson, found her the next morning.
Gargiulo immediately became a suspect in the murder of Ellerin after her friends told police he had become obsessed with her after he moved in nearby.
Ellerin had invited Gargiulo to a few parties at her house, even after friends expressed concern over his apparent growing fixation on her.
Ellerin’s flatmate Justin Peterson had noticed Gargiulo parking his green Ford ute outside their house at odd hours. When Peterson confronted him, Gargiulo told him the FBI was after him, in connection with a murder in Chicago, so he was hiding out.
Peterson said he immediately warned Ellerin to stay away from him but “she probably thought I was being dramatic about it,” Peterson said later.
Two months later, Ellerin was dead.
The accused, Michael Gargiulo, 43 has been in a Los Angeles county jail since 2008 after he allegedly attacked another woman, Michelle Murphy in her Santa Monica apartment.
Murphy fought off her attacker and survived.
A DNA match was made between Gargiulo and blood found at the scene.
It wasn’t long before police connected him to the murder of Ashley Ellerin — by that time seven years after her death — and Maria Bruno, a 34-year-old who was murdered less than two weeks after moving into the same apartment building as Gargiulo in 2005.
Gargiulo also stands accused of the 1993 murder of his then neighbour in Illinois, 18-year-old Tricia Pacaaccio, in her home. She had been stabbed 12 times. He was 17 at the time and it has been suggested this may be the case Gargiulo was referring to when he spoke with Peterson about being on the run that afternoon.
Gargiulo may have killed as many as 10 times.
While in Los Angeles County Jail, Gargiulo said that as an air-conditioning repair man, he had entered thousands of home over the years. He told authorities that just because “10 women in those homes were killed” and his DNA was present doesn’t mean he did it.
Gargiulo’s work as an air-conditioning repairman earned him the nickname ‘The Chiller Killer’ as police suspected he used his work as a means of gaining access to and the trust of the women he targeted.
He’s also known as ‘The Hollywood Ripper’.
AGONISING WAIT FOR JUSTICE
Almost 20 years after Ellerin’s death — and 26 years since the murder of Tricia Pacaaccio — friends and families of the women Gargiulo allegedly brutally killed hope they will soon see him convicted and sentenced to a life behind bars.
The trial for all three killings, as well as Murphy’s attempted murder, begins on May 2 at the Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles.
Ellerin’s childhood friend Carolyn Murnick, who wrote a book called The Hot One about the case recently told British publication Grazia she wants her friend to be remembered as more than the girl Ashton Kutcher was dating.
“She wasn’t just a party girl who hung out with Ashton Kutcher, and she wasn’t just one of the many victims of an alleged serial killer,” Murnick said.
“She was a real person with a childhood and people around her who loved her and still remember her. She was only just starting her life.”
Kutcher, who is now married to Mila Kunis and has two children, has not spoken publicly about Ellerin’s murder since giving his police statement all those years ago.
But he has reportedly confided in friends about the haunting chapter of his life.
“Ashton had nightmares for years over the killing,” a close friend of the actor-producer told The Examiner in 2009.
“It was a horrible ordeal. He grieved for years over her.”