‘Hollywood Ripper’ Michael Gargiulo ‘liked to watch death’ after inflicting pain

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Tom Small will never forget the moment he found Ashley Ellerin’s body in his rented Hollywood bungalow.

On the night of February 21, 2001, the 22-year-old had just gotten out of the shower and was getting ready for a night out. She was stabbed to death.

The California resident was not discovered until the next morning by her roommate, who had just returned to the residence. Ellerin’s body was found outside the bathroom entrance.

“I’ve never forgotten the atrocity,” Small, a former homicide detective, told FOX News Digital. “I’ve seen a lot of murders over the years. All kinds of murders. None of them are pretty. But this case stood out. She was so young and she was mutilated. The method was just vicious. It was one of the most heinous murders.”I’m sure I’ve seen worse attacks.

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Ashley Ellerin was murdered at her home in Hollywood, California, on February 21, 2001, just before attending a post-Grammy Awards party with actor Ashton Kutcher. Kutcher later told police that when she went to pick up the 22-year-old costume student, she did not answer. (Courtesy of Los Altos HS/

“And it was clear from the situation she was in that the suspect wanted us to find her.The only intention of whoever did this was to cause bodily harm; To inflict pain. That’s all he wanted. He wanted complete control.”

Small is speaking out. “Once Upon a Crime in Hollywood” A true crime series hosted by Kelly Hyman. Season 2 focuses on the case of Michael Gargiulo, known as the “Hollywood Ripper” and the “Boy Next Door Murderer.” Contains new interviews with the investigators and key experts involved.

“I wanted the public to know that there are people like this out there,” Small said. “In my career, I’ve seen a lot of murders and stabbings, but the purpose of this case was strictly murder and destruction. It was brutal. It sticks with me.”

Ashley Ellerin's photo on TV

Ashley Ellerin’s murder case is the subject of the true crime podcast Once Upon a Crime in Hollywood. (Al Seib/LA Times Pool/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Ellerin was stabbed 47 times. Twelve of the wounds were considered fatal. There were numerous defensive wounds on her hands and her right forearm.

“She was hit in the front, back, upper body, lower body and throat,” Small recalled. “This person was on top of her and I had to get really close and watch her pass. I had no idea what this person was other than being the devil. It’s evil.”

Ellerin, who was born in Maryland, dreamed of living in a “big city,” Small said. She, like many others, wanted to break into the Hollywood scene. Ellerin was known for her beauty and she quickly connected with her friends in the entertainment industry.

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Ashley Ellerins house

Ashley Ellerin’s house (David McNew/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

“She had no enemies, but a million friends and allies,” Small said. “Some were in the entertainment industry, some were personal friends that she grew up with. There were many suspects, but I started looking for parolees in that part of Hollywood, especially at the time. , because there were some crimes. There were also a lot of street robberies and rapes, but none of this had a sexual element, but was more about inflicting pain and control.

“She had some acquaintances,” Small continued. “She was a young, good-looking woman who was attractive to many men. I remember feeling pretty bad for her landlord…that we were able to exclude him. I was happy with it, but it took a while.”

The night Ellerin was killed, she was making plans with Ashton Kutcher. The former “That ’70s Show” star later testified in court that he arrived late for a date with Ellerin and when there was no answer to her door, she looked into her home. The actor saw what he thought was wine spilled on the carpet. Kutcher noticed her car in the driveway and thought she was angry at him for arriving so late. Assuming Elerin didn’t answer the door on purpose, he walked away.

Ashton Kutcher testifies in court

Ashton Kutcher testified in court. (Frederick M. Brown)

Police were confused and could not find any concrete clues. But some of Ellerin’s friends remembered a “creepy heating and air guy” named Mike. No one knew where he lived. His car was unknown. But somehow he ended up showing up at Elerin’s house party.

“She might have 60 people, but a lot of people are going to look at this Mike and say, ‘Who the hell is that guy? How does she know about him?'” explained Small. ”[According to friends], Ashley kind of blew it off by saying, “He sees my furnace and thinks he’s a friend.” He’s harmless. ”

About a week before the murder, Ellerin hosted a birthday party for one of his girlfriends. Her pals said “Mike” was there and had her “laser pointed” at her.

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Ashton Kutcher points to apartment blueprints in court

Ashton Kutcher found what appeared to be wine stains inside Ashley Ellerin’s home. (Frederick M. Brown)

“One of the witnesses described how he was like a laser beam,” Small said. “As she moved from her room to her room, he changed her position so he could keep an eye on her. He also walked around her house, as if he was looking at her floor plan. It seemed like it was.”

According to Small, “Mike” suddenly disappeared after Elerin’s murder. Although well established, he was never seen in the neighborhood again. None of his friends wanted to know where he was. He was just a “strange” guy who suddenly disappeared.

Prosecutors say Ellerin first met “Mike” several months before her death. The news reported. The newspaper said he lived nearby and offered to fix Elerin and her friend’s flat tire. I then gave them my business card for an air conditioner repair service.

michael gargiulo mug shot

Michael Gargiulo’s mug shot. He was 32 years old at the time of the murder. (Santa Monica Police Department/

The Los Angeles Police Department conducted some investigation and obtained the name and driver’s license photo. It was Mr. Gargiulo.

In the Cook County suburb of Chicago, Tricia Pacaccio’s mother was relentless in her pursuit of investigators. The 18-year-old girl was discovered on an August morning in 1993. She was stabbed repeatedly in her chest, chest and arms. Her case has gone cold, and the heartbroken matriarch is desperate for answers. In 2002, new DNA technology allowed investigators to take a new look at evidence originally collected from the crime scene.

Detectives still had Gargiulo on their list of suspects. When they learned he had moved to Los Angeles from Illinois, they contacted the Los Angeles Police Department. A DNA sample was obtained and sent to the Illinois State Police Crime Lab. The DNA matched Pacaccio’s nails.

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Detectives passing by Michael Gargiulos' home

Detectives Tom Small (left) and Mark Mark walk past Apartment No. 34, where Michael Gargiulo was staying, during a jury visit to the crime scene in People v. Michael on June 20, 2019 in El Monte, California. Detective Lilienfeld. Gargiulo incident. (Frederick J. Brown/AFP)

The Pacaccio family lived near Gargiulo’s childhood home.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute Gargiulo, the Chicago Tribune reported. According to the report, prosecutors argued that DNA may have been exchanged through chance contact. As for the Los Angeles Police Department, there was no physical evidence linking Gargiulo to Ellerin’s murder.

However, there is no way Mr. Gargiulo will leave the police unattended. In 2003, she claimed that her ex-girlfriend punched her in the face and threatened to kill her, reported. According to the newspaper, the two met after she hired him to repair her air conditioner. She also claimed that Mr. Gargiulo later stalked her, prompting her to seek a restraining order.

Michael Gargiulos Victims

A photo of the victim is shown during opening statements in the murder trial of Michael Gargiulo in Los Angeles on May 2, 2019. (Al Seib Pool)

In 2005, Maria Bruno was found dead in her Los Angeles home. The 32-year-old mother of her four children had her throat slit and suffered multiple stab wounds. Blue surgical slippers were found at the crime scene. Mr Small described it as a “thrilling murder”.

In 2008, Michelle Murphy was attacked in her Santa Monica apartment. She was stabbed multiple times in the chest, but she survived. Authorities said Gargiulo cut himself, leaving behind traces of her blood. DNA linked him to other cases.

Gargiulo’s lawyer later claimed in court that other men had committed the murders of Bruno and Elerin. They admitted their client attacked Murphy, but said Murphy was in a “fugue state” due to a personality disorder and had no idea where he was at the time.

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Defense attorneys gathered outside.

Defense attorneys walk around before jurors visit the evidence scene at 1229 12th Street in Santa Monica during the Michael Gargiulo murder trial in Los Angeles on June 19, 2019. (David McNew/Pool)

The defense also argued that Ellerin was murdered by another man who was jealous that he was romantically involved with her and was trying to date Kutcher.

But the facts were undeniable. Mr. Gargiulo lived near Mr. Bruno and “kept a close eye” on him, he said. He was known for wearing blue surgical slippers. He was also left-handed. The murder was committed by a left-handed perpetrator.

Gargiulo’s past also surprised Small.

Michael Gargiulos Apartment

Michael Gargiulo’s apartment (David McNew/Pool)

“He hit his father,” he explained. “He took a banquet table and broke it over his sister’s back. There were only two people in his family he respected. One was his mother. The other one was my brother, who was a bit of a dirty guy himself, I think.”His father was afraid of him. ”

In 2019, Gargiulo was convicted of two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. He was sentenced to death in 2021.

“I feel relieved,” Small said.

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Michael Gargiulo looking to the side wearing a white collared shirt

Michael Gargiulo was sentenced to death. (Lucy Nicholson/AFP)

“He loved watching death,” Small said. “This man deserves everything he’s going to get. His only intention was to cause pain. … Something like this stays in your mind. It certainly stays in my heart. The remaining.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.