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Serial Killer Arrested by Santa Monica Police Sentenced to Death

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By Jorge Casuso

July 16, 2021 -- Michael Gargiulo, known as the "boy next door killer, "as sentenced to death by a Superior Court judge on Friday for the gruesome murder of two Los Angeles area women and the attempted murder of a third in Santa Monica.

Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler called the home invasion killings by the 45-year-old former Santa Monica resident "vicious and frightening," according to news reports.

"In this case, everywhere that Mr. Gargiulo went, death and destruction followed," the judge said,

The defense argued that Gargiulo was mentally ill and should not be executed for the murders of 22-year-old Hollywood resident Ashley Ellerin in 2001 and the 2005 slaying of 32-year-old Maria Bruno in her El Monte apartment.

According to an AP report, Gargiulo "spoke before his sentencing, angrily complaining that his lawyers prevented him from taking the stand in his defense."

“I’m going to death row wrongfully and unjustfully,” said Gargiulo. “I did want to testify and my fundamental choice was blocked.”

The defendant "sat in court in orange jail attire and face mask and showed no visible reaction to his sentencing,' AP reported.

During the trial, prosecutors described Gargiulo as “a serial sexual-thrill killer who engages in the systematic slaughter of beautiful women."

A former handyman and aspiring actor, Gargiulo -- also known as “The Hollywood Ripper” -- committed a series of "frenzied" and grusesome knife attacks on selected female neighbors between 2001 and 2008 while he lived in different parts of the LA area, prosecutors said.

On the night of her murder, Gargiulo entered Ellerin’s home and stabbed her 47 times, nearly decapitating her, prosecutors said.

They said Gargiulo attacked Bruno as she slept and “quite literally butchered her -- stabbing her multiple times, slitting her throat, slicing off her breasts, and staging them for family members and police to find."

Gargiulo was arrested by Santa Monica police for the 2008 attempted murder of Michelle Murphy, who lived across the alley from Gargiulo on the 1200 block of 12th Street.

Prosecutors said he stabbed Murphy eight times before she fought him off, becoming a key witness for the prosecution in the three-month-long trial.

Before Friday's sentencing Murphy cried as she spoke in court about meeting the families of the two murdered victims, according to AP.

“To this day, spending the night alone creates a world of fear in me,” Murphy said. “How is it fair that one person’s actions can destroy the lives of so many?”

The sentencing was delayed nearly two years due to procedural issues and the coronavirus shutdown after jurors took less than five hours to decide that Gargiulo should be put to death ("Jury Recommends Serial Killer Caught in Santa Monica Be Put to Death," October 21, 2019).

Gargiulo's life will be spared after Gov. Gavin Newsom placed a moratorium on executions in California in 2019, although that could change if he is recalled from office.

Gargiulo is expected to be extradited to Illinois where he faces charges in the 1993 stabbing death of Tricia Pacaccio, an 18-year-old senior at Glenbrook South High School in the Chicago area, where he lived at the time.

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