Jury Urges Death Penalty for Killer of California Women

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More than a decade after his arrest – and over 18 years after the murder of his first California victim – a Los Angeles jury unanimously recommended the death penalty for Michael Gargiulo, reports Courthouse News Service. Gargiulo, 43, was in August for the murders of Ashley Ellerin, 22, Maria Bruno, 32, and the attempted murder of Michelle Murphy. The case gained media attention because actor Ashton Kutcher was called to testify about his date with Ellerin in 2001. Kutcher spoke to Ellerin the night she was murdered and tried to open a door at her Hollywood home when he came to get her for a late-night drink. Kutcher testified he looked through a window and saw red wine spilled on the floor; it was likely blood.

Prosecutors say Gargiulo killed his first victim when he was 17 and living in a suburban Illinois neighborhood. Prosecutors described Gargiulo as “the boy next door” killer who methodically stalked and then attacked with a knife, often climbing through windows and stabbing his victims. Since May, the jury has listened to the evidence, including defense arguments that Gargiulo attacked Murphy while he was suffering mental illness. The jury found Gargiulo was sane when he committed his crimes. Whether Gargiulo will ever see the inside of the lethal injection chamber at San Quentin prison remains to be seen. Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered a moratorium on the death penalty. There are 737 prisoners on California death row, but the state has not executed a prisoner since 2006.

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