Ashton Kutcher says he ‘screwed up’ the night girlfriend Ashley Ellerin was killed because he was late for their 2001 date and ‘freaked’ that he would be a suspect because his ‘prints were on the door’, as he testifies in the Hollywood ripper trial
- Ashton Kutcher testified Wednesday in the murder trial of Michael Gargiulo, 43
- Gargiulo is accused of fatally stabbing Ashley Ellerin, 22, in her home in 2001 – at the time she was meant to go on a date with Ashton Kutcher
- Kutcher testified that he last spoke to Ellerin at 8.24pm, left a message for her at 10pm and when he went to her home at 10.45pm she did not answer
- Gargiulo is facing two counts of murder and one of attempted murder from attacks between 2001 and 2008
- Prosecutors called the murders a ‘systematic slaughter of women’ and described the accused as ‘the boy-next-door killer’
- Gargiulo is believed to have killed up to 10 women, including Maria Bruno, 32, in 2005 and 18-year-old Tricia Pacaccio in 1993
- He was roaming free until 2008 when he allegedly attacked Michelle Murphy, who fought him off and survived after she was stabbed 17 times
- DNA samples from the attack connected him to the three murders and he was arrested in 2008 and has been awaiting trial
Ashton Kutcher appeared in a packed Los Angeles courtroom Wednesday to relive the horrific night his date Ashley Ellen was butchered to death.
Appearing calm and collected in the witness box at the trial of accused ‘Hollywood Ripper,’ Michael Thomas Gargiulo – who, police claim, viciously stabbed Ellerin almost 50 times – Kutcher, told the jury how he had ‘screwed up’ that night, February 21, 2001, by showing up more than two hours late for a date with Ellerin.
And Kutcher, 41 – sporting a mustache and dressed in a blue suit and shirt with dark tie – admitted that the next day, after hearing about the brutal murder of 22-year-old Ellerin, he ‘freaked out’ because his fingerprints were on the front doorknob at her apartment and he was afraid he’d be a suspect in the killing.
As an expressionless Gargiulo – in purple shirt and dark pants and with a shaved head and goatee – looked on, Kutcher recounted how in 2001 he had become an ‘acquaintance’ of Ellerin, a model and student at the Los Angeles Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.
Ashton Kutcher took the stand Wednesday to testify in the Hollywood Ripper trial accused of stabbing his friend Ashley Ellerin 47 times in 2001
Michael Gargiulo is facing two counts of murder and one of attempted murder and has been dubbed the Hollywood Ripper
One of Gargiulo’s alleged victims is Ashley Ellerin who was fatally stabbed aged 22 in her Hollywood home in 2001. She was meant to go on a date with Ashton Kutcher at the time of her death
Kutcher – at that time 23 and starring in his first TV hit, That 70s Show – said he first met Ellerin at a birthday party in December 2000 and, because he was dating someone else at the time, introduced her to a friend of his.
Then, in early February, he went to a housewarming party at Ellerin’s Hollywood home behind the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
Gargiulo was living a ‘double life’, the court heard. He was attacking women and killing them and he was able to go undetected for almost 15 years,’ said assistant district attorney
Since Kutcher had recently broken up with his then girlfriend, he became closer friends with Ellerin and the two arranged to go out on a date on February 21, 2001 – the night of the Grammy Awards.
He called her between 3pm and 4pm that day and ‘we made plans to go out that night for dinner and drinks’ at 8 o’clock.
He called her again at 7.30pm to say he would be late because he was stopping by his friend Christie Swanson’s house to watch the Grammy Awards on TV.
Ellerin called him at 8.24pm that night, told him she had just gotten out of the shower and was dry blowing her hair.
‘I told her I would be a little late and she said ”OK, see you later.”’
Kutcher told the court that after losing track of time, he tried to call Ellerin back to tell her he was running late.
‘But there was no answer,’ he said.
He went home to walk his dogs then called Ellerin again to say he was on his way.
‘Again, no answer,’ he told Judge Larry Fidler at LA Superior Court.
Kutcher drove the five blocks from his home to Ashley’s, arriving between 10.30pm and 10.45pm and found her red BMW convertible parked outside and noticed ‘all the lights were on.’
‘I knocked on the door, no answer. I knocked again, no answer. I looked through the window on the front door and didn’t see anything. I tried the front door knob and it was locked.’
He looked through a side window ‘because I thought it was odd that the lights were on. It looks like it was a bit of a mess, but I didn’t think anything of that because she had just moved in.
‘Then I saw what I thought was red wine spilled on the carpet. I wasn’t alarmed because I just been at the house warming party at her house and that was kind of a college party.’
Gargiulo was roaming free until 2008 when he allegedly attacked Michelle Murphy, who fought him off and survived after she was stabbed 17 times
Prosecutors Gargiulo ‘the boy next door killer’ and described his alleged crimes as ‘the methodical and systematic slaughter of women
After seeing nobody inside and getting no answer to his door knocks, Kutcher left. He said he assumed Ellerin had gone out with a friend because she was upset about him being so late.
‘I figured I had screwed up – I had showed up too late,’ he told the jury.
Under cross examination from defense attorney Dan Nardoni, Kutcher said he did not recall seeing Gargiulo among the 30-40 people at Ashley’s housewarming party two weeks before her murder.
He added that Ellerin had not told him that she was having ‘any problems or issues’ with any other people.
Kutcher ended his almost one hour of testimony telling the court that when he heard the next day about Ellerin’s murder, he went to the police to tell them he had been outside her home the night of her killing.
‘I went to her door, my fingerprints were on the door,’ he said. ‘I was freaking out.’
Ellerin’s roommate found her horribly mutilated body in the apartment the next day.
The stain Kutcher had thought was red wine was actually blood from the 47 gaping wounds – some up to six inches deep – inflicted on her neck, chest, stomach and back by a knife-wielding intruder.
Kutcher appeared calm as he took the stand and recounted the night nearly a two decades ago
Kutcher testified that he ‘screwed up’ that night, February 21, 2001, by showing up more than two hours late for a date with Ellerin, in which time she was murdered
This map shows the floorplan of Ellerin’s Hollywood Hills bungalow where she was murdered. It depicts where her body was found stabbed to death
The Two and a Half Men star pointed to a floor plan of Ashley Ellerin’s home in court Wednesday
Michael Gargiulo, 43, is accused of murdering two women, including Ellerin, and trying to kill another in the Los Angeles area between 2001 and 2008.
He was separately charged with killing an 18-year-old Illinois woman whose father found her fatally stabbed on their family’s doorstep with her house key still in hand.
Gargiulo was a neighbor of each victim at the time of the attacks.
Earlier this month, Gargiulo’s defense attorney, Dan Nardoni, repeatedly tried to discredit the prosecution’s case during opening statements by telling jurors that other men had better access or motive in the killings.
He said that Ellerin had sex with her apartment manager just hours before Kutcher was scheduled to pick her up from her Hollywood apartment.
When detectives interviewed the apartment’s manager Mark Durban after the murder, Nardoni said: ‘He claimed that he had consensual sex with Ashley earlier that night.’
Durban left Ellerin’s apartment around 8.15pm and Kutcher showed up to pick her up at about 10.45pm, the defense attorney told jurors.
Kutcher has previously said that when Ellerin didn’t answer her door, he left, unaware her horribly mutilated body was lying inside.
Gargiulo moved to Los Angeles in 2001 and targeted 22 year-old Ashley Ellerin, a model and student who was living in Hollywood and dating TV star Ashton Kutcher. He ‘injected himself’ into Ashley’s life, changing a tire for her and fixing her furnace, said Akemon. ‘He gatecrashed a party at her home and fixated on her. Somehow he got a copy of a key to her apartment and let himself in…then ran away’
A map showing the distance of 400ft between Gargiulo and Ellerin is presented as evidence during opening statements at his murder trial
Attempting to throw doubt on the prosecution’s case, Nardoni said there was no sign of forced entry to Ellerin’s apartment, meaning that either she knew her killer and let him in or somebody unlocked the door.
The defense attorney said that only four people had keys to the apartment: Ellerin, her roommate, her former roommate and Durban. He said the apartment manager was ‘going to be an important witness in this case’.
Nardoni insisted that there is no physical evidence in the Ellerin murder linking to Gargiulo.
‘There are no fingerprints identifiable to Mr Gargiulo. From the body of Ashley Ellerin, there is no DNA identifiable to Mr Gargiulo,’ he said.
He also argued that there is no physical evidence against his client in the murder of Maria Bruno on December 1, 2005 – another woman he is accused of killing.
‘There is no DNA from the body of Maria Bruno that is identifiable with Michael Gargiulo. There is no DNA from the window (where the killer entered the apartment), there are no fingerprints from the window,’ Nardoni told jurors.
The defense attorney offered an explanation as to why Bruno had left her husband, Irving Bruno, and was living alone at the time she was killed. He said it was because she ‘was physically abused for nine years in their relationship’.
An altercation that led to Bruno’s husband ‘pushing her, throwing her on the ground and punching her in the face’ was the ‘last straw’ that made her leave him.
Nardoni said that Irving told detectives that sometimes when he was abusive to his wife he would ‘black out’ and not remember hitting her.
Trying to further discredit the prosecution’s case, Nardoni told the court that when detectives showed pictures of Gargiulo and four other possible suspects in Bruno’s murder to another resident at her apartment complex, that person did not identify Gargiulo.
Gargiulo is believed to have killed up to 10 women, including Maria Bruno, 32,(right) in 2005 and 18-year-old Tricia Pacaccio in 1993(left)
This map shows that Gargiulo and victim Pacaccio lived only 550ft away from one another in 1993 when she was murdered
After Gargiulo was arrested in 2008, following the attempted murder of Michelle Murphy, he was put in a cell for nearly two days with two other inmates, who actually were undercover homicide detectives.
‘It was a subterfuge to get him to confess to killing these women,’ Nardoni told the jury.
‘It was a 42-hour interrogation and I can assure you that during those 42 hours Mr Gargiulo did not admit to killing any of these women.’
During the prosecutor’s opening statement earlier this month, the jury heard how Gargiuo would ‘watch, shadow, stalk and hunt down’ his victims before fatally stabbing them for sexual pleasure.
Prosecutor Daniel Akemon called the defendant ‘the boy next door killer’ and described his crimes as ‘the methodical and systematic slaughter of women’.
‘What you will hear is that Michael Gargiulo for almost 15 years was watching, always watching,’ he said. ‘And his hobby was plotting the perfect opportunity to attack women with a knife in and around their homes.’
Gargiulo pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
Gargiulo was living a ‘double life’, the court heard. On the one hand he was a husband and father. On the other, ‘he was attacking women and killing them and he was able to go undetected for almost 15 years,’ said Akemon.
‘He would identify a target living near to him. Then he would hunt them down and slaughter them. He watched and waited, then he pounced and killed them in blitz-type knife attacks,’ Akeman said.
Prosecutors say Gargiulo moved to Los Angeles in 2001 and targeted Ellerin, a model and student who was living in Hollywood.
Gargiulo ‘injected himself’ into Ashley’s life, changing a tire for her and fixing her furnace, said Akemon. ‘He gatecrashed a party at her home and fixated on her. Somehow he got a copy of a key to her apartment and let himself in…then ran away.’
Ellerin’s friends warned her that Gargiulo was stalking her, showing up at her home at odd times and watching her. And on the night of February 21, 2001, her friends’ worst fears were realized.
Akemon noted that Ellerin was attacked from behind and her throat was cut from left to right, indicating that her killer was left handed. Gargiulo is left handed.
Another victim in the case, 32-year-old Maria Bruno, was found stabbed to death in her apartment in suburban El Monte in 2005.
‘Gargiulo could see into Maria’s apartment from his own,’ Akemon told the court. On the night of her murder, ‘he entered her apartment through a window, put on blue surgical bootees and stabbed Maria as she slept.
‘He cut off her breasts and attempted to move her breast implants and place one of her breasts in her mouth.’
Bruno’s lifeless body was found by her estranged husband.
Akemon said that Gargiulo’s DNA was found on one of the blue bootees found at the crime scene and a matching bootee was found in his apartment.
The former heating and air-conditioning repairman – called ‘Mike the Furnace Man’ by people who knew him – is also charged with the 2008 attempted murder of Michelle Murphy who, though stabbed multiple times at her Santa Monica home, bravely fought off and survived the attack.
She is expected to be the prosecution’s star witness during Gargiulo’s trial, which could last six months.
It was the failed murder attempt on Murphy in April of 2008 that ended what police claim was a 15-year killing spree by Chicago native Gargiulo.
Tricia Pacaccio’s body is rolled out from her Chicago, Illinois home in 1993. Gargiulo was a friend of her two brothers
DNA evidence collected at Murphy’s apartment not only led to his arrest in June 2008 for his alleged attack on her, but also linked him to the Ellerin and Bruno murders, say prosecutors. He was indicted for those killings just two months later
Cops also claim that those DNA traces from the Murphy crime scene also tied Gargiulo to Pacaccio’s 1993 murder.
The teenager killed in Illinois had lived just down the street from Gargiulo in suburban Glenview.
Gargiulo was a close friend of Pacaccio’s brother and detectives had long suspected him in the killing. But they could never put together enough evidence to charge him with Pacaccio’s murder – until the attack on Murphy 15 years later.
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