Eighteen years ago, Ashley Ellerin was viciously stabbed 47 times in her L.A. home right before she was about to go on a date with Ashton Kutcher. As her alleged killer is on trial, here is information about the young woman who lost her life.
The trial of Michael Gargiulo, the 43-year-old man the prosecution has called the “Hollywood Ripper,” began on May 3, and since then, over 100 witnesses have testified against the alleged “serial sexual-thrill killer.” Among them was Ashton Kutcher, 41, who was romantically linked to one of Michael’s alleged victims, Ashley Ellerin. The 22-year-old woman was murdered right before she was to attend a post-Grammys party with Ashton, and he testified about that harrowing night. As prosecutors make their case against Michael, here’s what you need to know:
1. She was allegedly killed on February 21, 2001. Ashley Ellerin was stabbed 47 times inside her Los Angeles apartment, a “charming yellow bungalow in a neighborhood behind the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre,” according to the Washington Post. “We believe she had just exited the shower and was getting ready to go out with Mr. Kutcher when she was attacked from behind,” Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Dan Akemon said during opening statements, according to PEOPLE. Ashley’s roommate found her body the next morning.
2. Ashton said he visited her apartment the night she was killed. Ashton went to pick up Ashley for a date on the night of the 2001 Grammy Awards, but when he arrived at her place, she didn’t answer the door. “I knocked on the door. There was no answer. Knocked again. And once again, no answer,” the That ’70s Show star testified on May 29, per the Los Angeles Times. “At this point, I pretty well assumed she had left for the night, and that I was late, and she was upset.”
Before he left, he peeked through the windows and saw what looked like a stain. “I saw what I thought was red wine spilled on the carpet. But that wasn’t alarming because I went to her house party [days before] and it was like a college party. I didn’t think much about it.” It wasn’t red wine.
3. A flat tire may have sealed her fate. Michael Gargiulo was a 24-year-old air conditioning repairman and former bouncer at the Rainbow Bar & Grill when he met Ashley outside her home in the fall of 2000, according to PEOPLE. Ashley, a part-time Las Vegas stripper and student at L.A.’s Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, was dealing with a flat tire. Michael reportedly asked her if she needed help. Later, he offered to help fix a problem with her heater, from then on, he’d pop up uninvited and unannounced at her apartment. The frequency of these visits led her roommate to think he was a stalker.
4. Ashley met Ashton a few months before her death. Ashley and Ashton first connected in December 2000. The two decided to give romance a shot in Feb. 2001, as they both were single at the time.
5. Her killer has been accused of killing three women and attempting to murder a fourth. Prosecutors alleged that Michael’s first victim was 18-year-old Tricia Pacaccio, who was killed in 1993 in Chicago when he was just 17. He’s charged with the 2005 stabbing of Maria Bruno, 32, and the attempted murder of Michelle Murphy, who was stabbed in her Santa Monica home in 2008. Michael accidentally cut himself when allegedly attacking Michelle, allowing investigators to link his DNA to the other killings.
“All of the victims were young, outgoing women,” D.A. Dan Akemon told the court. “All of the attacks occurred at night, all of the victims suffered multiple stab wounds, all of the victims were stabbed with the knife, each of the victims was attacked in or around her home and in close proximity of Mr. Gargiulo.”