By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
A spokesperson for State's Attorney Alvarez, defending her actions to CBS in Chicago last week, argued that Gargiulo's DNA could have been left during "casual" contact with Pacaccio, so they could not meet the burden of proof. Southern California authorities say Gargiulo would have been quickly charged with her murder here.
In the Los Angeles cases, Kutcher's testimony is important. It is expected to help set the time of his then-girlfriend Ellerin's slaying that harrowing evening nearly 10 years ago in the yellow bungalow behind Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
All of the alleged killer's California victims were young, gorgeous and lived near Gargiulo or in Gargiulo's own building as he moved from neighborhood to neighborhood around Southern California. A self-proclaimed forensic expert, he allegedly bragged to friends that if he were ever made to answer questions about a crime, he'd "lie, lie until you die."
Yet police say Gargiulo was tripped up by spilling his own blood — cutting himself while viciously stabbing the tiny but spirited Michelle Murphy in her bed in Santa Monica. She fought off her killer and lived to tell about it. The blood he allegedly left behind was used by Southern California detectives to link him to the Chicago and Hollywood murders.
During a 10-day hearing in June, the alleged serial killer, now gaunt and wiry, incessantly whispered and passed notes to a paralegal and his defense attorney, Charles Lindner. A parade of detectives, former friends and ex-girlfriends — including the mother of one of his two children — took the stand. On June 30, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson ruled that Gargiulo would face trial.
"He was kind of a braggart and bullshit artist," says Los Angeles County Sheriff's Detective Mark Lillienfeld, who is investigating the slaying and mutilation of Bruno in El Monte five years ago.
"He told a number of people he was in the movies and was a high-end plumber for celebrities, and was friends with them," Lillienfeld says. "He would meet and befriend and associate with these women, and form a superficial relationship with them — and ultimately they would end up dead. He's every woman's nightmare."
Gargiulo grew up in Glenview, Illinois, a pretty suburb 18 miles north of Chicago, where the median household income today is $102,000. He attended Glenbrook South High School, where he played baseball. He's mostly remembered for his quick temper.
Gargiulo lived a block from the spot where 18-year-old Glenbrook South High School senior Pacaccio was found stabbed to death on her porch after she attended a school rally with friends on Aug. 14, 1993. The freakish stabbing horrified the quiet, low-crime community.
Gargiulo, who was pals with Pacaccio's little brother, Doug, was questioned. He denied killing Tricia. Suburban Glenview detectives, handling what was for them an exceedingly rare murder case, interviewed dozens of people but got nowhere. Her murder eventually went into a cold-case file.
"After this happened, we didn't live in our house for four years," Pacaccio's mother, Diane Pacaccio, tells L.A. Weekly. "I can't get over it. My daughter may have been 18 years old, but she was as innocent as a child. There was no rhyme or reason why someone would do something like this to her."
The only clue to the killer's identity lay in blood and skin fragments found on Tricia Pacaccio's fingernails. But that evidence, luckily preserved by Chicago-area authorities of the early 1990s, wouldn't prove helpful for another decade, when DNA analysis finally was fully developed into a crime-fighting tool.
The Glenview cops trying to solve the murder retired. Over the years, Pacaccio's murder file bounced to different detectives, who had new theories and investigated new suspects. For a time, cops suspected Gargiulo's friend Erik — after Gargiulo implicated him. Gargiulo later recanted his statement to a grand jury.
Eventually, Gargiulo followed his brother Ken to Los Angeles, where he later was joined by his girlfriend, Alison. The couple moved to Orchid Avenue behind Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, not far from Ellerin's bungalow.
They seemed to live the classic Midwestern kids' dream, with Gargiulo even getting a job as a doorman at the Rainbow Bar & Grill on the Sunset Strip in 1999. But his bad temper got him fired — for decking a patron.
By the fall of 2000, Gargiulo was an air-conditioning repairman. Investigators say his creepy side, by this time, had begun asserting itself: While living with his Illinois girlfriend he was secretly dating a McDonald's cashier, Velma Carrillo, whom he met in an AOL chat room. He told her one of his many phony personal histories, bragging that he'd studied forensics and came to California to train as an Olympic boxer.
There were small kernels of truth in his many fake tales. "In fact, his brother was more of the boxer," LAPD Detective Small says. "Mike had it in his mind he was a boxer, but I don't think he had any real bouts. His brother got ... inspired to be a professional. Mike, being a copycat, was telling people he was a boxer."