By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
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By Jill Stewart
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The LAPD could only pray that Devine would file charges. Instead, the state's attorney retired to teach law.
"[The Cook County detectives] actually went back over this stuff and did everything they could," Small says. "It was the State's Attorney's Office that is not filing. ... I am not privy to everything in their investigation. In totality of the circumstances and physical evidence out here, we would prosecute it. Frankly, I think it is a bunch of shenanigans, but it is not my say."
Devine, who was elected by voters to three terms as state's attorney from 1996 to 2008, now teaches law at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. His elected successor, Anita Alvarez, has similarly declined to prosecute Gargiulo.
"It is [the State's Attorney's Office] who have to answer to the Pacaccios on why they aren't moving on it," Small says. And not just to the Pacaccios. To all of Gargiulo's other alleged victims, and their families and friends.
By September 2005, he was living with Kwak in a second-floor gated apartment in the 4600 block of Arden Way in El Monte, east of Los Angeles. Kwak was pregnant, and Gargiulo launched a new air-conditioning business called 24 Hour Heating & Air.
Like Gargiulo's other relationships, this one went bad fast. Sick of being beaten, Kwak has testified, she moved out on Thanksgiving weekend in 2005. Within days, 32-year-old Maria Bruno, a stunning and shapely mother of four, moved into a unit on the first floor of the Arden Way building.
"She worked one day with me," recalls Leader's Furniture owner George Liberman. "We knew her because she came to buy some furniture and applied for a job. I really never hire customers, but she was very different. She was pretty, nice and had a good temperament."
On Dec. 1, 10 days after she moved into the Arden Way apartment, Bruno was discovered with her throat slashed and her chest mutilated, with one breast cut from her body. Outside her apartment, police found a blue surgical bootie.
A neighbor, Robert Rasmussen, told police that days before, a man wearing a hoodie and baseball hat was jiggling Bruno's doorknob and peering through her window. Another day, Rasmussen says, he saw the man following her as she carried groceries. Police believe it was Gargiulo.
"She went into the apartment and he followed her in," Rasmussen says. "The minute he stepped over the threshold, he backed out and the door was shut" in his face.
During the preliminary hearing in L.A. last summer, Detective Lillienfeld told the judge the Bruno murder scene was so chilling that he still remembers what day of the week it was — a Thursday. Lillienfeld remembers spotting the blue surgical shoe cover in front of Bruno's apartment. A screen had been pried loose from her kitchen window.
Detectives interviewed neighbors and checked arrest records of the building's occupants. Nobody in the gated community seemed capable of such carnage.
"We ran the criminal history and nobody appeared to have a serious arrest record," Lillienfeld says.
Gargiulo was never home when police knocked and never responded to cards police left. He was never interviewed, and Bruno's murder remained unsolved.
By 2008, Gargiulo had married and moved to Santa Monica. He'd met his wife at a showroom for plumbing and bathroom remodeling. The couple lived with her mother in the 1200 block of Euclid Avenue.
On April 28, Michelle Murphy, a neighbor who lived across the alley in a second-floor apartment, was awakened by "someone on top of me ... stabbing me," she has testified. The attacker, who crept in through a window, was wearing a hoodie and baseball cap. He stabbed her repeatedly.
Miraculously, the 5-foot-1-inch Murphy managed to kick and fight him off. He fell and fled — and this time, local detectives caught a break: Her attacker had cut himself during Murphy's heroic struggle.
Santa Monica Police Department Sergeant Rich Lewis ordered the attacker's spilled blood tested for DNA matches in police databases, and hit pay dirt a month later. The blood was matched to Gargiulo, whose DNA had been swabbed years earlier by detectives investigating him for the murders of Pacaccio and Ellerin.
Gargiulo lived in a second-floor apartment diagonally across the alley from Murphy, which afforded him a bird's-eye view of her place. Murphy testified that before the attack, Gargiulo passed her in the alley while she was working out and tried to talk to her.
When Sgt. Lewis saw that Gargiulo's DNA was left at the scenes of the attacks on both Murphy and Pacaccio, he remembered a conversation he'd had months earlier with Los Angeles County Sheriff's Detective Lillienfeld. Lillienfeld had told Lewis about the unsolved slaying and mutilation of Maria Bruno in El Monte.
The violent knifing Murphy had survived seemed eerily similar to the Bruno tragedy. Could it be the same assailant?