Opening statements were made on Thursday in the trial of the alleged serial killer known as the “Hollywood Ripper.” Michael Gargiulo, whom California prosecutors have charged with brutally assaulting one woman and murdering two others in the Los Angeles area between 2001 and 2008, is also awaiting trial for the 1993 murder of an 18-year-old woman in Chicago. The Associated Press reported on Thursday that over the course of the six-month trial, Ashton Kutcher — who was dating one of Gargiulo’s alleged victims, 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin, at the time of her death — is expected to testify. Ellerin attended fashion school and worked part time as a stripper.
On February 21, 2001, the night Ellerin died, Kutcher, who was starring in That ’70s Show, had plans to go with her to a Grammy Awards after party. Kutcher says she didn’t pick up her phone when he called but he drove to her house anyway, where he noticed her lights were on and her car was parked in the driveway. According to LA Weekly’s report on the incident from 2010, Kutcher peered through her window and noticed a trail of red liquid on the floor, which he mistook for red wine.
The Washington Post reports that police believe Gargiulo met Ellerin upon moving into her neighborhood in the fall of 2000 after fleeing Chicago, where he thought authorities were growing more suspicious of his potential involvement in the 1993 murder case. He offered his services to her as a heating and cooling repairman and soon became somewhat chummy with her and her roommate. LA Weekly reports that Gargiulo was once a guest at one of Ellerin’s parties.
According to California prosecutors, Gargiulo went on to kill 32-year-old Maria Bruno in El Monte in 2005, and critically injure 27-year-old Michelle Murphy in Santa Monica in 2008. Gargiulo has pleaded not guilty to all charges. In each of these cases, Gargiulo was a neighbor to the women he’s been accused of killing.