An aspiring actor dubbed the “Boy Next Door Killer” has been found guilty of fatally stabbing two women.
One of his victims was killed the night she was planning to meet actor Ashton Kutcher for drinks.
The jury also found Michael Gargiulo guilty of the attempted murder of a woman who fought back and sent him fleeing, leading to his arrest in all three cases – and a fourth for which he is awaiting trial in Illinois.
Gargiulo, 43, was convicted of the murder of Ashley Ellerin, 22, in her Hollywood home in 2001 on the night when she was set to meet Kutcher, who testified at the trial.
Her father was in court for the verdict.
Gargiulo was also convicted of the 2005 murder of 32-year old Maria Bruno in her El Monte home, and with the 2008 attempted murder of Michelle Murphy in a stabbing attack in her Santa Monica apartment.
Jurors deliberated for three days and also found Gargiulo guilty of several special-circumstance allegations, including lying in wait and multiple murders, which make him eligible for the death penalty or life in prison with no parole.
A final phase of the trial is set to start on Tuesday, when jurors will determine whether Gargiulo was sane at the time of the killings.
Gargiulo’s lawyers declined to comment outside court, while prosecutors and victims’ family members did not speak to reporters.
A native of the Chicago area who moved to Los Angeles in the late 90s, Gargiulo had acting aspirations and worked as an air conditioning repairman and Hollywood nightclub bouncer at the time of the attacks.
With little physical evidence tying him to the scenes of the two killings, prosecutors urged jurors to look at the cases together, citing uncannily similar patterns in home-invasion attacks that were in places near where he stayed at the time.
While some media outlets referred to him as the “Hollywood Ripper”, prosecutors dubbed him the “Boy Next Door Killer”.
Kutcher, who in 2001 was a rising star of That ’70s Show, testified that he and Ashley were just getting to know each other and had made plans to go out for drinks.
He said he arrived at her home late and assumed she had gone out without him when he got no answer at the door.
“I remember the next day, after I heard about what happened, I went to the detectives and said, ‘My fingerprints are on the door’,” Kutcher testified. “I was freaking out.”
The first and most important witness was Michelle, a fitness buff who fought off the much larger Gargiulo and caused him to cut himself, leaving a trail of blood as he fled.
The evidence against him was so overwhelming, that defence lawyers conceded it was him, though they argued his mental state was such that he did not know what he was doing.