Michael Thomas Gargiulo – the ‘Boy Next Door Killer’ who murdered Ashton Kutcher’s date – sentenced to death over murders

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For crimes he called “vicious and frightening,” a US judge has given a death sentence to a man prosecutors called “The Boy Next Door Killer” for the home-invasion murders of two women and the attempted murder of a third.

Victims’ family members wept as Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry P Fidler handed down the sentence to 45-year-old Michael Thomas Gargiulo.

“Everywhere that Mr Gargiulo went, death and destruction followed him,” Fidler said at hearing on Friday.

Gargiulo’s case received added attention because one of his victims was about to go on a date with Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher, who testified at the trial.

The sentencing, delayed by procedural issues and the pandemic, came nearly two years after a jury convicted Gargiulo and recommended his execution.

Gargiulo was found guilty of the 2001 murder of Ashley Ellerin, a 22-year-old fashion design student, in her Hollywood home as she prepared to go out with Kutcher.

Michael Thomas Gargiulo was handed a death sentence. Credit: Damian Dovarganes/AP

At the trial, Kutcher said he was late to pick up Ellerin, who did not answer her door.

He looked inside to see blood stains that he thought were spilled wine.

Prosecutors used him in their closing arguments, suggesting Ellerin was killed by another man who was jealous of Kutcher.

Ellerin was found with 47 stab wounds.

Gargiulo was also convicted of the murder of 32-year-old Maria Bruno, a mother of four, in her home in El Monte, east of Los Angeles, in 2005.

Ashton Kutcher testified during the trial.
Ashton Kutcher testified during the trial. Credit: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Survivor Michelle Murphy addressed the court.
Survivor Michelle Murphy addressed the court. Credit: Damian Dovarganes/AP

Bruno’s breasts were cut off and her implants were removed.

And he was found guilty of the attempted murder in 2008 of Michelle Murphy, who fought him off in her Santa Monica apartment, forcing him to flee and leave a trail of blood that also led to his eventual arrests for the other two killings.

“To this day, spending the night alone creates a world of fear in me,” Murphy said in court before the sentencing.

She cried as she talked about meeting the families of the two women who didn’t survive their attacks.

“How is it fair that one person’s actions can destroy the lives of so many?” she said.

Gargiulo’s victims are shown.
Gargiulo’s victims are shown. Credit: Pool/Getty Images

Gargiulo is a former air conditioner and heater repairman, bouncer and aspiring actor whose nicknames from media outlets included “The Chiller Killer” and “The Hollywood Ripper” but was called “The Boy Next Door Killer” by prosecutors because he lived near the victims he stalked then attacked in their homes.

He spoke before his sentencing, angrily complaining that his lawyers prevented him from taking the stand in his defense.

“I’m going to death row wrongfully and unjustfully,” said Gargiulo, who sat in court in orange jail attire and face mask and showed no visible reaction to his sentencing.

Michael Thomas Gargiulo spoke before his sentencing, angrily complaining that his lawyers prevented him from taking the stand in his defense.
Michael Thomas Gargiulo spoke before his sentencing, angrily complaining that his lawyers prevented him from taking the stand in his defense. Credit: Damian Dovarganes/AP

“I did want to testify and my fundamental choice was blocked.”

Gargiulo is unlikely to be put to death anytime soon.

California has not executed anyone since 2006 and Governor Gavin Newsom has halted executions for as long as he is in office.

But courts have been proceeding on the assumption that executions may one day resume.

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