People Magazine Investigates: Hollywood Ripper
People Magazine Investigates: Hollywood Ripper talks about Ashley Ellerin, who grew up in Somerset County, NJ. While she was in high school, she moved to California, where she eventually attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. She was always charismatic and popular and quickly adjusted to the California lifestyle.
Ashley ends up making a ton of friends in LA, including some major and up and coming celebrities. She loved to go out and socialize, and even ended up hanging out with Ashton Kutcher. They made a date for February 21, 2001.
On the day they were supposed to meet, Ashley dropped her dad off at the airport after a visit. Afterward, her property manager, a man named Mark Durbin stopped by to do work on her apartment. Once he was done, Ashley and Ashton made plans to meet at 10pm that night. Sadly, he was the last one to ever hear her voice.
The next morning, Ashley’s roommate Jen came home and found Ashley in the hallway. At first, she thought Ashley was playing a joke, but when she got closer, she realized she was dead. She ran out of the house and immediately called the police. She was stabbed multiple times and blood was everywhere. It seemed as if she was killed while getting ready for her date.
Her body was arranged in an odd way and money was found on her dresser. It also looked as if she was trying to defend herself. The biggest mystery was how the killer got in, since she had to let people in and out and nobody could get in without permission. There was also no evidence of forced entry.
THE INVESTIGATION BEGINS
Her friends and family were notified and left confused and heartbroken. Ashton is questioned and claims that he got to her place around 10:45pm the night of their date. He peeked into her house when she didn’t answer and saw a red stain on the floor.
At the time, he assumed it was wine and didn’t think much of it. He also assumed he was mad when she didn’t answer the door or her phone, so he eventually gave up and went home. He is not considered a suspect due to having a strong alibi.
A man walking his dog the night of the murder claims he heard a woman screaming, which caused his dog to go crazy. However, he didn’t see anything and ended up going home. He claims it happened around 8:15pm, which solidified Ashton’s alibi.
Due to the disturbing evidence found during the autopsy, along with the fact that there was no forced entry, it is inferred that the killer is someone she knew.
Enter Mark as a suspect. Not only was he the property manager, but he and Ashley also had an intimate relationship. He claims he was gone by 8:15pm, but he is still a suspect. However, there is no evidence for an arrest.
When DNA evidence comes back in 2001, it turns out all the blood belongs to Ashley. This eliminates Mark as a suspect.
Her friends also told investigators that a man named Mike Gargiulo once helped her fix a tire and became her ‘furnace man.’ He claimed that he was expecting a windfall due to a trucking accident, but investigators discovered that this is a lie. When investigators went to question him, he was gone.
Mike was also a suspect in the murder of Tricia Pacaccio from Chicago. She was about to attend Purdue University on scholarship when she was murdered outside her home….in the same style as Ashley. She had evidence under her fingernails that belonged to Mike. He was in and out of trouble and had violent tendencies.
They are not able to find Mike, but find several Dr. Giggles action figures in his apartment, as well as other disturbing evidence. As they search, Mike comes home. He tries to escape, only to be arrested. However, they are only able to get his DNA and have to let him go due to lack of evidence connected to the murder.
Ashley’s loved ones are getting frustrated with the lack of answers. As for Tricia, there is a DNA match with Mike, but not enough for an arrest.
COLD CASE BECOMES HOT
The case remains cold for five years, but still haunts investigators. Around this time another woman named Michelle Murphy was attacked at her home in the middle of the night. While she did not recognize her attacker, the suspect was none other than Mike.
This leads to the unsolved murder of Maria Bruno, who was killed in her own apartment in 2005. Investigators keep connecting the dots and find similarities in the style of killing and the fact that the killer was left handed. The DNA found at Maria’s place (via medical bootie) belonged to Mike. He lived in the same apartment complex as Maria, but was gone by the time investigators went to question him.
By now, the police know Mike is the killer, but have yet to find him. In 2008, they finally locate him and tail him to a drugstore. Once there, they were finally able to make an arrest.
THE ARREST AND TRIAL
However, due to problems with Mike and his lawyers, it took eleven years to finally go to trial. Over seventy people, including Ashton and Michelle, testified. Ashton reiterated how he assumed he saw wine on the floor when he was at her house, while Michelle was positively able to identify Mike as her attacker.
Mike is found guilty and confronted by Ashley’s parents, who talk about how the murder broke their family.
He will be sentenced in July 2021 and still awaiting trial for Tricia’s case.