Woman Fended Off Attack from Alleged 'Thrill Killer' Accused of Slaying Ashton Kutcher's Friend

Michelle Murphy was stabbed eight times in her home

Photo: Santa Monica Police Dept./ZUMApress.com

The evening of April 28, 2008 started off typically for Michelle Murphy.

The 26-year-old arrived home from work to her Santa Monica apartment at 6:45 p.m. She did her laundry and, as part of a once-or-twice-a-week routine, she did sprints and jump rope in the back alley of her apartment complex. Then she watched television before going to bed around 10:30 p.m.

It was a warm Southern California evening, so Murphy left her second story living room window partially open.

It was just the opportunity her soon-to-be attacker would need.

About one hour later, as she was sleeping, a man, dressed in dark clothing and wearing a hooded sweatshirt, climbed onto a ledge next to her living-room window, sliced through the screen and crawled inside. The intruder then walked into her bedroom, straddled her and began stabbing her.

“There was someone on top of me,” Murphy told a Los Angeles jury Monday at the trial of alleged serial killer Michael Gargiulo. “They were stabbing me.”

Ashley Ellerin. Courtesy Los Altos H.S./ZUMApress.com

Prosecutors say Murphy’s attacker was Gargiulo, who lived in the apartment across the alley from Murphy with his then-wife and mother in law.

Gargiulo is now on trial for the attempted murder of Murphy as well as the killings of 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin in 2001 and Maria Bruno, a 32-year-old mother of four, in 2005.

Ellerin and Bruno were viciously stabbed in their Los Angeles area homes and posed after death.

Gargiulo, 43, also faces a murder charge in Illinois in the death of 18-year-old Tricia Pacaccio, who was found stabbed to death outside her Glenview home in 1993.

Prosecutors allege that the former air conditioning repair man and bouncer is a “serial, psychosexual thrill killer” who stalked and then viciously stabbed his unsuspecting victims — all young women who lived near him.

Maria Bruno

“Michael Gargiulo for almost 15 years, was watching,” prosecutor Dan Akemon said during opening statements last week. “Always watching. His hobby was plotting the perfect opportunity to attack women in and around their homes.”

Over 200 people are expected to testify during the six-month trial, including actor Ashton Kutcher, who had planned to meet up with Ellerin on the night of her death.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case.

Murphy, who maintained her composure during her testimony, said she attempted to fend off the vicious blows by wrapping her hands around the blade.

“I was trying to hold the knife to get some leverage to keep it from stabbing me,” she said.

“Why are you doing this?” she recalled asking him.

At one point during the attack, Murphy was able to get her legs underneath her and kick off her attacker, who cut himself during the confrontation and fled.

Just before he ran out the front door, he told her “I’m sorry,” she testified.

Prosecutors allege that blood found in Murphy’s apartment and in a trail leaving her apartment matched DNA found underneath the fingernails of Pacaccio, who was found stabbed to death on her porch after she attended a school rally with friends in 1993. Gargiulo, who lived a block away in the upscale suburb of Glenview, was close friends with Pacaccio’s younger brother.

Tricia Pacaccio
Tricia Pacaccio.

• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

During opening statements, prosecutors said Gargiulo learned how to perfect his knife skills by reading the 1973 book The Anarchist Cookbook.

Gargiulo was arrested on June 6, 2008, by the Santa Monica Police Department and charged with the attempted murder of Murphy. He was later charged with the murders of Ellerin and Bruno. In 2011, he was charged in Illinois with the murder of Pacaccio.

Related Articles