DOWNTOWN L.A. — A Santa Monica man was ordered Wednesday to stand trial on charges that he murdered two women, including a young fashion designer who had dated actor Ashton Kutcher.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson found sufficient evidence to require 34-year-old Michael Thomas Gargiulo to proceed to trial for the slayings of Ashley Ellerin on Feb. 22, 2001, and Maria Bruno on Dec. 1, 2005.

The murder charges include the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and lying in wait. The judge dismissed a third special circumstance allegation — murder during the course of a burglary.

Prosecutors have not yet decided whether they will pursue capital punishment.

Along with the two murder counts, Gargiulo is charged with two counts of first-degree burglary involving break-ins at the victims’ homes and attempted murder and first-degree burglary involving another woman on April 28, 2008.

He is also charged with one count of attempted escape.

Ellerin, 22, was found dead in her Hollywood Hills home, and Bruno, 32, was killed in her El Monte apartment. Both had been stabbed, as was the woman who survived the April 2008 attack.

Gargiulo was initially arrested by Santa Monica police on June 6, 2008, in connection with the non-fatal stabbing. Prosecutors added the murder charges in September 2008.

Gargiulo is due back at the Downtown Los Angeles courthouse for arraignment on July 14.

news@smdp.com

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