DOWNTOWN — A Santa Monica man already accused of killing actor Ashton Kutcher’s former girlfriend and another woman was charged in an arrest warrant late Wednesday in the 1993 brutal stabbing death of a Chicago-area teen.
Michael Thomas Gargiulo, 35, an air condition repairman who has also been charged with the attempted murder of a Santa Monica woman, stabbed 18-year-old Tricia Lynn Pacaccio as she tried to enter her parents’ home in Glenview, Ill., officials with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said.
Pacaccio had 12 stab wounds to her torso and sustained a broken arm in the attack on Aug. 14, 1993, according to the arrest warrant. Pacaccio’s body was discovered by her father a few hours after the murder. She was fully clothed and her purse and keys were found by her body. Police said there were no signs of a robbery attempt.
At the time, detectives said they believed the killer had been waiting for Pacaccio to return home that night. They called the slaying a crime of passion and said they were certain she knew her attacker.
In the hours before her death, police said Pacaccio was seen with friends participating in a scavenger hunt with 50 to 60 people. She then went to a restaurant to socialize before heading home. She was killed a week before she was due at Purdue University, where she planned to study engineering and environmental issues. In her high-school yearbook, she said she wanted to “save the world,” according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.
Police said they had DNA evidence extracted from Pacaccio’s fingernails that led them to Gargiulo in 2003, but they could not determine if that DNA came from casual contact he had with her by having been in her home and around her. Gargiulo lived one block away from Pacaccio at the time of the murder and was good friends with one of her younger brothers, authorities said.
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez told the Tribune the DNA match just wasn’t enough. “I have a duty as state’s attorney to not bring charges that are insufficient,” she said. “(DNA) is not the silver bullet.”
Then in May of this year, two people, identified as witnesses D and E in the arrest warrant, came forward and said Gargiulo admitted that he killed a girl in Chicago. Gargiulo confessed while he was working with the witnesses at a bar and grill in Los Angeles in the late 1990s, according to the arrest warrant.
Witness D, who came forward after watching a profile on the Pacaccio case on the CBS show “48 Hours Mystery,” claimed Gargiulo told him he was wanted in Chicago, that he “had a body,” and that he stabbed a girl.
Witness E said Gargiulo told him he had buried the girl, but then said: “I’m only kidding. I actually left the bitch on the step for dead,” according to the warrant.
“We have never given up on Tricia Pacaccio or her family and their search for justice in this case,” Alvarez said in a statement to the media. “It has been a very difficult and challenging investigation, but we are extremely pleased to be finally bringing this charge and hopefully providing some measure of closure to a family that has been devastated by a violent crime that no one should have to endure.”
Gargiulo was arrested in June of 2008 at his Santa Monica apartment on Euclid Street on suspicion of attempted murder. The case involved a Santa Monica woman who fought off an intruder who stabbed her repeatedly after breaking into her home late at night.
Police said DNA evidence collected at the scene linked Gargiulo to the crime through a national database that included the DNA sample taken in the Pacaccio case.
Gargiulo was subsequently charged with the February 2001 stabbing death of 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin, a model-actress who was dating Kutcher of the “That ‘70s Show” fame. Her body was found in her Hollywood Hills home. At the time, Kutcher told LAPD detectives that he went to pick up Ellerin for a post-Grammy Awards party, but that she did not answer the door.
Gargiulo has also been charged in the December 2005 stabbing death of Maria Bruno in an El Monte, Calif. apartment.
He is currently being held without bail at the Men’s Central Jail awaiting trial. Los Angeles County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 16, said Jane Robison, spokesperson for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.