By Katie Campione
Jurors on Thursday found a man prosecutors have dubbed “The Boy Next Door Killer” was sane when he fatally stabbed two women and tried to kill a third inside their Southern California homes.
The decision was announced after less than a day of deliberations in the sanity phase of the trial of Michael Gargiulo.
Last week the same jury found Gargiulo guilty of the 2005 murder of 32-year-old Maria Bruno in El Monte and the 2001 murder of 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin, who was waiting at her Hollywood home before a planned date with actor Ashton Kutcher. Gargiulo was also convicted of the 2008 attempted murder of Michelle Murphy.
Gargiulo’s attorneys, citing expert trial testimony, argued that he suffers from dissociative identity disorder, previously known as multiple personality disorder.
Gargiulo, who lived near all the victims, did not visibly react to the verdict.
Jurors were told to expect to return on Sept. 9 for the trial’s penalty phase, although a judge said the date could shift.
Gargiulo, 43, has been found guilty of several special-circumstance allegations , including lying in wait and multiple murders, which make him eligible for the death penalty or life in prison with no possibility of parole.
His lawyers declined comment after Thursday’s sanity verdict.
Gargiulo is a native of the Chicago area who moved to Los Angeles in the late 1990s. During the trial he was described as having acting aspirations and working as an air conditioning repairman and Hollywood nightclub bouncer at the time of the attacks.
His defense lawyers urged jurors to reject the case, citing little physical evidence tying him to the killings of Bruno and Ellerin.
Prosecutors cited uncannily similar patterns in home-invasion attacks that were all in places near his residence at the time.
Gargiulo is also awaiting trial in Illinois, where he is accused of killing a woman in 1993.
Allowed to cite evidence from the Illinois case, they said all four attacks were the work of a skilled serial killer who studied the lives, homes and habits of victims that he stabbed quickly, powerfully and repeatedly with a knife that he knew how to use, and studied ways to cover his tracks.