‘Hollywood Ripper’ trial: Ashton Kutcher testifies as "star witness", defence lawyer says
Ashton Kutcher’s testimony in the trial for a man charged with murdering two women and attempting to kill a third in Southern California points to a different suspect, defence lawyer has told jurors.
In his closing arguments, Attorney Daniel Nardoni tried to convince a jury on Wednesday that 43-year-old Michael Gargiulois not the perpetrator of the said crime—as two other men may have been responsible for the killings.
One of the victims, Ashley Ellerin,was killed in her Hollywood home in 2001, but Nardoni argued that the testimony provided by Kutcherin the early days of the trial in May was important when combined with two others.
“Ashton Kutcher is a celebrity star in the entertainment industry,” saidNardoniin a report. “And I believe Ashton Kutcher is the star witness in this case.”
Kutcher, a 41-year-old veteran actor,is best known for his roles in the popular sitcoms That '70s Show and Two and a Half Men. However, he was testifying about an incident that occurred several years ago before he married his first wife, Demi Moore.
During the trial presided by Judge Larry P. Fidler, Kutcher was called as a witness by prosecutors to give his testimony. He acknowledged that he knew the 22-year-old fashiondesign student, Elena, but they were both casual acquaintances with mutual friends.
Kutcher last spoke with the deceased at 8:24 p.m.—as they were both newly single and planning to go out together that night—informing Ellerinthat he was running late, and she told him she had just gotten out of the shower.
Los Angeles Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer, Nardoni, told jurors that Ellerin's apartment manager—an aspiring actor—testified that he was having a sexual relationship with her, and was present in the house when Kutcher called. Nardoni told jurors that Kutcher’s call could have angered him, leading to possible violence.
A neighbour who walkedpastEllerin's house on the night of the murder testified that he heard two screams coming from Ellerin’s house at about 8:30pm while on his way to a nearby dog park. This was just around the time of Kutcher's call—and most likely whenEllerin was murdered, said Nardoni.
Kutcher testified that he arrived at Ellerin's apartmentmuch later in the evening but got no response when he knocked on the door. He then looked inside the house through the window and saw what he thought were wine stains on the floor, but leftthinking she had gone out without him.
“I knocked on the door and there was no answer,” Kutcher said in the packed downtown courtroom in a report.
“I knocked again, and once again, no answer. At this point, I pretty well assumed she had left for the night, and that I was late, and she was upset.”
Nardoniinformed the jurors he did not need to prove that someone else murderedEllerin but establishing the fact that there’s another possible suspect would cast reasonable doubt on Gargiulo’s guilt.
After learning of Ellerin’s death, Kutcher went to the police station to give an account of his relationship with her.
“I remember the next day after I heard about what happened, I went to the detectives and said, 'My fingerprints are on the door,” Kutcher testified. “I was freaking out.”
The defence lawyer told the jury that no physical evidence, no fingerprints, no DNA, nor hair samples were found connecting Gargiulo to the scene in the Ellerin case. Only a shoe-covering bootie that Gargiulo used while working as an air conditioner repairman with his and the victim's DNA was found in the Bruno case—but it was outside her apartment in a complex where both Gargiulo and the victim lived.
Gargiulo lived close to or knew all the victims in the attacks, including the 1993 killing of Tricia Pacaccio, for which he is awaiting a separate trial.
There is far stronger physical evidence for the attempted murder case, in which Michelle Murphy was attacked in 2008 in her bed at her apartment in Santa Monica. But she fought back, causing the attacker to cut himself, leaving a trail of blood as he fell. The DNA in the blood matched DNA collected from Gargiulo during another murder investigation.
Nardoni conceded that count but essentially informed the jurors not to let it influence their decision on the two killings.
“I know that the evidence is much stronger with Michelle Murphy, that's the elephant in the courtroom,”Nardoni said. “You have to judge each case separately.”
Weeks after the Murphy attack, Gargiulo was arrested, and it eventually led to charges for two separate California killings and the murder of 18-year-old Pacaccio.
Pacaccio was the older sister to Gargiulo’s friend in his hometown of Glenview, Illinois, when he was 17.
The Pacaccio family had never met the two witnesses who threw the case wide open until they all came to L.A. to testify. But they must wait for the current trial in L.A. to end before Gargiulo can be brought back to stand trial for the death of their daughter.
“Fighting for this case goes on with me forever. And that's the way it's gonna be,” Diane Pacaccio said.