LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles jury recommended the death penalty Friday for a man dubbed “The Boy Next Door Killer” after he was found guilty of two murders and an attempted murder.
The victims of 43-year-old Michael Gargiulo included 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin, who was killed on a night in 2001 when she had plans with actor Ashton Kutcher.
He testified during the trial that he arrived late for his date with Ellerin, looked into her house when there was no answer at the door, and saw what he thought were wine stains before leaving.
Authorities called Gargiulo “The Boy Next Door Killer” because he lived near all the victims.
Gargiulo also was convicted of the 2005 murder of 32-year-old Maria Bruno and the 2008 attempted murder of Michelle Murphy, who testified during the trial’s penalty phase that she lived in fear for years after the attack.
Murphy fought when she was attacked in bed in her Santa Monica apartment. Authorities said Gargiulo cut himself and left a trail of blood that allowed prosecutors to tie him to the other cases, including a 1997 killing in Illinois for which he is still awaiting trial.
Murphy was also a key witness during the first phase of the trial.
“In the days, weeks and months after it happened, I barely even slept,” Murphy testified. “I feared the nighttime and going to bed. I still slept with the lights on for a long time.”
All three women were attacked in their Southern California homes when Gargiulo lived nearby and watched his victims. Ellerin become an acquaintance before the attacks.
Ellerin’s mother and other victims’ family members also testified during the penalty phase.
When she learned about the death of her daughter, Cynthia Ellerin said, “I fell to my knees on the floor and started crawling around the bedroom on my hands and knees like an animal, screaming.”
“I ache for her,” Cynthia Ellerin said. “I ache to hold her. I ache to hear her voice, to hug her. But that’s not going to happen.”
Gargiulo’s 16-year-old son also took the stand, asking jurors for mercy and telling them he needs a father who is alive.
After the jury’s decision was read in court, Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler ordered Gargiulo to return for formal sentencing on Feb. 28.
California has not executed anyone since 2006, and Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this year halted executions for as long as he is in office.
Courts have been proceeding on the assumption that executions may one day resume.
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton.