Serial killer known as the “Hollywood Ripper” to learn whether he faces death penalty

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Michael Gargiulo

Michael Gargiulo smiles as his attorney presents closing arguments in the trial of People vs. Michael Gargiulo Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, in Los Angeles. Closing arguments continued Wednesday in the trial of the air conditioning repairman charged with killing two Southern California women and attempting to kill a third. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, Pool)

LOS ANGELES, Ca (CBS).– Next month, a Los Angeles jury will decide whether the serial killer known as the “Hollywood Ripper” should get the death penalty. In August, Michael Gargiulo was convicted of the murders of two women, and the attempted murder of a third. “48 Hours” correspondent Maureen Maher has been investigating “The Hollywood Ripper” for more than 10 years. Her reporting continues in this week’s season premiere of “48 Hours.”

“No one has spoken publicly,” Maher told “CBS This Morning” about the surviving victim and the family members of the others. “That is because the case is technically not over and there’s still witnesses. But I know for a fact from one of the California family members, they’re very much looking forward to finally being able to talk to each other because the prosecution has asked them to please keep to themselves because they are witnesses in the case. I just don’t think anyone thought it would take 11 years.”

Actor Ashton Kutcher testified in the case. Kutcher was supposed to go on a date with Ashley Ellerin in 2001, but she never answered the door when he arrived at her home to pick her up for a party.

“He rang the doorbell and nobody answered,” “48 Hours” consultant and former federal prosecutor Mary Fulginiti said. “He saw what he thought was spilled wine all over the place. Unfortunately, we later learned that that was her blood.”

Ellerin’s body was found the next morning, stabbed more than 47 times. Kutcher told the jury when he eventually learned Ellerin was murdered, he, “freaked out” knowing his fingerprints were on her door. Never a suspect, he was concerned about what he left behind, unlike the killer who very carefully covered his tracks. A onetime-close friend of Gargiulo told “48 Hours” that Gargiulo would go online whenever he could to research forensics and “how to get away with a crime.”

In 2005, a mother of 4 young children, Maria Bruno, was stabbed to death. The killer left only a blue surgical bootie outside the scene. Three years later, there was an attack on Michelle Murphy, but she survived.

Prosecutors say Gargiulo always lived near his victims so he could watch them because the stalking gave him a sexual thrill. Gargiulo was arrested in 2008.

Maher said Gargiulo had a nonplussed demeanor throughout his trial and changed his appearance by shaving his head.

“And one interesting note, he had a wedding ring on, the whole time during the trial,” Maher said. “And we could not get an answer from the defense, who is he married to? And we heard afterward that he has a relationship with somebody.”

“48 Hours” takes another look at the case during their two-hour season premiere, Saturday, September 14, at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

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