CHICAGO (AP) — A man charged in the stabbing deaths of two California women, including the onetime girlfriend of actor Ashton Kutcher, and with slashing another has been charged in the 1993 slaying of an teenage girl who lived in his suburban Chicago neighborhood, prosecutors said Thursday.
Michael Gargiulo, who has been in custody in California since 2008, is charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of 18-year-old Tricia Pacaccio, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said at a news conference. The break in the case came when two former co-workers of Gargiulo came forward after watching a May episode of "48 Hours Mystery" that examined Gargiulo's cases, she said.
"These witnesses contacted our office and provided us with information that Gargiulo had admitted to them that he had killed a girl in Chicago," said Alvarez, who explained that the statements were crucial because the DNA evidence alone was not sufficient to file charges.
Thursday's announcement is the latest twist in the investigations of a man who is now charged with fatally stabbing three women in two states and trying to kill of a fourth woman who survived a vicious knife attack.
Gargiulo, 35, was arrested three years ago after that attack, which left the Santa Monica, Calif., woman seriously injured. He was later charged in the 2001 stabbing death of 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin, who had been dating Kuchter when she was killed in her Hollywood Hills home, and in the 2005 stabbing death of Maria Bruno, 32, whose body was found in the Los Angeles County community of Monterey Park.
California prosecutors are trying all of the cases from that state together, and they are seeking the death penalty, said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. Gibbons said a trial date has not been set, but Gargiulo is scheduled to appear in court for a pre-trial conference on Aug. 16. His attorney in California, Charles Lindner, did not immediately return a call for comment.
Like the three California women, Pacaccio was attacked at her home. According to court records, she was in the driveway of her family's home in unincorporated Glenview northwest of Chicago after returning from a party when she was stabbed a dozen times. Her family was sleeping inside the home, unable to hear what was going on because they had the air conditioners running. She was found dead on the doorstep, still clutching her house key.
Alvarez said her office has long suspected that Gargiulo, who lived down the street from Pacaccio and was a friend of her brother, was involved in the slaying. Just after the killing, investigators interviewed a woman who said Gargiulo told her that he had to "get rid of his knives" because he was worried police would "frame him." Ten years later, in 2003, investigators were even dispatched to California, where Gargiulo was living, to obtain a search warrant from a judge that allowed them to collect a DNA sample from him.
Gargiulo's sample matched DNA collected from Pacaccio's fingernails, but Alvarez said it wasn't enough to charge him. She said a big problem was that there was no way to determine if the DNA got there during an attack or during what she called "casual contact." She said it was unknown if the DNA was collected from the surface of the fingernails or from beneath them.
She said there were other ways the DNA could have gotten on her fingernails; Gargiulo had visited the Pacaccio's home and Pacaccio had been in his car.
Pacaccio's parents have criticized Alvarez's office for not charging Gargiulo after the DNA match was made. On Thursday, they could not be reached for comment, but Diane Pacaccio released a statement through Chicago Magazine, which ran a lengthy story on the case this month, calling prosecutors' efforts "pathetic."
"As long as he murdered only my daughter, they didn't care, they didn't do anything about it," she said. "They were willing to leave it an open case forever."
But Alvarez, who inherited the case from her predecessor, Dick Devine, when she was elected in 2008, disputed that contention. "We've never given up on this case," she said.
Alvarez said that when the two people contacted her office, they provided "very specific statements" about what Gargiulo allegedly told them when they worked at the same Southern California bar in the late 1990s, including that he said he left his victim "on the step for dead."