Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Michael Gargiulo: Alleged Hollywood Ripper

Unfinished Business

Gargiulo was arrested for the Murphy attack on June 6, 2008. While sitting in jail, he plotted an escape, according to court files.

Ten days after his arrest, he snapped off the head of a plastic spoon that had been given him for a meal. He whittled the straight piece down to a point with his teeth and tried to unlock his handcuffs. This episode was videotaped.

"He talked about being locked in, left alone sitting in a chair, climbing up into the ceiling, running down to another part of the building, coming down, popping out a window, jumping and running over a fence," Los Angeles County Sheriff's Detective Michael Staley testified later.

Gargiulo also talked about "disabling the jailer with a throat punch" and "stating that would be a fatal punch," Staley said. The escape never happened, but an extra charge of attempted escape was added to his case.

Gargiulo was in jail without any bail and went through a string of defense attorneys that he fired before settling on one that represented him in a two-week preliminary hearing that began on June 21, 2008 and included dozens of witnesses, including numerous people who knew Gargiulo.

Cooks County Sherrif's badge
Cooks County Sherrif's badge
In that hearing, the judge allowed the prosecution to introduce evidence of Pacaccio's murder, ruling that the case had substantial similarity and a reasonable likelihood that Gargiulo committed the crime. The evidence was admissible under California law used to offer proof of other crimes, in this case, the California stabbings.

Gargiulo was ordered to stand trial, but that was a small comfort to the Pacaccios, who were angered by the fact that Cook County prosecutor Scott Cassidy rejected filing the Pacaccio case despite the DNA evidence. The couple said they were told that Tricia could've obtained Gargiulo's DNA by accepting a ride in his van the day before.

"It's just a made-up reason for not arresting Michael," Diane Pacaccio said. "First of all, he was never a friend of my daughter's and never had anything to do with her. How could she be out with all her friends that night and no one else's DNA is on her?"

Rick Pacaccio said he had spent 17 years campaigning for justice in his daughter's death, even contacting the FBI and his congressman. Everything had fallen on deaf ears.

"If the people of the state of Illinois are stupid enough to believe [Gargiulo] didn't do it, shame on them," he said. "All we want is our daughter to have justice, and they're robbing her of that. Her civil rights are being violated from one individual standing on the way."

Cassidy has since changed jobs and is now head of investigations for the Cook County Sheriff's Office. He refused to return phone calls asking why no case has been filed even though a California judge allowed evidence of Pacaccio's murder to help prove the knifings of three other women. Numerous phone calls to spokespeople for the Cook County State's Attorney's Office and the Cook County Sheriff's Office have not been returned.

Calls to Gargiulo's attorney were not returned.

Asked for a motive for the killings, Lillienfeld could give none.

"You're trying to apply logic to an illogical situation and person," the veteran detective said. "The things that interest him and excite him and whet his appetite are not that of a normal person. The things that interest him are macabre, such as murder and cutting people up."

Added Small: "He wants to exert some sort of control over his sick, twisted mind. Something that trips his trigger, and he goes to work."

Great police work solves cases, but Lewis admitted, "We really got lucky. I think the true hero in this is Michelle Murphy."

Summing everything up, Lillienfeld said the whole case is like the plot of some horror movie.

"It's every woman's nightmare waking up to a stranger in a bedroom standing over them with a knife. Hollywood couldn't have typecast this better. It's one thing to wake up with Brad Pitt, but not this guy."


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