Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Michael Gargiulo: Alleged Hollywood Ripper

A Horrific Scene

Ellerin's roommate didn't sleep at home the night of the Grammys because she had left her keys at a friend's house. Half an hour before Kutcher showed up, she had knocked on the door, hoping to get in. Ellerin's car was in the driveway and the lights were on. When there was no answer, Jennifer Disisto left and came back at 8:30 the next morning after she had retrieved her keys.

Upon entering the house, Disisto didn't notice anything unusual at first. Then she saw Ellerin on a carpeted landing leading to the bedrooms.

Ashton Kutcher
Ashton Kutcher

"She kind of played a lot of jokes," Disisto later testified in court. "I kind of walked toward her. As I got closer, I knew. She was relatively blue in the face and some blood around here. There was blood around her mouth."

Wearing a turquoise terry cloth robe, Ellerin lay face up on the landing, sprawled in a large pool of blood. Someone had tried to cut off Ellerin's head, creating a wound so deep that it had only been stopped by her spinal cord. Her attacker evidently tried to finish the job from behind; a v-shaped wound was gouged across the back of her neck as well. High-velocity blood spatter flung from the murder weapon marked the walls, ceiling, and even a nearby bathroom.

In a frenzied attack, someone had stabbed the model 47 times as she had vainly tried to fend off the assailant with her hands and arms, even grabbing the blade of the knife at one point. Ellerin was stabbed in the chest, abdomen and in the back, with some of the wounds so deep that they pierced her lung. Twelve of her wounds -- some up to six inches deep -- would have been fatal by themselves, according to a medical examiner.

The back of her head had been stabbed as well.

"One of [the stabbings] actually penetrated the skull and took out a chunk of skull like a puzzle piece," Los Angeles police Detective Tom Small would later testify.

Ellerin's legs were slightly apart and one of them bent -- an odd way to fall, leading Small to speculate that her body had been moved. Some of her chest wounds appeared to have a downward thrust, suggesting she had been on the ground when stabbed.

A bloody Adidas tennis shoe print on the hardwood living room floor led away from the gruesome scene. In less than two years, Ellerin's Hollywood dream had violently ended.

"This was...violent overkill," said Small, who responded to the scene as the lead detective. "[The killer was] a modern-day Jack the Ripper. Vicious and very personal. He wanted to inflict as many wounds as he could. I knew in my mind that the person who did this was a serial killer; that he had done this before and had gotten away with it."

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