Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Michael Gargiulo: Alleged Hollywood Ripper

Santa Monica

Santa Monica, Calif.
Santa Monica, Calif.

Santa Monica is a wealthy playground of sun, fun, and beautiful people. In 2008, it was home to Michelle Murphy, a beautiful, 28-year-old blonde who worked in movie post-production and lived in an upstairs apartment a dozen blocks from the beach.

Often going for a jog or exercising in the carport under her apartment, Murphy would sometimes see a van parked in the alley with the name "Gus the Plumber" painted on the side. Once in a while she'd see a tall, dark-haired man near the van and would say hello in passing.

On April 28, 2008, Murphy went to sleep just like any other night, but suddenly awoke, just before midnight, to the searing pain of someone plunging a knife into her chest. A man was straddling her body and continued stabbing her in the shoulder and right arm as she wriggled sideways to get away. At one point, Murphy grabbed hold of the blade, which sliced her fingers to the bone, according to police.

The assailant was having a difficult time holding down Murphy, who was nude and slippery because of her blood. At one point, the attacker ended up slicing his wrist.

"He paused, and this allowed Michelle to get feet under his chest and launched him off bed and onto wall. He hit the bedroom door," said Santa Monica police Sgt. Rich Lewis.

The attacker then mumbled, "Sorry," before escaping out the front door. He had entered through a window, but had left the front door ajar for an easy getaway after the attack. Murphy's quick wits and tenacity had saved her life.

Lewis responded to the scene and found a blood trail leading down Murphy's steps and across the alley and down a walkway toward another apartment complex. The blood-soaked bedding was tested for DNA as were the outside droplets.

A month later Lewis had a match, thanks to the DNA blood sample that Chicago investigators had entered into a national database. It was Michael Gargiulo.

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