WARNING: The details of this case extremely graphic in nature and may be disturbing to some viewers. Reader discretion is advised.
The trial began on Thursday for a man accused of killing young, attractive women in the Los Angeles area for his sexual gratification, known as the "Hollywood Ripper."
Michael Gargiulo, 43, is charged in the vicious stabbing deaths of two women, including a woman who dated actor Ashton Kutcher. Gargiulo also is charged with trying to kill a woman during a robbery at her Santa Monica home.
Prosecutors described how Gargiulo allegedly stalked his victims before he attacked them.
His method “was to first identify a target who lived near him, acquaint himself with that victim and her habits and routines, and then watch, shadow, stalk and hunt down the victim relentlessly as part of his plan to kill,” prosecutor Daniel Akemon said.
In court filings, prosecutors have described Gargiulo as a “serial, psychosexual, thrill killer."
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
His alleged victims were 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin in 2001 and 32-year-old Maria Bruno in 2005. Both women were brutally killed in their Los Angeles area homes.
“His hobby was plotting the perfect opportunity to attack women with a knife in and around their homes,” Akemon said. He later added, "They all lived near Gargiulo. He had targeted them for murder and he ultimately attacked all of them with a knife.''
Ellerin was dating Ashton Kutcher at the time and they had planned to go to a post-Grammy-Award party the night she was killed. She was stabbed 47 times in the hallway outside her bathroom in an attack in which she was nearly decapitated, prosecutors said on Thursday.
Kutcher — who had spoken to Ellerin on the phone a little over two hours earlier — arrived at her house that night and left after looking through a window and seeing what he believed were wine stains on the floor, Akemon said. The young woman's roommate discovered her dead the next morning. Kutcher is named as a potential witness and could be called to testify in court, sources said.
Gargiulo subsequently moved to El Monte and lived in the same apartment complex where Bruno was "mutilated" as she slept, the deputy district attorney said. He alleged that Gargiulo stabbed and slashed the 32-year-old woman multiple times, cut off her breasts, tried to remove her breast implants and placed one of her breasts in her mouth. A blue surgical bootie that was found outside the woman's front door contained drops of her blood along with Gargiulo's DNA around the elastic band, Akemon said.
The defendant's "killing spree" ended after the April 28, 2008, attack on 26-year-old Michelle Murphy, who fought back after being confronted while she was asleep, the prosecutor said. Gargiulo ran from her residence, bleeding profusely and yelling "I'm sorry," according to Akemon.
Gargiulo was arrested in June 2008 by Santa Monica police in connection with the attack on Murphy, and was subsequently charged with the killings of Ellerin and Bruno.
The murder charges include the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder by means of lying in wait, along with allegations that he used a knife in the commission of the crimes.
Gargiulo also faces a murder charge in the state of Illinois, where he is accused of killing 18-year-old Tricia Pacaccio. Pacaccio was found stabbed to death outside her home in Glenview in 1993.
Opening statements for the trial began on Thursday. The trial is expected to take six months.
CNS contributed to this report.