Ashton Kutcher appeared at a Los Angeles court on Wednesday to testify against a suspected serial killer charged with murdering three women, including 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin, who was dating the actor at the time.
Michael Gargiulo, who has been dubbed the "Hollywood Ripper," has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and an attempted-murder stemming from attacks in the Los Angeles area between 2001 and 2008, the year he was arrested after DNA evidence linked him to one of the killings and a non-fatal attack. His trial began earlier this month and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Ellerin, a part-time stripper and fashion student, was found dead in 2001 in her Hollywood Hills home. The night before, Kutcher had stopped to pick her up for a date.
The actor testified that he met Ellerin about two months before the killing and that she previously dated his friend. He said he had attended a housewarming party at her home about two weeks before her murder, and she told him there that she was single. He said they made plans to go out on a casual date of dinner and drinks. On the day of the date, he said he called her to let her know he was going to be late because he would be attending a Grammy Awards viewing party. He said he called Ellerin almost an hour later and left a voicemail saying he was still running late. He said she called him back from a friend's phone and told him there was no problem.
Kutcher said he later called Ellerin to say he was on his way over to her place but she did not answer. He said he headed to his house, located a few blocks away, took his dogs out and tried calling her again, and she again did not pick up. He said he was "trying to take her on a date and didn't want to seem over eager," so he didn't try to call too much initially. He said he did make his away to her home, and assumed she was home because the lights were on. He said she did not answer the door, and that he looked through a window and noticed it was messy inside, but didn't think much of it because he knew she had recently moved in and had the housewarming party. He said he then noticed what he thought were red wine stains on a carpeted stairway. He said he then left.
Her roommate discovered her body the following morning. Prosecutors say Gargiulo stabbed Ellerin 47 times.
Kutcher's testimony on Wednesday marked his first public comments about Ellerin's killing.
Kutcher also testified that he remembered "freaking out" about having fingerprints on her door knob after the murder and that he told the police everything he knew and was not involved in the killing. Gargiulo's attorney joked, "Don't worry you're not a suspect." Ashton laughed and said thank you, and ended his testimony. He took a deep breath and walked out of the courtroom.
For 15 years, Gargiulo, 43, is believed to have stalked young women who lived near him and allegedly sometimes used his job as an air-conditioning repairman to gain entry into their homes in a bid to later attack them.
In addition to Ellerin, he is accused of fatally stabbing 32-year-old Maria Bruno, who was found dead in her apartment in El Monte, California in 2005 with her breasts had cut off. He is also suspected of stabbing another woman in her Santa Monica apartment in 2008. She survived.
When asked about the California attacks, Gargiulo told CBS' 48 Hours in 2011, "I'm 100 percent innocent."
Gargiulo is also expected to stand trial over the 1993 fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Tricia Pacaccio at the doorstep of her family's home near Chicago.
Gargiulo's attorney Daniel Nardoni had previously told the Los Angeles jury that his client denies killing all three women.