true crime

Ashton Kutcher's girlfriend was murdered in 2001. Now a man is on trial for the crime.

On the night of February 21, 2001, Ashton Kutcher drove to his girlfriend’s home behind the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Sunset Strip.

The actor had been dating Ashley Ellerin, a fashion student and part-time exotic dancer, for a few weeks.

The pair were originally meant to meet up earlier in the night for dinner and drinks, but Kutcher watched the Grammy Awards with friends at actress Kristy Swanson’s house instead.

He called Ellerin several times throughout the night but she didn’t pick up.

After leaving Swanson’s home, he decided to drive straight to Ellerin’s apartment to make amends with her.

When he arrived at the Hollywood Hills apartment at around 10.45pm, all the lights were on, and Ellerin’s maroon BMW was parked outside.

Kutcher knocked on the door, but Ellerin didn’t answer.

According to the Washington Post, he then peered in the front window and saw what he thought was red wine stains on the floor.

The actor assumed 22-year-old Ellerin had headed out for the night, or wasn’t answering the door because she was upset with him.

He headed home and didn’t think much else of it.

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Ashley Ellerin. Image: Social.

The next morning, he would discover Ellerin was not mad at him. She had been murdered in her apartment that night and the 'red wine stains' he saw on the floor were actually her blood.

She had been brutally murdered, her throat slit with such force she was almost decapitated, her body punctured with dozens of stab wounds. She was later discovered by her roommate, Justin Peterson.

This week, the actor testified at the trial of Michael Gargiulo, the man accused of murdering Ellerin.

“I assumed she had left for the night and I was late and she was upset,” he testified. “I just assumed she had gone out with her friend and bailed.”

“I saw what I thought was red wine spilled on the carpet,” he said. “But that wasn’t alarming because I went to her house party [days before] and it was like a college party. I didn’t think much about it.”

Kutcher told the court after hearing about Ellerin's murder the next day, he immediately contacted the police. The actor was worried he had been at the scene of the crime and that his fingerprints were on the door knob.

“My fingerprints are on this door and I was freaking out,” he testified. “I told [an officer], ‘Let me tell you what happened.'”

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Ellerin's murder remained unsolved for seven years, until 2008, when police connected her case to Michael Gargiulo.

Gargiulo - who is now known as the 'Hollywood Ripper' - is currently accused of murdering two other women and he's possibly responsible for as many as 10 murders.

The now 43-year-old was originally from Glenview, Illinois. It's alleged that on August 14, 1993, Gargiulo stabbed his neighbour, Tricia Pacaccio, to death on her back door step.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the 18-year-old's body was found later that morning by her father. There were numerous stab wounds on her chest, shoulder and neck.

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Ashton Kutcher testifying at the trial. Image: Getty.

Five years later, in 1998, Gargiulo moved to California, allegedly to escape increasing scrutiny from the Illinois police.

In the early noughties, he moved next door to Ellerin.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, Ellerin first met Gargiulo when he offered to help her change a flat tyre. The fashion student then invited him to a few parties at her house. After a little while, her friends became concerned that Gargiulo was becoming increasingly fixated on Ellerin. Some people reported that Gargiulo would stare at Ellerin's house for long periods of time.

Then she was killed.

Gargiulo would later move to El Monte, California. There, it's alleged he stabbed to death another neighbour on December 1, 2005. Maria Bruno, 35, lived across the street from Gargiulo and was found dead with 17 stab wounds on her body.

Bruno's friends would later allege that Gargiulo was stalking her and had once entered her apartment uninvited.

Gargiulo then relocated to Santa Monica. On April 28, 2008, Gargiulo allegedly attempted to kill his neighbour, Michelle Murphy.

Murphy told the court she had been asleep for about an hour that night, when she woke up to a man straddling her, and stabbing her arm and chest.

Murphy managed to fight off her attacker and survived. Gargiulo's DNA was found at the scene and he was eventually linked to the murders of Ashley Ellerin, Tricia Pacaccio, and Maria Bruno.

Gargiulo's trial for capital murder is expected to last six months. He has pleaded not guilty.

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