true crime

Ashton Kutcher's girlfriend was murdered in 2001. So why is her story being resurfaced now?

This post deals with violence and rape and might be triggering for some readers.

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, so after leaving Swanson's home, he drove 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.

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 was later discovered by her roommate, Justin Peterson.

Now in 2023, Ellerin's death has become a speculatory part of an internet storm against Kutcher, and his wife Mila Kunis, following the letters that they wrote for their former That '70s Show co-star, convicted rapist Danny Masterson.

Read more: Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis have issued a truly awkward apology after defending Danny Masterton.

Following Masterson's convictions, one of his accusers — his ex, Chrissie Carnell Bixler — has shared a number of old clips and accusations on social media that allude to concerning on-set dynamics and details of the night Ellerin died.

"Dear Ashton, I know the secrets your 'role model' keeps for you. Ones that would end you. Did you forget I was there? You were on speaker phone that night you called Danny on February 21, 2001. I hear everything. I heard the plan. In my opinion, you're just as sick as your 'mentor.'"

Image: Instagram.


Bixler was Jane Doe 3 in the trial against Masterson. The jury could not reach a verdict on her allegation that Masterson raped her.

In May 2019, Kutcher testified at the trial of Michael Gargiulo, the man now convicted 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. 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 doorknob.

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


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' — was accused of murdering two other women, and is possibly responsible for as many as 10 murders.

The now 47-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 doorstep.

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.

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, 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 attempted to kill his new 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.

In 2019, Gargiulo was convicted of two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. 

On Saturday 18th July, 2021, he was sentenced to death for the murders of Ellerin and Bruno. He was also found guilty of the attempted murder of Michelle Murphy. 

"Everywhere that Mr Gargiulo went, death and destruction followed him," Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler said as he handed down the sentencing.

Gargiulo is now expected to stand trial in Illinois for the killing of 18-year-old Pacaccio. 

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.

This article was originally published on August 16, 2019, and has been updated.

Feature Image: Californian Court. 

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