Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Michael Gargiulo: Alleged Hollywood Ripper

The Name

In Detective Small's line of work, too many coincidences are usually suspicious. And this strange heater guy who had no name had been neither a friend nor a lover of Ellerin, yet he had frequently sought her company. Always the gregarious one, Ellerin had complied.

During numerous interviews, Small was told that the heater guy had once bragged about suing the owner of a truck who had struck him while he had been crossing a street near his home. The vehicle had belonged to a contractor who had been constructing the Kodak Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, now home to the Academy Awards ceremony.

Michael Gargiulo (r) with an unidentified woman.
Michael Gargiulo (r) with an unidentified
woman.
Small contacted that company and inquired about lawsuits with pedestrians. None were found. Undaunted, he did a records check on all reported accidents in that area around the time of construction and came up with a hit: someone had struck a dog and the dog's owner had been one Michael Gargiulo.

Now he had a name, and with that came a driver license picture. Armed with the new information, Small revisited his witnesses with a grouping of six photos including Gargiulo's and asked them to pick out Gargiulo if possible. They did.

Small continued working the case. Then things took an unexpected turn in the fall of 2002. While at work one day, Small was visited by a few detectives who had flown out from the Cook County Sheriff's Office in Illinois. They had a photo of Gargiulo and his name.

"When they said the name, I asked my partner to come over quick," Small said. "They said, 'You know that guy?' I said, 'I think he's a potential suspect in my case.' They were taken aback."

The Cook County detectives were investigating a 1993 murder and had tracked Gargiulo to Los Angeles in hopes of obtaining a DNA sample. He could not be located. In the following weeks, Small obtained a search warrant for a new Los Angeles address where Gargiulo was last known to have lived, a van he was driving, and a court-ordered DNA sample.

The van was located and detectives found three different knives, a box cutter, binoculars, and the vehicle's license plates inside. Gargiulo's apartment was sparsely furnished with no furniture other than a kitchen table and a chair. Bedding was on the floor and men's clothing hung in the closet. A backpack containing a plastic Halloween mask and a handgun was also found, according to court files.

Gargiulo eventually arrived home and he was transported to a hospital to give blood, hair, and urine samples for a DNA test that would be forwarded to Cook County.

"What if my DNA was on a keychain that was left at a crime scene?" Gargiulo suddenly blurted out while en route to the hospital, court records said. "They can't find my DNA from 10 years ago at a crime scene can they? Why did it take them so long to find the DNA?"

LAPD Detective Michael Pelletier, who was in charge of taking Gargiulo to the hospital, later testified to saying: "What are you talking about?"

"Never mind," Gargiulo replied.

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