Ashley Ellerin spoke with Ashton Kutcher on the phone mere minutes before her neighbor Michael Gargiulo stabbed her 47 times inside her Hollywood home on February 21, 2001.
On the evening of Feb. 21, 2001, Ashton Kutcher was getting ready for a date. That night, he had plans to go out with a 22-year-old woman named Ashley Ellerin. But when he arrived at her Los Angeles home to pick her up, she didn’t answer the door.
Kutcher peered in the window to see if she was inside and saw what he thought was a red wine stain on the carpet. This didn’t surprise him, as he’d attended a rowdy party there a few days earlier. When Ellerin failed to appear after several minutes, the young actor assumed he’d been stood up.
However, Ashton Kutcher later learned that it was not red wine staining Ellerin’s floor — it was blood. The next morning, Ellerin’s roommate came home to find her body. She had been stabbed 47 times.
Investigators later identified her killer as Michael Gargiulo, also known as “The Hollywood Ripper” and “The Boy Next Door Killer.” However, Gargiulo wouldn’t face justice for his heinous crimes until 2019 — nearly two decades after he brutally murdered Ashley Ellerin.
Ashley Ellerin’s Early Life In New Jersey
Ashley Ellerin was born on July 16, 1978. She grew up in New Jersey after her family moved from California, and although she was the new girl at her school, it did not affect her confidence.
According to her childhood friend Carolyn Murnick, who wrote the book The Hot One: A Memoir of Friendship, Sex, and Murder about Ellerin’s death, Ellerin was the kind of girl who looked “like she knew how to have fun.”
“I liked Ashley right away for a million unquantifiable reasons that, looking back, I can only describe as chemistry and timing. What else was there, really?” she wrote. “She had shiny dark hair and a round face, and she didn’t rush to try to get in with the popular girls or make too much of the curiosity she aroused by being new at school that year in the fourth grade.”
But while Ellerin and Murnick became fast friends in childhood, they gradually drifted apart after the Ellerins moved back to California during their sophomore year of high school.
Ashley Ellerin’s Wild Life In Los Angeles
Although Murnick and Ellerin lost contact for several years, they reconnected around 2000. Ellerin was an aspiring fashion designer and worked at a local strip club, though she confessed to Murnick that on occasion, “there were arrangements that happened in hotels, too.”
Murnick also heard stories that Ellerin had been partying often and trying different drugs. Murnick said it was as if they were speaking different languages, with Ellerin’s being “the language of youth, risk, and sexual possibility.”
It was around this time that Ashley Ellerin started seeing Ashton Kutcher. According to the Los Angeles Times, Kutcher later testified that he first met Ellerin at a friend’s birthday party. He was dating someone else, but he introduced Ellerin to one of his friends.
Neither relationship worked out, though, and eventually, Kutcher and Ellerin made plans to attend a post-Grammys party together. They scheduled the date for Feb. 21, 2001 — the night Ashley Ellerin died.
The Brutal Murder Of Ashley Ellerin
That fateful night, Ashton Kutcher last talked to Ellerin at 8:24 p.m. He told her that he was running late, but she assured him it was no problem because she still needed to dry her hair.
When Kutcher called Ellerin again around 10 p.m. to let her know he was on his way, he couldn’t reach her. He redialed her number multiple times, but she never answered. At 10:45 p.m., he arrived at her house in Hollywood to find the front door locked. \
“I knocked on the door. There was no answer. Knocked again. And once again, no answer,” Kutcher later testified in court. “At this point I pretty well assumed she had left for the night, and that I was late, and she was upset.”
That’s when he peered in through the window and saw what he thought was a red wine stain on the carpet.
“I didn’t really think anything of it,” he said. Kutcher then left.
The next morning, Ellerin’s roommate, Jennifer Disisto, returned home to find her body lying near the bathroom door. She initially believed that Ellerin was playing some kind of practical joke, so she moved closer — and noticed that Ellerin was covered in so much blood that it had matted her hair and stained the carpet red.
Disisto called the police immediately, and investigators quickly determined that her death was a homicide. The question remained, though: Who was the killer?
Michael Gargiulo, ‘The Hollywood Ripper’
It took police years to track down Ashley Ellerin’s murderer. In 2008, a man named Michael Gargiulo was arrested after he violently attacked his neighbor, Michelle Murphy. Detectives later connected him to the deaths of Ellerin and two other women.
The press gave Gargiulo several nicknames, including “The Chiller Killer” and “The Hollywood Ripper.” However, the one that stuck was “The Boy Next Door Killer” because he lived near his victims, stalked them, and attacked them in their own homes.
In fact, Gargiulo had first met Ashley Ellerin when he spotted her trying to fix a flat tire in front of her house. He offered to help her change it — and then continued to show up at her apartment to repair other objects. He came by so frequently that Ellerin’s roommate came to believe he was stalking her.
Still, Ellerin was the kind of woman who wanted to see the good in people. According to LA Weekly, her friends described her as “an amazing person who would make friends with everyone.”
Detective Tom Small, who worked on Ellerin’s case, noted, “Probably someone came to the door and the rest is history. She knew the guy, and according to the people who knew her, if she knew you, she would let you in.”
Gargiulo likely decided to act when he found Ellerin home alone on the night of Feb. 21. Perhaps he made a move and was rejected, or maybe he simply wanted to kill. Regardless of his motive, however, Gargiulo stabbed Ellerin 47 times. The wounds were so severe that she was nearly decapitated.
But Gargiulo had managed to get away with the murder — at least for a while.
Michael Gargiulo likely carried out his first murder in 1993 before going on to kill Ellerin in 2001. Four years later, he struck again, this time stabbing his neighbor Maria Bruno to death in her home in El Monte. When her body was found, investigators noticed that her breasts had been cut off and the implants removed.
Then, in 2008, Gargiulo attacked Murphy in her Santa Monica apartment. She managed to fight him off, and he ran away, leaving a bloody trail behind him.
After years of delayed trials, Michael Gargiulo was found guilty of Ashley Ellerin’s murder in August 2019 and sentenced to death — largely thanks to the testimony of none other than Ashton Kutcher.
After learning about the murder of Ashley Ellerin, read about the shocking case of Brooke Preston, the woman who was killed by her “sleepwalking” roommate. Then, go inside the brutal story of Maddie Clifton, the eight-year-old girl who was murdered by her 14-year-old neighbor.