Man who killed Ashton Kutcher's love interest is facing the death penalty

19 October 2019, 04:49 | Updated: 19 October 2019, 18:23

A serial killer who murdered a woman on the night she was meant to go on a date with Ashton Kutcher may face the death penalty.

The jury in the trial of Michael Gargiulo has recommended capital punishment after he was found guilty of two murders and an attempted murder in August.

Gargiulo, 43, was dubbed "The Boy Next Door Killer" because of how his victims lived close by.

His victims included 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin, who died on he night she was meant to go out with Kutcher in 2001.

During the trial, the star testified that he had arrived late for the date, and looked into her house when there was no answer at the door. He saw what he thought were wine stains, and then left.

Gargiulo as the death penalty recommendation was read out at a brief court hearing on Friday in Los Angeles.

His lawyer Daniel Nardoni argues that his client is mentally ill - and therefore should not face execution. A psychologist previously said in court that the defendant has dissociative personality disorder.

Speaking outside court, Mr Nardoni said he was angry and disappointed, adding: "You don't kill people that are mentally ill.

"It's just a matter of humanity. There's a different kind of punishment for the mentally ill. It's called life without parole."

Once the jury's decision was read out, the judge told Gargiulo that he would be formally sentenced on 28 February, where motions for reduced sentence and a new trial will be considered.

The state of California has not executed anyone since 2006, when Clarence Ray Allen was given a lethal injection for murdering three people.

The state's governor, Gavin Newsom, halted all executions for the period he is in office, earlier in the year.

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During his testimony, Kutcher said he had kept Ellerin waiting for hours when he finally arrived to pick her up from her Hollywood home.

He told the court: "I knocked on the door and there was no answer.

"I knocked again, and once again, no answer. At this point I pretty well assumed she had left for the night, and that I was late, and she was upset.

"I remember the next day after I heard about what happened, I went to the detectives and said 'my fingerprints are on the door'. I was freaking out."

Ms Ellerin was found with multiple stab wounds by her roommate the following morning.

Gargiulo's second victim, 32-year-old Maria Bruno, was stabbed to death while she was asleep in 2005. She had lived in the same building as he did.

When he struck again in 2008, his victim fought him off after he got on top of her and started stabbing her with a knife.

Michelle Murphy, 26, claimed he said "I'm sorry" and fled after she managed to kick him off the bed.