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L.A. detective: Murder suspect could have killed 10 women

 Michael Gargiulo

Michael Gargiulo

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Updated: July 13, 2011 2:25PM

Accused serial killer Michael Gargiulo — charged last week in a north suburban girl’s cold-case murder — could be responsible for up to 10 murders, a California homicide detective told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Gargiulo, a native of unincorporated Northfield Township, was charged last week with first-degree murder in the 1993 stabbing of 18-year-old Tricia Pacaccio, a Glenbrook South High School graduate preparing to attend Purdue University.

Gargiulo was previously charged with murder in 2008 in the stabbings of two Southern California women in 2001 and 2005. He also was charged with attempted murder in a 2008 knife attack on a California woman.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide detective Mark Lillienfeld said Gargiulo gave law-enforcement authorities a cryptic statement in 2008 after he was jailed in California.

Gargiulo, 35, said he was an air-conditioner repairman and was in thousands of homes over the years, according to Lillienfeld.

While in Los Angeles County Jail, Gargiulo allegedly told authorities that just because 10 women in those homes were killed — and his DNA was present — doesn’t mean he murdered anyone .

Although Gargiulo is charged in the two California murders and the Pacaccio slaying, police have not linked him to any other murders.

But Lillienfeld said Gargiulo’s reference to 10 women being killed convinced the detective that there are other victims. The statement was made public during a court hearing in Los Angeles, Lillienfeld said.

Cook County officials, though, said they have listened to recordings of Gargiulo and have reviewed court transcripts but are unaware of any incriminating statements made by him.

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s spokeswoman dubbed Lillienfeld’s comments “inflammatory and misleading.”

“In our assessment, there were no admissions made that could be used to connect and prove his involvement in other murders,” said Alvarez spokeswoman Sally Daly,

“Clearly, if admissions were made that could be proven in a court of law, Gargiulo would likely be facing additional charges by prosecutors in Los Angeles.”

Los Angeles detectives are particularly interested in one woman who appeared in a photo with Gargiulo, probably in the early 2000s. They haven’t been able to identify and find her, Lillienfeld said.

Gargiulo was a longtime suspect in Pacaccio’s murder. In 2002, Cook County sheriff’s detectives obtained a DNA sample from Gargiulo, who was living in southern California. The next year, tests confirmed his DNA was on her fingernails, officials said.

The Cook County state’s attorney’s office didn’t think the evidence was strong enough to charge Gargiulo in Pacaccio’s slaying. At the time, prosecutors thought the DNA could have been the result of “casual contact,” according to a statement released last week by the state’s attorney’s office. He was a friend of her younger brother and frequented the Pacaccio home — and was in a car with her the day before she was stabbed 12 times, prosecutors said.

But Pacaccio’s parents have criticized Cook County prosecutors for not charging Gargiulo in their daughter’s murder after they learned of the 2003 DNA match.

Gargiulo was free until 2008. That year, detectives in California were investigating the stabbing of a Santa Monica, Calif., woman who fought off her attacker and survived in April 2008. DNA found at the scene matched Gargiulo’s DNA, which the Cook County sheriff’s investigators had placed in a national database back in 2003, officials said.

California investigators said they then linked Gargiulo to the 2001 murder of Ashley Ellerin, a 22-year-old Los Angeles woman who was stabbed on the day she planned to attend the Grammy Awards with actor Ashton Kutcher. They also tied Gargiulo to the 2005 murder of Maria Bruno, a mother of four, in a Los Angeles suburb, officials said.

The break in the Pacaccio case came earlier this year when two men who worked as bouncers with Gargiulo in Los Angeles in the mid-1990s told authorities he had bragged about killing a Chicago-area girl and leaving her dead on the steps of her home. The witnesses came forward after the CBS show “48 Hours” profiled the Pacaccio killing in May. The show portrayed Gargiulo as a suspect in her murder and in the California slayings.

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