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A man known as the “Hollywood Ripper” has been sentenced to death for the murder of two women and attempted killing of a third.

Michael Gargiulo, 45, was convicted almost two years ago, but delays due to procedural problems and the COVID pandemic means it was only on Friday that he was ordered to death row.

The families of his victims wept in court as Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler announced the sentence, saying: “Everywhere that Mr Gargiulo went, death and destruction followed him.”

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler. Pic: Associated Press
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Judge Larry Fidler ‘death and destruction’ followed Gargiulo. Pic: Associated Press

Gargiulo’s case first came to prominence as one of his victims died before they were due to go on a date with actor Ashton Kutcher two decades ago.

The 45-year-old was convicted of the 2001 killing of fashion designer Ashley Ellerin, 22, and also the 2005 murder of 32-year-old mother-of-four Maria Bruno.

Ms Ellerin had been due to go on a date with the then up-and-coming comedy star Kutcher, who has since starred in The Butterfly Effect and Two And A Half Men.

During the trial, the court heard testimony from the actor, who would have been around 23 at the time.

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He spoke of how Ms Ellerin did not answer the door at her Hollywood home when he went to pick her up, and after looking inside he noticed what he thought were wine stains – marks which were actually her blood.

Ms Ellerin was found with 47 stab wounds.

actor Ashton Kutcher testifies in the murder trial of Michael Gargiulo in Los Angeles Superior Court. File Pic: Associated Press
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Ashton Kutcher testified earlier in the trial. Pic: Associated Press

Her father, Michael Ellerin, told the court he was tempted to recreate his wife Cynthia’s “mournful scream and primal wailing after finding out that Ashley had been murdered”.

“It marked the beginning of an altered, diminished, heartbreaking life,” he said.

The apartments where Maria Bruno lived. Pic: Associated Press
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The apartments where Maria Bruno lived. Pic: Associated Press

The second killing took place at Ms Bruno’s home in east Los Angeles in 2005.

Her body was found with her breasts cut off and her implants removed.

Gargiulo was also found guilty of the 2008 attempted murder of Michelle Murphy in her flat in Santa Monica.

Ms Murphy spoke of how she fought off her attacker, asking the court: “How is it fair that one person’s actions can destroy the lives of so many?”

The murderer fled the scene of that incident but left behind a trail of blood – a fact which led to his arrest.

Survivor Michelle Murphy addresses serial killer Michael Thomas Gargiulo during a victim's statement at his sentencing hearing at Los Angeles Superior Court
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Survivor Michelle Murphy addressed the serial killer in court. Pic: Associated Press

Gargiulo had worked as an air conditioning and heating repairman, bouncer, and aspiring actor.

He was also known in US media as “The Chiller Killer” and by prosecutors as “The Boy Next Door Killer”, as he lived near his victims before stalking and attacking them.

Gargiulo claims he was prevented from testifying by his legal team, saying he was going to death row “wrongfully and unjustfully” after the Californian jury recommended a death sentence.

The judge agreed with the recommendation but it’s unlikely it will be carried out any time soon, as the state of California has not executed anyone since 2006 and the current governor has halted executions while in office.

Serial killer Michael Thomas Gargiulo is taken away by sheriff deputies after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler sentenced to death. Pic: Associated Press
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It is unlikely Gargiulo will be executed any time soon. Pic: Associated Press

Gargiulo will now be extradited to the state of Illinois, where he will stand trial for the 1993 killing of Tricia Pacaccio.

California prosecutors used evidence from this case to demonstrate a pattern of behaviour.

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Couple ‘likely dead’ after yacht hijacked by escaped convicts

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Couple 'likely dead' after yacht hijacked by escaped convicts

An American couple who disappeared a week ago after their catamaran was hijacked by three escaped convicts are likely dead, police have said.

Police Commissioner Don McKenzie said the prisoners had escaped custody on the Caribbean island of Grenada on the 18 February and the following day commandeered a catamaran named Simplicity – with Kathy Brandel and Ralph Hendry on board.

“Information suggests that while travelling between Grenada and St Vincent, they disposed of the occupants,” Commissioner McKenzie said.

The couple was last seen on the night the prisoners escaped and their boat was later tracked leaving the Grenada late at night at an unusual speed.

Police in St Vincent and the Grenadines captured the three fugitives on Wednesday, he said, adding that a team from Grenada had been dispatched to collaborate on “having a complete and thorough investigation of the matters at hand”.

The island nations are separated by about 85 nautical miles.

Ron Mitchell, 30, Trevon Robertson, 19, and 25-year-old Abita Stanislaus were being held at the South Saint George Police Station near Grenada’s southwestern tip on charges of robbery with violence, when they escaped.

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Mitchell also faces counts of rape, attempted rape and indecent assault.

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Police from St Vincent said in a statement they had discovered the ship with no bodies but items strewn across the deck and possible blood on board.

On Monday the suspects appeared in court in St Vincent on four immigration counts, to which they pleaded guilty, and they had been remanded into custody with sentencing set for 4 March.

St Vincent Police Superintendent Junior Simmons said that though the couple are presumed dead, “the investigation and search for the missing persons continues.”

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Taylor Swift’s dad accused of punching photographer in face after Sydney show

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Taylor Swift's dad accused of punching photographer in face after Sydney show

An Australian photographer claims he was punched by Taylor Swift’s dad in Sydney following the singer’s concert.

Ben McDonald said he told police the incident happened at Neutral Bay Wharf, where Swift and her dad had just come ashore from a yacht hours after the singer’s final show in the city.

While officers did not release names, police said they are investigating an alleged assault by a 71-year-old man on a 51-year-old man at 2.30am local time.

Swift’s representatives have not responded to a request for comment, but a spokesperson told Rolling Stone magazine two people were “aggressively pushing” to get to Swift.

They added that the people grabbed security and threatened a member of the singer’s staff.

Mr McDonald said media had been waiting to picture the star as she walked towards two cars.

“There were about four or five security there and at one point, one of the American security started shoving his umbrella into me and my camera and then Taylor got in her car,” he said.

“Someone else came running at me and punched me in the left side of my face.

“Initially, I thought it was an Australian security that was trying to be the hero of the moment in the front of the Americans, but as it turned out it was her father.”

Mr McDonald said he recognised Swift’s father, Scott Swift, from a picture online – adding that he doesn’t have any bruising and didn’t need any treatment.

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“In 23 years, I haven’t been assaulted and punched in the chops, particularly by the talent’s dad,” he said.

“We didn’t go rushing down the jetty. We didn’t go rushing to the back of the boat. We waited for her to come up. Kept it very civil.

“But no, they… put the umbrellas up and umbrellas over her and then shove the umbrellas into our faces and then make out that we’re the ones making contact with them.”

Swift left the country on Tuesday after more than 600,000 fans saw her Eras Tour performance across seven concerts.

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Israel-Hamas war: Joe Biden says he hopes Gaza ceasefire can be agreed ‘by end of the weekend’

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Israel-Hamas war: Joe Biden says he hopes Gaza ceasefire can be agreed 'by end of the weekend'

Joe Biden has said he hopes a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas can be secured by the weekend.

The US president made the remarks during an unannounced visit to the Van Leeuwen ice cream parlour, next door to 30 Rock in New York, on Monday.

Flanked by late night TV show host Seth Meyers, Mr Biden was asked by reporters on when a ceasefire in Gaza could start.

In a surprise turn, he said that he hopes it will take place “by the end of the weekend”.

“My national security advisor (Jake Sullivan) tells me that we’re close, we’re close, we’re not done yet,” he said. “My hope is by next Monday we’ll have a ceasefire.”

Mr Biden’s comments come as Israel prepares to start a military operation in Rafah – which he has warned against without a “credible” plan to protect civilians.

Pic: AP
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The US president made the remarks during an unannounced visit to the Van Leeuwen ice cream parlour, New York. Pic: AP

Israel has said it will go ahead with an offensive on the city if hostages are not returned by 10 March, which is when Ramadan starts.

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According to NBC News, Sky news’ US partner network, Qatar is mediating talks between Israel and Hamas this week, and ceasefire negotiations have taken place between US, Israeli, Qatari and Egyptian officials in Paris.

Should it happen, it would be the second ceasefire following one in November which saw several hundred Palestinians released from Israeli jails and about 100 hostages freed by Hamas.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu also said earlier on Monday that the Israeli Defence Force proposed a plan for the evacuation of civilians from “fighting areas” to the country’s war cabinet.

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