Chicago has learned that Cook County authorities on Thursday will charge a Los Angeles man with the 1993 murder of Glenview teenager Tricia Pacaccio, ending a nearly two-decade quest by the girl’s family to bring their daughter’s killer to justice.
Michael Gargiulo, 35, was a primary suspect in the fatal stabbing almost from the start, but the Cook County state’s attorney’s office never pressed charges against him, despite a 2003 test that matched his DNA to DNA found on the slain teen’s fingernails at the time the crime was committed.
Gargiulo, 17 when the crime occurred, lived five houses away from Tricia Pacaccio and was friends with one of her younger brothers. He moved to Los Angeles in 1998 and has since been charged in two murders there: the 2001 stabbing death of Ashley Ellerin, a one-time girlfriend of Ashton Kutcher, and the 2005 slaying of Maria Bruno.
Gargiulo was also charged with the attempted murder of Santa Monica resident Michelle Murphy in 2008. He is suspected in a number of other stabbing deaths in California, including some that may have occurred after the 2003 DNA match, according to two Los Angeles detectives.
Gargiulo is in Los Angeles County jail awaiting trial on the murder and attempted murder charges. He has denied any involvement in the L.A. killings and the death of Tricia Pacaccio. His attorney, Charles Lindner, did not return Chicago’s phone calls. The office of the L.A. district attorney has said that it will seek the death penalty if Gargiulo is convicted.
The Pacaccio case and the L.A. murders were detailed in the July issue of Chicago magazine. The Longest Wait described the family’s anger at the Cook County state’s attorney’s office and its controversial decision not to charge Gargiulo.
An online update revealed what likely prompted the Cook County state’s attorney’s change of heart: Chicago reported that two new witnesses had come forward in late May, saying that, in the late 1990s, Gargiulo had implicated himself in Pacaccio’s murder.
One of those witnesses, Temer Leary, of New York, told Chicago that Gargiulo bragged about the killing to him and the second witness, Anthony C. Dilorenzo. 37, of Van Nuys, California. The two men contacted Cook County sheriff’s detectives after watching a CBS 48 Hours Mystery episode about the Pacaccio case. The two men were flown to Illinois the next day and interviewed by Cook County detectives. Days later, they told their stories to an investigative grand jury.
Leary told Chicago that in the mid-1990s, he moved to California, where he and Dilorenzo got jobs working security at the Rainbow Room on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. It was there that they met Gargiulo, who was also working as a bouncer.