New Evidence Surfaces in 18-Year-Old Tricia Pacaccio Murder Case

Will the grand-jury testimony of two new witnesses finally prompt Cook County prosecutors to charge their prime suspect?

In its July issue, Chicago published “The Longest Wait,” the heartbreaking story of Rick and Diane Pacaccio, whose daughter, Tricia, was fatally stabbed in 1993 outside the family’s home in Glenview. For nearly 18 years, the case went unsolved, even though detectives working with the Cook County sheriff’s office eventually linked DNA found on the slain girl to a former neighbor: Michael Gargiulo, a man now awaiting trial in California for allegedly murdering two women in Los Angeles and attempting to kill a third.

Now, just as the story hits newsstands, Chicago has learned of a major development that might change the face of the case: Two new witnesses have come forward, both claiming that, in the late 1990s, Gargiulo told them that he killed Tricia Pacaccio.

Temer Leary
Temer Leary

The magazine has also learned that in late May the two men—Temer Leary, 37, of Lake Luzerne, New York, and Anthony Dilorenzo, also 37, of Van Nuys, California—were flown to Illinois and interviewed by Cook County detectives. Days later, they told their stories to an investigative grand jury. A source close to the investigation says that the two witnesses are “rock solid.” It remains to be seen whether this new evidence will finally prompt Cook Country state’s attorney Anita Alvarez to bring charges against Gargiulo for the murder of Tricia Pacaccio.

Those charges would finally provide some relief to Tricia’s grieving parents, who, despite the passage of nearly two decades, remain consumed by anger over the failure to solve their daughter’s murder. For the time being, though, they aren’t getting their hopes up. “We’re not going to get too happy until he gets charged,” Rick Pacaccio says. “Until something happens, we’re praying.”

The Pacaccios’ frustration is shared by two former Cook County detectives involved with the case—who have been critical of the failure to charge Gargiulo for the Pacaccio murder—as well as by their counterparts in Los Angeles, who claim that if prosecutors here had acted when the DNA link was made eight years ago, at least one of the L.A. victims would still be alive.

Prior to this latest development, the office of the Cook County state’s attorney insisted that procedural problems with the DNA evidence prevented its prosecutors from filing charges. “Ethical guidelines prohibit the charging of a case without evidence in hand that will enable us to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” said a spokesperson as the July story was about to go to press. The office of the state’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment about this latest development.

As for Gargiulo, he has denied any involvement in the L.A. killings and the death of Tricia Pacaccio. His attorney, Charles Lindner, did not return our phone calls. Gargiulo is in the Los Angeles County jail awaiting trial on two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. The office of the L.A. district attorney has said that it will seek the death penalty if Gargiulo is convicted.

Temer Leary, one of the new witnesses, had worked with Gargiulo in California. He had forgotten all about him until seeing a promotion for a CBS 48 Hours Mystery episode about the Pacaccio case. After watching the full story, Leary contacted Cook County sheriff’s detectives, who flew him and Dilorenzo to Chicago the next day to be interviewed.

For weeks, Leary and I traded e-mails, but on the advice of his lawyer, he refused to speak with the media. This past weekend, however, he and his lawyer relented, and, talking by telephone from New York, Leary related how he and his good friend Anthony Dilorenzo—the other new witness—came to know Gargiulo, a man whom L.A. detectives are calling a serial killer.

Leary says 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. Gargiulo was “real weird,” Leary says, a mysterious guy with a temper, who always carried a knife and a gun. “I told [Dilorenzo], ‘Watch him. Every time something gets tense, his hand goes for his knife.’” (All of the women Gargiulo is accused of killing were fatally stabbed.)

Michael Gargulio with Los Angeles woman
Michael Gargulio with unidentified woman

The three men often hung out together outside of work, and it was during one of those moments, while driving through Hollywood, Leary says, that Gargiulo allegedly admitted he killed Tricia Pacaccio. On the advice of his attorney—and Cook County detectives—Leary declines to provide specific details of that conversation. “[Gargiulo] said he did it,” is all Leary will tell me. “Me and [Dilorenzo] were in the front seat, and we just looked at each other.” But having heard a number of tall tales from Gargiulo, they were skeptical. “We just blew it off,” Leary says. “We didn’t really believe him.”

Not long after the encounter, Leary returned to New York. Dilorenzo, he says, remained friends with Gargiulo for some eight years. (Attempts to reach Dilorenzo, who is traveling in Europe, were unsuccessful.) But seeing the 48 Hours episode brought back those old memories and prompted Leary to come forward. “I watched that video of Rick [Pacaccio] and said, ‘I’ve got to tell somebody,’” Leary says.

The show also caused him to rethink other incidents concerning Gargiulo. One, related to him by Dilorenzo, involved a logo for a T-shirt that Gargiulo had designed as part of a business he was trying to launch. Leary, recalling Dilorenzo’s story, says that it depicted a woman “lying on her back, legs folded over her shoulder with her arms out.” A knife was part of the logo, as was a single word that was very similar to “Pacaccio.” (According to sources, Dilorenzo told the same story to Cook County detectives.)

Leary says that Dilorenzo may also be able to shed light on the identity of a woman whom L.A. detectives have been trying to track down ever since they uncovered a picture of her with Gargiulo (pictured above). Dilorenzo is expected to talk to Cook County detectives again when he returns from Europe. As for Leary, “I just hope this gives [the family] some peace,” he says.

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