As another year wraps, I decided to look back at some cases KOC was tracking that ended this year–at least at the trial phase. I’m also looking ahead to trials that should take place in 2018.
In July, on the eve of trial, Angelika Graswald, charged with the drowning murder of her fiance on the Hudson River, took a plea to criminally negligent homicide and received not much more than time already served. Her actual sentence, imposed in November, was 1-1/4 to 4 years but, because she had been incarcerated since her arrest in late April 2015, she received credit for that time served. Graswald walked free a few days before Christmas though, I suspect, will soon face deportation to Latvia, her home country. That Graswald received so little punishment for Vincent Viafore’s death may seem unjust but, as those of you who follow trials know so well, there’s no guarantee of a jury’s verdict. The prosecution must have considered the strength of their evidence against her defense, and felt the guaranteed felony conviction of criminally negligent homicide was sufficient, and could get her deported.
You can read more about the Graswald case here on KOC.
Todd Kendhammer‘s trial ended in a guilty verdict a few weeks ago. The Wisconsin man was found guilty of murdering his wife–bludgeoning her to death–after the jury rejected his claim that it was a freak accident. Kendhammer, who testified at the trial, claimed that he was driving his wife to work when a pipe dislodged from a flatbed truck in front of them and impaled the windshield, fatally striking his wife Barbara. But his explanation didn’t account for the blunt trauma to the back of her skull and other bodily injuries! Following Kendhammer’s December 15, 2017 guilty verdict, the judge revoked his bail. Kendhammer is now sitting in jail, facing life in prison for first degree murder when he’s formally sentenced on March 9, 2018.
You can read more about the Kendhammer case here on KOC.
A Look Ahead
I expect that two cases KOC is following will move to trial in 2018. In Florida, Mark Sievers is charged with hiring two men to kill his wife Teresa. In California, Charles Merritt is charged with killing all four members of the McStay family and burying them in a shallow grave. (Click on the names to read more.)
Also on my radar is the trial of Michael Gargiulo in Los Angeles–a case I’ll add to the KOC Cases of Interest page. Gargiulo was arrested in June 2008 and charged with two murders and one attempted murder. His trial is currently set for March 2018 but there have been so many continuances that I’m not banking on it starting in March. By the way, I believe Gargiulo is a serial killer. He is also a suspect in a 1993 Chicago-area murder of his friend’s sister who had just graduated from high school. That would be Gargiulo’s first murder when he, too, was a teen. Following is a synopsis of each crime.
Cook County, IL, August 14, 1993 (Glenview, Chicago suburb)
Victim: Tricia Pacaccio, 18 years old, 4’11” and 106 lbs.
Died: August 14, 1993
Rick Pacaccio, father of 18-year-old Tricia, found his daughter stabbed to death on the front steps of the home where she lived with her family. Tricia had 12 wounds to her torso and a broken left arm. The case was unsolved for more than a decade. Police focused on a former high school classmate of Tricia’s but no arrest was ever made. The distraught family cooperated with police and media, hoping to keep the cold case active. (Two witnesses from LA came forward in 2011 with incriminating statements Gargiulo allegedly made about a murder in Chicago. This was after an episode about Gargiulo aired on 48 Hrs.)
Los Angeles County, February 21, 2001, (Hollywood)
Victim: Ashley Ellerin, 23 years old, 5’4” and 123 lbs.
Died: Feb. 21, 2001
Ashton Kutcher went to pick up his date, Ashley Ellerin, to attend a Grammy Awards party. Ellerin was a beautiful, friendly woman who was on the LA party circuit. Finding her door locked, Kutcher thought she left without him but before leaving he peeked in the window of her Hollywood bungalow. Kutcher saw what he thought was red wine spilled on the carpeted stairs of the split level. The next morning, her roommate of only six weeks arrived home and discovered Ellerin’s butchered body. The case went cold though there was one guy police learned about, and couldn’t find–the HVAC guy who lived in the neighborhood. One of Ellerin’s friends recalled seeing him parked in his van across the street one night, staring at Ellerin’s bungalow. That person was Michael Gargiulo.
Los Angeles County, December 1, 2005 (El Monte)
Victim: Maria Bruno, 32 or 33 years old, 5’2” and 89 lbs.
Died: Dec. 1, 2005
Maria Bruno had recently split from her husband, Irving, but on November 30, 2001 they went on a dinner date. Irving brought his wife home to her new apartment in El Monte, CA and stayed until about 2:45 a.m. Hours later, at about 8:00 a.m., he returned to her apartment because he had her cell phone. Irving found his wife brutally murdered–slashed, stabbed and mutilated– in her bed. It is believed that she was killed sometime after 2:45 a.m. but before 6:00 a.m.
Gargiulo lived in the same apartment complex.
Los Angeles County, April 28, 2008 (Santa Monica)
Victim: Michelle Murphy, age?, 5’1” and 130 lbs.
Attempted Murder: April 28/29, 2008
Michelle Murphy lived in Santa Monica. On April 28, 2008, she got home from work around 6:45 p.m. She exercised in the back alley and then did her laundry until 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. That evening, Michelle also watched some television and took a shower. She went to bed at 10:30 p.m., naked, and awoke in the middle of the night to find a man on top of her, stabbing her. She fought and kicked him off her. The man fled.
At the time, Michael Gargiulo lived in a house across the alley from Michelle Murphy.
About six weeks after the attack on Michelle Murphy, Michael Gargiulo was arrested. It was June 6, 2008. He has been locked up in the Los Angeles County jail since then, awaiting trial. The numerous continuances are almost all at Gargiulo’s request. At times, he switched lawyers then represented himself. Now, he’s back to having a court-appointed attorney.
It’s no surprise that the state is seeking the death penalty.
Let’s the hope that the families of all these victims in the Merritt, Sievers, and Gargiulo cases see some justice in 2018!
And may 2018 find all of you happy and healthy!