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Gargiulo's Sentencing Delayed After Defense Questions Credibility of Key Witness
By Jorge Casuso
March 2, 2020 -- Michael Gargiulo, who was convicted last August of killing and mutilating two Los Angeles area women and attacking a third in Santa Monica, won a reprieve in his sentencing Friday.
Judge Larry Fiddler ordered the parties back to court March 13 after Gargiulo's defense claimed prosecutors did not turn over evidence they said would have raised questions about the credibility of a key witness.
The jury had decided on October 18 to recommend that Gargiulo, known as the "Hollywood Ripper," be put to death.
The defense Friday cited an article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times five days later that outlined a "bizarre jail incident" involving Mark Lillienfeld, an LA County Sheriff’s homicide detective who worked the case before retiring in 2016.
According to the report, Lillienfeld, who was rehired by Sheriff Alex Villanueva to investigate public corruption, was temporarily banned from the jails "after posing as a deputy and bringing contraband for an inmate."
"Jail officials were so concerned about what authorities described in a memo as numerous policy violations that they posted Mark Lillienfeld’s photograph inside Men’s Central Jail and directed employees to alert a supervisor if he showed up," the report stated.
Judge Fiddler on Friday granted the defense's request to obtain a copy of the memo with minimal redaction, according to a report Friday in the New York Daily News.
Gargiulo was convicted August 15 of the murders of 22-year-old Hollywood resident Ashley Ellerin in 2001 and the 2005 slaying of 32-year-old Maria Bruno in her El Monte apartment ("Jury Finds Former Santa Monica Resident Guilty of Double Murder," August 16, 2019).
He was also convicted of attempting to murder Michelle Murphy in her Santa Monica apartment across the alley from his home.
Prosecutors said Gargiulo stabbed Murphy eight times before she fought him off, becoming a key witness for the prosecution in the three-month-long trial.
While in jail, Gargiulo was tied to the murders Ellerin, who was stabbed 47 times and nearly decapitated, and Bruno who was “quite literally butchered," prosecutors said.
In its closing argument, the defense said Gargiulo suffered from a mental disorder that put him in an amnesiac state when he attacked Murphy in her bed.
But on August 22, the jury found the defendant was sane, paving the way for the death penalty ("Serial Killer Arrested by Santa Monica Police Faces Death Penalty," August 22, 2019).
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