Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Ten Years Ago Today, Stephanie Lazarus Arrested for Murder

June 5, 2019
Ten years ago today, Stephanie Lazarus was arrested for the murder of Sherri Rae Rasmussen.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Michael Gargiulo Case - Opening Statements 5/2/19 Part I

May 2, 2019
Michael Gargiulo Trial - Opening Statements, Morning Session, Part I

NOTE: I was using my laptop to take notes during opening statements. I accidentally had auto-correct switched on which made it difficult to re-interpret what I had originally typed. I edited my notes from memory. This is still a rough draft with possibly more editing to be done. Sprocket

Who's Here at the Gargiulo Opening Statements
There are so many new faces from the press attending the opening that I don’t know. Here is a list in order of appearance/notice. 

CBS News is the pool reporter with a camera in the far left corner. Nathan from Courthouse News is here. The head of the court’s Public Information Office, Mary Hern is here. With Mary Hearn is Ann Donlan newly hired Communications Director for the LA County Superior Court. Ms. Donlan introduces herself and hands out her card. Terri Vermeulen Keith from City News and Carolyn Murnick, Ashely Ellerin's high school friend who wrote a book about her and Ashley’s friendship. Defense attorney Dan Nadoni is here, with his standard kerchief -navy and red today- in his suit pocket. Defense lead counsel Dale Rubin is now talking to Mary Hearn. Los Angeles Times reporter Alene Tchekmedyian who I met at the Jennifer Francis civil trial is here. The prosecution team, Deputy DA’s Daniel Akemon and Garrett Dameron have now shown up. Court reporter Laurie Small and her husband Retired Detective Thomas Small who investigated the Ellen murder are in the gallery.

Local NBC 4 Patrick Healy arrives. I brief him on why this case has taken so long. More media arrive. Young clerks from DA’s office and Deputy DA’s are here. The young clerks have the blue badges and the Deputy DA’s are all wearing dark suits. At the prosecution table there is a new female assistant. I’m guessing she may handle the documents during opening statements.

Tracy from DA’s Victim Advocate unit arrives. There is a pretty black woman sitting with her. In the very back row is a handsome black reporter I don’t recognize. RHD Detective Daryn Dupree who worked the Grim Sleeper case comes in and says hello to other detectives in the gallery, then leaves. Retired LA County Sheriff’s Detective Mark Lillienfield is here saying hello to People Magazine's Christine Pelisek. Another female reporter I don’t know arrives. More reporters show up that I’ve never seen and sit in the back row. Terri and I talk new doggies. Alex from the London Sun introduces himself. The attorneys in the well from both teams have been chatting back and forth for a while now.

9:30 AM
Wendy announces to the room she is bringing the jury through in the 3rd row. This row will be empty for the jury to walk through. We are all to be quiet and remain seated. There are many older looking people on the panel.  A few middle age white males as well as Latino men and women. I don’t see a single young face. A woman with pretty dyed red hair. The jury goes back into the jury room to wait.

On the right side of the gallery behind the bailiff’s desk, the very young  interns from the DA’s office move up a row to sit with Tracy. Mr. Rubin and Detective Small are chatting in the well. So many faces in the back row I don’t know. Terri Keith is so dedicated. She is reading documents and making notes on other cases while we wait.

There are four deputies in the well now waiting for the defendant to be brought out.

Another individual that might be from the DA’s office sits with RHD Detective Greg Stearns -one of the voices in the infamous Stephanie Lazarus interview video- and another detective right beside Sterns.

Two more casually dressed women arrive and sit with Stearns in the second bench row behind the bailiff's desk. This is a light crowd. No one sitting in the front row yet and the third row is clear for the jury to walk through. More stragglers arrive. Another CBS reporter. We make room for that person in the second row.

Judge Fidler’s clerk Wendy watches everything going on in the courtroom. Dale Rubin smiles, shakes Thomas Small’s hand then sits at the defense table. Last little moments around the well of the court before the jury is brought in. Deputy DA Akemon chats with Detective Small for a moment. Dan Nardoni and Deputy DA Garrett Dameron chat quickly. Akemon and Small are still chatting.

9:43 AM
Bailiffs ask for quiet in the courtroom. Gargiulo s brought out. He looks much like I've seen him over the past several years except he's in civilian clothes today. He’s got a white goatee. Bald head. Black horn rimed glasses. I don’t notice a tie. The defendant smiles as Dan Nardoni leans in to talk to him. Nardoni rubs the defendant’s back. Gargiulo is wearing a purple shirt, dark pants.

The courtroom becomes eerily quiet. I can hear my keys type. I didn’t have time to pick up a keyboard silencer. We are now waiting on Judge Fidler. Gargiulo smiles again as he chats with defense counsel Nardoni.

9:45 AM Judge Filder Takes the Bench
Judge Fidler states someone wanted to raise an issue. All the counsel go to the bench to speak to the court. Rubin tells the court about the  “…onslaught of ABC news, … the media … I find that disturbing”

I believe Mr. Rubin continues with, “ … last in the middle of survivor a news story came on. I don’t know if we can do …. access…”

I hear DA Akemon respond, “I agree.” Judge Fidler asks, “How did they get pictures?” Nardoni responds to the court but I miss his statement.

Gargiulo leans forward, his left hand on his chin. He is intently watching the activity at the bench.

Mr. Rubin is now in a discussion with DDA’s Akemon and Dameron. I believe I hear the defense say, 'We are in the process of getting a jail [cell?] at the police department.'

Note: Sounds like something happened at the jail.  A stabbing?

9:50 AM

Judge Filder tells the parties. “Ready for the jurors.”

A reporter tells me that the media got pictures from Chicago of when he was growing up.

The jury files through and takes their seats. Judge Fidler greets the jury. Judge Fidler addresses the jury about jury instructions. "Your verdict must be decided by the law and the evidence as it is provided to you.” I don’t type out the extensive jury instructions. This is something that will be provided to the jury after closing arguments.

The defendant keeps himself facing forward. He does not look over at the jury. People in the back row try to get a look at the jury.  From my viewpoint, there are five women seven men.

Note: I believe I have that correct. Sprocket

Alternates are three men and three women. Gargiulo watches Judge Fidler give the jury instructions. There are five bailiffs in the courtroom. One in the back by the entry doors and four around Gargiulo.

An individual who looks like and LAPD employee and friend enter late. They are asked to move to the fourth row. Judge Fidler asks Mr. Rubin if he wants the circumstantial evidence instruction read. Mr. Rubin indicates yes. A female detective or it’s a Deputy DA, I can't tell, enters and sits beside Detective Greg Stearns.

The jurors are ordered by the court not to post on Facebook & Twitter about the trial. Dan Nardoni, asks the court, in an abundance of caution puts forth an oral motion to exclude any an all witnesses from the gallery. Deputy DA Akemon joins that motion.

Opening Statements

And we start. Deputy DA Akemon puts up four photos on the big bulletin board. Tricia Paciccio, Ashley Ellerin, Maria Bruno and Michelle Murphy. 

Note: You can see an image of what the jury was shown HERE. Sprocket

Photos of the women, the year of the event and their age. (Paciccio 1993, Ellen 2001, Bruno 2005, Murphy 2008)

 DDA Akemon greets the jury.

The methodical and systematic slaughter of women by Michael Gargiulo, the boy next door. A killer. That’s what this case is about. Michael Gargiulo was watching. Always watching. Plotting the perfect opportunity to attack women in and around their homes.

What you will hear is … [Tricia Pacaccio] Ashley Ellerin, Michelle Murphy and Maria Bruno were all young attractive and outgoing. What these women also had in common was they all lived near Mr. Gargiulo. He had targeted them for murder and he ultimately attacked all of them with a knife.

From the onset you will learn that Gargiulo was a neighborhood kid who grew up in and around the Chicago area. He was athletic. He played high school football. He later worked as an air conditioning repairman and eventually owned his own plumbing business. And he was a husband and father. What no one knew for many years is that Michael Gargiulo was leading a double life.

He fancied himself an expert in forensic science. He attacked four women with a knife killing three of them and able to escape detection for almost 15 years.

How did he plan the attacks? The evidence will show that Gargiulo’s plan to kill was to first identify a target that lived near him. He would acquaint himself with that victim, their lives and routines. The evidence will show he stalked and hunted down the victim relentlessly … to plan his kill.

He watched and waited and collected real time intelligence on the victims. He then manipulated the circumstances to pounce and kill in a blitz type knife attack and then escape detection.

His killing spree ended in 2008 when he accidentally cut himself during one of the attacks and he bled all over the victim’s bedspread and sheets.

You will hear that his killing spree started in Chicago in summer of 1993 almost 26 year ago.

He killed his first victim 18 year old Tricia Pacaccio, who lived in Glenview, Illinois, an affluent neighborhood. Gargiulo lived around the corner [from her].

Friday August 13, of 1993. It was hot and muggy in Glenview and a thick fog settled over the area. Tricia Pacaccio ended her Friday at TGI Fridays. Tricia and her friends had just all graduated and were bidding each other a final farewell and heading off in different directions to college.

Tricia was bound off to Purdue University and had earned an engineering scholarship. For Tricia it was the summer of her life and the end of a perfect evening with friends. What she didn’t know is that Gargiulo who lived around the corner had targeted Tricia for murder.

She would never make it to college and the summer of 1993 would be her last. On the night that Tricia was killed she gave several friends a ride home after leaving TGI Fridays. She dropped her last passenger off a little after 1 am and walked up to her door, keys in hand but never made it inside.

Gargiulo was waiting for her. Gargiulo, who was experienced in marital arts, snapped her arm and stabbed her in the breast and chest. He left her bleeding on the doorstep of her home and fled. Tricia’s father found her the next morning.

Years later Gargiulo bragged to friends about killing Tricia. “ I left the bitch on the steps for dead.” Gargiulo’s DNA was found on Tricia’s fingernails. As detectives worked to solved the case, Gargiulo moved across the country and took up residence near Ashley Ellerin. Ashley was young and social with the Hollywood crowd. She soon attracted Gargiulo’s attention.

He frequented the dog park across the street from her house and injected himself into Ashely’s life. He offered to change a tire. Then offered to fix a furnace. He then showed up unannounced. A friend saw him staring up into the house at odd hours. Shortly before she was killed he crashed a party at their house. He obtained a key somehow and got inside and scared her. One of her friends concluded that he was stalking Ashely and she should be concerned.

One day he appeared unannounced and her roommate [was there?]. Gargiulo told the roommate that the FBI was pursuing him for a murder from Chicago. He showed the roommate a knife in a sheath (in his ankle).

Feb 21, 2001. Ashley was found stabbed to death [the next morning] in her hallway. She was stabbed over 47 times.

The evidence will show that the defendant attacked Ashley from behind, cutting through from right to left nearly decapitating her, indicating an attack from a left handed perpetrator. Gargiulo is left handed. The attack on Ashley shared several characteristics with [the attacks on] Tricia Pacaccio, Maria Bruno and Michell Murphy.

Gargiulo moved away to another city.

[In El Monte] Gargiulo entered Maria Bruno's apartment, put on blue surgical boots and murdered Maria while she slept. He stabbed her multiple times and gashed out her throat. Cut off her breasts and attempted to remove her breast implants and placed one of her breasts in her mouth.

Maria Bruno’s murder shared several similar events as the other victims. Gargiulo lived in the very same complex [as Bruno] and [from his upper floor unit] could see into her very own living room. Gargiulo attempted to inject himself in the victims life. He surveilled the victim in her home.

A witness saw someone matching his description watching the victim, staring. And also entered her apartment uninvited. Gargiulo left his DNA at the crime scene.

Afterwards, Maria’s husband discovered her body and called police. [Detectives] located a surgical bootie outside Maria’s front door. Analyst discovered there were drops of Maria’s blood on the booties. Gargiulo’s DNA was found around the elastic band. Years later, the matching bootie was found in Gargiulo’s apartment attic [space].

While that case was under investigation, Gargiulo moved to Santa Monica, and moved into an apartment across the alley from Michelle Murphy. Again, Gargiulo lived near the victim in an apartment directly across the alley where he was able to see into her apartment and see her movements.

April 20, 2008, at approximately 8 pm, Michelle Murphy went to bed. She was alone. Her roommate was out of the country. It was a warm evening, and she left a window open.

He climbed onto the railing, sliced through the screen with knife and climbed through the window. He found Michelle sleeping in her bed.

Gargiulo learned over her and stabbed her in the chest with a knife.

Michelle woke up and fought with Gargiulo as he stabbed repeatedly, stabbing her hands and arms as she defended herself. Michele who was very athletic in her own right was able to get her legs [underneath?] her. She was able to kick Gargiulo causing him to cut his own wrist.
Bleeding profusely, he ran out the door and said “I’m sorry.” He left a blood trail out the alley.

Gargiulo’s blood was on Michelle’s bedspread and sheet combined with Michelle’s blood. He left his DNA at the crime scene. When Gargiulo’s DNA was found on her bedspread and sheet it linked him with DNA on Tricia Pacaccio’s fingernails and the bloody booties from Maria [Bruno’s murder].

Gargiulo was arrested in June of 2008. When Gargiulo was held in the El Monte jail, he made makeshift handcuff keys, planned to attack a jailer, steal a police car and escape to Mexico.

Now back to the details of each stabbing. It all started in Glenview, Illinois in the Summer of 1993. What you seeing on the screen are the four women.

Tricia was 18 years old.
Ashes was 22.
Maria was 32.
Murphy was age 26 when she was attacked.

It started on the doorstep around the corner from Gargiulo’s residence. He told one friend, “I actually left the bitch on the steps for dead.” Gargiulo’s DNA was on Tricia Pacaccio’s fingernails.

In 2001 Ashley Ellerin was stabbed to death in Hollywood. He entered Ashley’a house without permission.

In 2005 Maria Bruno was stabbed to death inside her residence. Gargiulo lived across the pool from Ms. Bruno’s residence. The bootie found outside her door had his DNA on it.

In 2008 Michelle lived across the alley.  Gargiulo left a blood trial across the alley. In 2008 Gargiulo was arrested and tried to escape from jail.

Tricia Pacaccio Murder
A photo of Tricia is put up on the screen. Then a photo of Tricia’s home in Glenview. Deputy DA Akemon points out Tricia’s bedroom on the second floor. He points out the door where she was stabbed outside of her home. The photo shows her car was parked in the driveway.

DDA Akemon now presents an aerial photo of Gargiulo’s home area. Gargiulo’s and Tricia’s home are 550 feet apart on the diagonal. He tells the jury that each victim lived within eye-shot and ear shot. Now we are shown a photo of Gargiulo’s residence in 1993. He lived there with brothers and sisters and mom and dad.

Deputy DA Akemon explains the event that Tricia participated in right before she was murdered, a road rally. Up on the screen there are about 40 names, to show the jury about how many kids were involved. These are the students who participated in the road rally roster. About 40 people attended. Deputy DA Akemon explains that it was like a treasure hunt.

Next is a photo of the TGI Fridays where Tricia’s group ended up that evening. August 13 going over into the 14th, 1993.

August 13, Tricia’s group arrived at TGI Fridays. Gargiulo was dropped off at home 12:30 am. At 1 am Tricia dropped off her friend. She arrived home around 1:15am.

In 1997 Gargiulo told a friend, “I stabbed up a girl.” He told another friend, “I stabbed up the bitch.”

 In 2002 Gargiulo’s DNA  matched up to the DNA found on Tricia Pacaccio.

Deputy DA Akemon explains that Gargiulo is not charged with Tricia’s murder in California. The presentation is used for special evidence even though the jury will not decide guilt or innocence in that case.

Next on the screen are photos of most of the people who attended the road rally that night. About 40 of them. Of those 40 people, many were people that Tricia had contact with that evening. None of those people’s DNA was found on Tricia.

Now the jury is shown photos of Tricia Pacaccio’s crime scene. Tricia’s car, a blue Buick is in the driveway. She parked her car, walked across the law to the side door of the residence and then [would have] headed to her bedroom.

Photo of crime scene, outside of house, August 14, 1993. Tricia's body is located at the face of that white door. Now a photo of Tricia’s body on the doorstep. Her feet on the lower step, her head is closer to the door. We are shown another view of her body on the doorstep then a closer view of her on the doorstep. It is so sad. She was so close to getting inside. At the upper part of the door is Tricia’s pocketbook, and near her head are her car keys. Another photo that shows the keys at the top of her head.

Coroner’s Evidence
Tricia was stabbed 12 times and she had a spiral fracture of the left arm.

Deputy DA Akemon details each wound and where they were located on her body. Shows photos of the wounds. Many stab wounds to the left arm. X-ray’s of Tricia’s left arm that show the spiral fracture. X-ray clearly shows it snapped.

What you will hear in this case, when Tricia Pacaccio’s body was taken to the morgue in Chicago, somebody, some person, tampered with her clothing. Another photo. What you looking at here are photos of Tricia’s body in the morgue, when she was transported to the morgue she was fully clothed.

And [also] and at the scene her hands were bagged at the scene. When they did the post mortem they noticed her clothing had been manipulated. That’s when a coroner’s investigators said that’s not the way she was [when she was brought into the morgue].  Somebody, it was never determined who, pulled her panties down and also pulled her t-shirt over her breasts. There’s no evidence that she was sexually assaulted, or the bags on her hands were tampered with, only her clothing was tampered with. Through the photos, we can see that the bags are still on Tricia’s hands in photos.

There will be DNA evidence in this case. A DNA expert tested [her] fingernails. Compared them to Gargiulo. A DNA match [came back], one in 97 million. No other DNA found on her fingernails. Only her own DNA.

People who attended the road rally. Gargiulo did not attend the road rally. There were [people] hugging and kissing that evening saying goodbye. Despite all those people having contact with Tricia that night, the only person whose DNA shows up on her fingernails is Michael Gargiulo.

Photo of a DNA evidence table. Expert will give an opinion. The DNA is a match and that will explain the DNA.

This is to Tricia Pacaccio’s case. Her brother Tom discovered her body with other family members. [Gargiulo] was not a friend of Tricia. [They] did not have any sort of relationship. He was a friend of Tricia’s brother. Gargiulo was 17 and lived around the corner. Tricia’s mother [will testify]. There was no reason for her to have contact with Gargiulo.

Doug was Tricia’s younger brother. This was Gargiulo’s friend. He will testify that he was friend of Gargiulo. There was no reason for Tricia to have any contact, physical contact with Gargiulo. What you will hear that night Tricia had [upset?] Rick Pacaccio [her father]. She took a long shower that night. She was very clean. She had an argument with her father for taking such a long shower. There’s no reason for her to have physical contact with Gargiulo.

[You will hear from] Andrew [Crouch?], Jennifer Spanjer, and [Karen?] Isenberg, Tricia’s friends. Tricia had physical contact with her friends. Very touchy feely. Gargiulo was not present at the [road rally].

You will hear from Gargiulo’s ex-girlfriend. On the night of Tricia’s murder, she was with Mr. Gargiulo. She dropped him off at [12:30 am? 1 am?] around the corner from Tricia’s residence before the stabbing. That was to show that he was in a position … No physical contact between Tricia and Gargiulo that night.

The Anarchist Cookbook
Next slide is up on the screen.

About 10:55 am, Judge Fidler calls for a break.

At the break, several reporters that are in the hallway, watching the cable feed and are asking for the attorneys to be identified for their reporting.

11:12 am
Judge Fidler’s clerk, Wendy, call’s for the jury. A sheriff’s deputy informs the courtroom that at the lunch break everyone [in the gallery] is to remain seated until all the jurors have left then you may go.

11:13 am
The Jury comes out then Judge Fidler comes out.

Deputy DA Akemon continues his presentation. What you will hear in this case, one of Gargiulo’s [friends] Suzanne [will testify] that Mr. Gargiulo liked this book [The Anarchist Cookbook] and he talked about this book. And he talks about what’s in there. This book talks about knives. There is a section for, there’s a section on knives. And how to use a knife on various sections of the body. Cuts to the throat, subclavian area. A key to this type of attack is the speed and silent [method] … based on approaching the enemy from behind …

Prosecutor Akemon mentions that there is no evidence of sexual assault with the victims in this case and the DNA matching.

Prosecutor Akemon mentions a former friend of Gargiulo’s, Anthony [?] who worked with Gargiulo as a bouncer at the Rainbow Room Bar in Hollywood in the 1990’s. I believe he presents a photo of them together at a party. This witness had a prior criminal history for theft and drug offenses. He [this witness] was the one that Gargiulo said this is from a [prior incident?]. Gargiulo told his friend, “I actually left the bitch on the steps for dead.”

Deputy DA Akemon puts up a photo of Tricia where she was found on her doorstep.

Temer Leary, another friend of Gargiulo’s. He also worked with Garigulo as a bouncer at the Rainbow Room Bar in Hollywood the 1990’s. He has a prior criminal record including violent offenses. Mr. Gargiulo told him that he “he stabbed up the girl” referring to Ms. Pacaccio.

These former friends of Gargiulo’s saw Gargiulo on television accused of the Pacaccio murder. When they saw that they were shocked per [their] girlfriends. They had one of those moments of watching Gargiuo on TV. When they found what they knew was relevant they texted to each other about being heroes.

Ashley Ellerin Case

Photos of Ashley are up on the screen. Ms. Ellerin was 22 when Gargiulo stabbed her to death. A Photo of Ellerin’s residence on Pinehurst Road in Hollywood. Photos of the house gated and a red car in front. Now an aerial view of the area showing where various things are.

When Ms. Ellerin was stabbed to death he [Gargiulo] lived in Hollywood at his building there [points to photo] and Ashely lived right down the street, about 400 feet down the street.

Across the street from Ms. Ellerin is the dog park. And Gargiulo frequented the dog park and Gargiulo would watch from that park.

Deputy DA Akemon will tells the jury they will go to a site visit and see the particular scenes so you can see the geography yourself and these particular scenes you will be able to see this house.

1759 Orchid Ave was Gargiulo’s apartment building. Showing a type of aerial view from the top of that building and you can see Ellerin’s house off in the distance. The roof of Gargiulo’s building is open to the tenant’s. And her bedroom is on that side of the house. You can see if the light is on or off from the roof of Gargiulo's building.

Pointing out on a photo, this is the dog park. Right across from Ellerin’s residence.

Now a view of what her home looked like from the dog park at night. But when the house was lit up inside you can see what was going on inside. And we show this to show that Mr. Garguilo was watching all the time. Pointing out on a photo, here is the front door to Ellerin’s home. Now a floor plan of Ellerin’s residence.

Older style bungalow home and the floor plan is older. The prosecutor explains where the front door is, the sun room. We’ll explain that when Ashton Kutcher came over and which window that he looked into the house.

Her bedroom is in the upper left hand corner. She just exited the shower and was getting ready to go out with Mr. Kutcher when she was attacked from behind. Identifies the other rooms on the photo. Points out the layout and the rooms and the windows that Kutcher looks into.

February 21, 2001. Ashley drops her father off at the airport. Between 7 and 8 pm her friend Durbin came over and they had sex. Then he left and she locked the door. At 8:24 pm Ashley talked to Ashton Kutcher on the phone with a plan to go out that night.

A man, Mr. Todd Jackson, around 8:30 to 9 pm heard screaming from her house. He was walking his dog in the dog park. 

Between 9 and 9:20 pm Mr. Durbin called her three times but Ashely did not answer. 

10 pm another friend called. 

10:15 pm Ashton Kutcher called and got no inswer.

10:15 pm Ashley’s roommate was locked out of the house.
10:45 pm Ashton Kutcher arrives, knocks on the door and looked inside and saw what he thought was spilled wine on the floor.

On the following day, 9:15 am Jennifer Disisto discovered her body.

Up on the screen is a photo of Ashley on her back, on leg splayed out her finger pointed toward her leg. Again, seeing Ashely is quite sad. There was a very violent struggle in this small space. Ashley was stabbed 47 times.

More crime scene floor plans of the house are presented. Now a view of the front door to the house. Explains layout and relation as to where her body is in this photo. Ashley’s body is inside the red circle in the photo. New photo showing the angle from her bedroom, her feet toward the bathroom door. 

The most severe injury to the neck area. She was nearly decapitated.

Dr. Ortiz [performed the autopsy]. He will give the opinion this is from a left to right cut so a left handed person. Bloody footprints and blood drops. Criminalist Steve Schliebe will testify to what the blood drops and the footprints mean. What we believe is the path he took to get out of the house.

Coroner Evidence
Stabbed 47 times. Overview of the injuries are presented. The first stab wounds were to her head. Many to her head first. Deputy DA Akemon goes over each stab wound and what area of the body they went through.
The coroner will testify that this stab wound on her neck nearly decapitated her body. More stab wounds are presented to the jury.

In the coroner’s photos, you can see her head was shaved to get a better photo of her stab wounds. Now describing wounds 28-30, wounds to her neck. Stab wounds 36-38 to the left hand, defense wounds. Stab wounds 39 40 are right hand defense wounds. More stab wounds to the hands. All defense wounds.

Deputy DA Akemon tells the jury about witnesses they will hear from in Ashley's case.

A photo from a party is shown. Ashely and her friends standing with her. Justin Peterson was her room mate. And this is Jennifer Disisto who discovered Ashley’s body. And Justin came face to face with Mr. Gargiulo.

It was during this party when Gargiulo was fixated with on Ms. Ellerin.
 There in the back of a photo, appears to be Gargiulo at this party..

This woman who was the party was for, will testify about the photos. Justin Peterson was Ashley’s friend. At social gatherings Gargiulo was watching Ashley.

Just Peterson, identified Mr Gargiulo as the man he saw outside of Ms. Ellerin’s house out in the middle of the night watching Ms. Ellerin’s home. Mr. Gargiulo was hanging out in this green truck, sitting in the truck and watching the house. Justin Peterson will testify that Gargiulo flashed a knife and Peterson drew [a sketch of] the knife he saw.

Mark Durbin,. Mr. Durbin was Ashley’s friend and landlord. He had sex with Ashley the night of the stabbing. He left her residence at 8:15 pm. He had to be home by 8:30 to meet his girlfriend. He called Ashley at 9 and 9:15 pm and she did not answer. Because he had sex with her he was initially looked at.

Ashton Kutcher, Ashley’s friend called at 10:45 pm. Mr. Kushner is called to testify to show there was a very narrow opportunity in this case.

Jennier Disisto. Ashley friend and roommate. She came home at 10:15 pm. The door was locked and she didn’t have her keys. She left and stayed the night with a friend. She came home the next day and discovered her body.

Anthony Castellane, Ashely’s friend.  He attended a party at Ashley’s residence. Gargiulo shows up uninvited and was the last guest to leave. Gargiulo fixated on Ashley. Anthony decided to stay and sleep on the sofa he was so concerned.

Monica Grandy. Will testify Gargiulo was fixated on Ashely. Weeks before Ashley was stabbed to death Gargiulo came into the apartment, [somehow] obtained a key, surprised her and Ashley and ran away.

Todd Jackson. Walked his dog in the dog park. Heard a scream from Ashley’s residence.

Witness Steve Schliebe, LA County Sheriff’s blood spatter expert. [I know Steve. He’s an excellent criminalist. Sprocket] Will testify blood drops are oriented to the door meaning the blood will go out that door. Gargiulo headed out that door. A line of blood drops to the left of the foot prints.

Maria Bruno Murder
She was 32 years old when Gargiulo mutilated her. Photos of Bruno’s residence. Deputy DA Akemon tells the jury they will go out to the residence and see the relationship between Ms. Bruno’s apartment and Gargiulo’s. And just to the left is the kitchen window and that’s the point of entry.

A photo view of Gargiulo’s and Ms. Bruno’s apartments in Arden apartment complex. Gargiulo’s apartment was 20 feet away across the pool. From his living room he could look right down into Ms. Bruno’s apartment. Another photo view showing her apartment looking up to Gargiulo’s apartment. This is the view Gargiulo had of Ms. Bruno’s apartment. Deputy DA Akemon points out in the image the point of entry, the kitchen window.

Cronology of the night of Ms. Bruno’s Murder

November 23, 2005, she was moved into the apartment complex. She moved there because she believed it was a very secure apartment building.

December 1, 2005, at 11:30 pm her and estranged husband left for a date. Maria and her husband Irving went out, they were drinking heavily, and then came back to the apartment and had sex.

The evidence will so that as soon as Irving left, Mr. Gargiulo entered her apartment. Since they had been drinking her husband drove her home and came back the next day to take her back to her job.

Her husband Irving climbed into her window to wake Maria up. He found her body and called 911. 

The prosecution plays the 911 call for the jury. He’s sobbing on the 911 recording.

“Someone broke into my wife’s house and they killed her.”

One of her nipples was placed over her mouth. 

Gargiulo turns toward Mr. Nardoni and leans in to talk to him. 

Crime Scene photos of Maria’s body. There are parts muted out of the photos. A photo of Maria’s body on the bed. DDA Akemon flashes through a series of photos before shutting down the presentation. Now Gargiulo is leaning in to speak to Mr. Rubin and Mr. Nardoni.

At 11:55 am Judge Fidler excuses the jury for the lunch break.

To be continued in Part II….

Images from Opening Statements
Images from ShutterStock

Courthouse News Story on Opening
Local ABC 7 Story
People Magazine Story
Local NBC 4 Story

NY Daily News
Zimbo Photos

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker Pretrial Hearing 10

May 21, 2019

The 9th Floor
I arrive on the 9th floor around 8:19 am and I'm already tired. I haven't been sleeping well of late and the nearly 2 hours of travel time to get to court is not easy on this antique body.

About a minute later, most of Sementilli's defense team arrives. Blair Berk along with the gray-haired gentleman and the dark haired data/computer expert. Also with them this time is Sementilli's sister as well as an older woman with very short dark brown hair. Sementill's blond-haired sister is wearing a white blouse and a black sweater-jacket. Leonard Levine was absent. 

Right after the Sementilli defense team arrives, Baker's counsel, Michael Simmrin arrives.  As soon as Simmrin arrives, I overhear snatches of conversation between defense counsel about when to schedule the next pretrial hearing.

What looks like a Deputy DA and a young, pretty blond intern (she's wearing the standard blue badge I've come to recognize as what interns wear) arrive and greet Simmrin. This other attorney tells Simmrin he has a case in front of Judge Coen.

8:35 AM
Department 101 opens and I follow the defense team inside Judge Coen's court. There is a male clerk at the clerk's desk. Like I've seen many times before, Judge Coen is at his clerk's desk chatting with the gray-haired man. Judge Coen is wearing a white shirt with a shimmering, baby blue tie. Sementilli's sister and older friend sit in the second bench row. The defense data expert takes a seat in the well of the court. When the gray-haired man is finished chatting with Judge Coen, he sits directly to my left in the second bench row. When he first entered the court, he placed his worn satchel he always carries in the spot he likes to sit, on the aisle, second bench.

A very attractive black woman with perfect make-up, small gold earrings and long tiny braids had entered earlier. She has taken a seat in the well of the court. I'm a bit mesmerized by all those tiny perfectly braided braids.

8:37 AM
DDA's Beth Silverman and Melissa Opper arrive. DDA Silverman is wearing a blended thread black/gray pant suit with a black top. She accented it with a nice silver necklace. She hands Simmrin a document with a folder and says, "Here's your copy." Over at the clerk's desk, DDA Opperman returns back to the court, the original SDT's they previously received.

I then hear DDA Silverman tell Simmrin "We're ready." I believe she followed it with, Whenever you're ready. I believe Simmrin says something about any more discovery and DDA Silverman says something to the effect that there's always discovery. My interpretation of this exchange is, the people have handed over their discovery to the defense and they are ready for trial.

Another male Deputy DA arrives and sits in the first row.

Judge Coen is on the bench in his robes. The defendants are inside the courtroom yet. They are not on the record yet. It appears Judge Coen is waiting. Then I notice that the court reporter is not at her desk yet.

8:45 AM
The court reporter comes out quickly with her equipment and Judge Coen asks her, "Are we ready?" She replies to the court that she is. We are waiting for the bailiffs to bring the defendant's out. Mr. Simmrin works on his laptop. Judge Coen patiently waits. A second bailiff enters. He goes to the custody door, opens it and holds it open.  Defendant Baker enters first. He still has short black hair. No noticeable beard but a slim mustache.  He's in the usual orange jumpsuit and white long-john type undershirt beneath that. 

Soon after Sementilli comes out. She is in an orange jumpsuit also this time. I don't know when the change happened since I missed the last hearing but this is the first time I've seen her in the higher-security orange jumpsuit. Sementilli's hair is long and all dark.

Judge Coen goes on the record. He indicates there are no motions before the court. Blair Berk addresses the court first. She tells the court that they are anticipating a new round of discovery and that they are still working through the last two rounds turned over by the prosecution.

Burk tells the court they would like to return on July 16 or 17 as a new pretrial and on that date, set a new trial date. The case will be set at zero of 60 on that date. Judge Coen asks Simmrin which date is agreeable, the 16th or the 17th. Simmrin takes a moment before he tells the court the 16th.

Judge Coen then addresses the people and asks them if that date is acceptable. The people agree with that date.  Judge Coen then addresses defendant Baker and asks, "Is that agreeable to you?" Baker agrees. The court then asks defendant Sementilli if that date is agreeable and she affirms.

And that's it. The people inform the court that several SDT's that have been copied and returned to the court.

Next hearing is July 16th.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Michael Gargiulo Case: 11 Years From Arrest to Opening Statements

Michael Thomas Gargiulo, June 6, 2008

May 6, 2019
Eleven Years From Arrest to Opening Statements

One of the questions I often receive about the Michael Gargiulo case is, Why did this case take so long to get to trial?

Murder trials in LA County can take years to bring to trial. Defendants out on bail usually take longer to bring to trial than in-custody defendants. Multiple murder cases will take even longer. There is more evidence to present and more witnesses to interview.

However, even the Grim Sleeper case (charged with the murder of 11 victims) took less time to get from arrest to opening statements (5 years, 7 months) than the Gargiulo case (10 years, 11 months).

Cameron Brown was in custody over ten years but that was for three trials (two hung juries and a third trial ending in conviction). Gargiulo’s case is unusual in that he has been in custody almost 11 years until opening statements on May 2, 2019.

The answer to the question is complicated. It’s not a single issue. By my count, it was a series of eight separate events involving two different defense counsel, the defendant, the court and the prosecution team at different times over the past 11 years.

Arrest & Charges
In California, Michael Thomas Gargiulo was arrested on June 6, 2008. He was charged with burglary and the attempted murder of Michelle Murphy on April 28, 2008. The District Attorney’s office filed case number SA0068002 in the Airport courthouse. Deputy DA is Joseph A. Markus. Defendant was represented by private counsel. Defendant pleads not guilty. 

September 4, 2009
On September 4 Gargiulo was charged with four additional counts. Gargiulo pled not guilty to the following additional counts: Burglary and the murder of Ashley Ellen on February 21, 2001. Burglary and the murder of Maria Bruno on December 1, 2008.

Gargiulo requested representation by the court. However, for the next few months the clerk’s minute notes indicate he was represented from this date forward by a different private attorney. 

January 23 - February 24, 2009
1/23/09: Gargiulo’s lawyer made a request to the court that he be removed from the case. That request was granted and Gargiulo was appointed counsel from the Public Defender’s office. Gargiulo puts on the record that he would like to have a state appointed lawyer.
2/24/09: The Public Defender’s office and the Alternate Public Defender’s office declare conflicts in this matter and the office of the bar panel is appointed.

March 27 - December 11, 2009

Charles Lindner is appointed Gargiulo’s new counsel pending resolution of fees. 

5/15/09: Lindner informs the court that Department 123 has authorized his appointment of the case. 

7/17/09: Deputy DA Marna F. Miller has the case now. DDA Miller will present the case at the preliminary hearing almost a year later.

9/30/09: The prosecution presents to the court that the preliminary hearing will take two to three weeks and the defense states it will take a month. Based on the time estimates, the case is transferred to Dept 100, Master Calendar Court in downtown Los Angeles for transfer to a longer cause courtroom. There are no objections from counsel.

10/2/09 Dept. 100: Master Calendar Court transfers the case to Dept. 108, Judge Michael Johnson, on the 9th floor of the Clara Shortridge-Foltz Criminal Justice Center. The 9th floor is where long cause trials or complex cases are usually handled.

11/12/09: The complaint is amended. The actual change is not reflected in the clerk’s minute notes.

12/11/09: Clerk’s minute notes indicate the death penalty is pending. Second defense counsel, Dale Rubin is present in court.

January 5, 2010
A firm date of June 21, 2010 is set for the preliminary hearing. Over the next few months, subpoenas for documents come into the court are copied and disbursed. Discovery is completed. 

June 21, 2010
The preliminary hearing starts. The preliminary hearing takes eight days and is held on June 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30. On June 30, the court rules on the preliminary hearing. The people file an amended complaint to add a seventh charge. This charge is attempted escape during the Perkin’s Operation held in the El Monte Jail on June 17-18, 2008. The motion is granted. The court orders the defendant held to answer on all seven charges. Felony arraignment plea is scheduled for July 14, 2010. On that date Gargiulo is charged with seven counts. He pleads not guilty to all charges.

Note: Up to this point, things appear pretty standard in Los Angeles County Superior court for a defendant with a multiple murder charge and the death penalty pending.

November 10, 2010
The people state in open court their intention to seek the death penalty.

Delay #1

This is the first event that will extend the time it takes for the case to get to opening statements.

11/10/10: The people file their statement of aggravating factors by the next court appearance. Defense requests additional time to prepare their 995, motion to dismiss and that is granted. December 6 is set as the date for the parties to meet with Judge Sam Ohta the new judge who will preside over Dept. 108 and the case. On December 6, new dates are set for the filing of the 995 motion, people’s response and the defense reply.

January 19, 2011 -  July 5, 2011
1/19/11: Deputy DA David B. Walgren is added as people’s counsel. 

2/25/11: The court holds an in camera review of discovery documents. Court reporter’s notes are ordered sealed.

Note: There are several status checks over the next  few months where the defendant does not appear. These appear to be counsel declarations and records rechecks of the preliminary hearing record in a death penalty case.

7/5/11: The court certifies the preliminary hearing record is complete and accurate.

7/7/11: In Illinois, the Cook County State’s Attorney General charges Gargiulo with the 1993 first degree murder of Tricia Pacaccio.

Note: Once California is finished with Gargiulo, Illinois will take custody of Gargiulo.

August 16, 2011 - December 7, 2011
A few pretrial hearings where the case is continued. It appears Deputy DA Eric Harmon replaces Deputy DA Miller. The defense lodges their 995 motion with the court on December 7. The motion is 132 pages long.

January 2012 - May 14, 2012
2/15/12: Deputy DA Daniel Akemon appears for the people, replacing Deputy DA Walgren. DDA Akemon will be the lead prosecutor who eventually tries the case.
3/6/12: Order to LA County Sheriff to provide a booth for a psychiatrist Samuel I. Miles, M.D., in the attorney room to interview, examine and psychologically test defendant Michael Gargiulo is signed by the court.

Note: It is unknown if there is a specific event that triggers the need for a psychological evaluation.

4/25/12: Defendant’s oral Marsden motion and possible Pro Per motion are continued to 5/14.

5/14/12: Defendant is present and not represented by counsel. Defendant appears Pro Per. Out of the presence of the people, the defendant’s Marsden motion is argued and denied. In the presence of the people, the defendant’s motion to proceed in Pro Per is granted. Charles Lindner is ordered relieved.

Discovery is to be reacted prior to being turned over to the defendant. Faretta advisement waiver is signed and filed. Order to Sheriff for Pro Per funds in the amount of $60 including legal supplies is filed and faxed to the Sheriff’s Dept. 

This basically resets the case as if a new defense counsel was appointed.

Delay #2
The defendant going Pro Per in a death penalty case is the second event that delays the case significantly. The defendant retains his pro per status for approximately 30 months and only files a single motion of any significance during that time.

Note: From the time the defense filed their 995 motion on December 7, 2011, until May 2012, I can only assume there was a total breakdown of communication and/or cooperation between the defendant and his counsel. Defendant’s motion for new counsel (Marsden) was denied. Defendant went forward with a move to self-represent, Pro Per.

May 15, 2012 - July 12, 2012
5/23/12: Defendant has not received his Pro Per funds and has not been to the LASD jail law library to prepare a motion for appointment of an investigator. 

Note: Over the next few weeks, several hearings occur for the defendant to get Pro Per funds and for an investigator to be assigned. By July 12, Lindner is appointed stand-by counsel and the defendant has his first investigator, Christian Filipiak.

August 21, 2012
I attend my first pretrial hearing in the Gargiulo case. 

Gargiulo files his first motions. Motion for an order to receive and have boxes for voluminous discovery. Motion for an order to have one hand free and uncuffed in private booth in attorney room. Motion to receive law library privileges. The court finds these motions are sheriff security policy issues and are continued to September 5. Defendant’s motion to receive all color copies of crime scene photos is filed and continued to September 5. The court allows defendant’s investigator to give defendant a pair of prescription glasses and two current law books.

Any discovery turned over to the defendant is to be copied on yellow paper. 

Note: All of Gargiulo’s requests for funds are handled by a completely different judge/courtroom, usually Dept. 123 but occasionally Dept. 110.

September 5, 2012 - May 9, 2014
9/5/12: The prosecution files a motion to prevent the defendant from possessing in his cell, the crime scene photographs. After a review of relevant case law, the court rules on September 26 that copies of the crime scene photographs and videos will remain in the custody of defendant’s investigator and not in the defendant’s jail cell. The court orders a representative of the sheriff’s department to appear at the next pretrial hearing to address defendant’s motions that are in conflict with security policy at the jail.

10/29/12: The people turn over discovery material to the defendant.

Note: All future discovery that the people turn over to the defendant is documented in the court record.

11/28/12: Defendant’s motion to have one hand free and uncuffed in attorney room at MCJ (LASD Men’s Central Jail) is granted. Defendant’s motion for boxes is withdrawn. 

2/25/13: People submit a protective order for discovery filed under seal. Defendant’s motion for order of transcripts is argued and denied. Defendant’s motion for a medical order is signed and faxed. 

6/14/13: Defendant’s motion for order for court transcripts is filed. Standing court order for transcripts is in effect. Defendant’s opposition to the people’s stipulation to the Maria Rodriguez murder is filed this date and requires no action. Prosecution’s informal request for discovery (second request) is filed. Charles Lindner is in court and informs the court he has not received any demand for discovery from the defendant. Prosecution will provide standby counsel with discovery.

6/28/13: DDA Garrett Dameron appears on behalf of the people. Defendant’s ex parte motion for order for DA’s office to handover information re the murder of Maria Rodriguez (the Downy case) to Judge Sam Ohta for in camera review is filed.

7/19/13: Stipulation is signed by all parties on the Maria Rodriquez murder. The prosecution is on their tenth set of discovery materials turned over to the defendant.

11/22/13: Twelfth set of discovery materials turned over to the defendant. Investigator Chris Nicely is present in court.

Note: This is the first mention of Mr. Nicely in the clerk’s minute notes but I believe he has been working on the case for some time. 

1/31/14: The people’s motion to compel compliance with PC 1054 ET SEQ discovery procedures and quash subpoena duces tecum (SDT) investigating agency is placed off calendar. The defendant withdrawals his subpoena duces tecum. People’s subpoenaed records are opened in court and released to the people for copying and returned to the court. Two boxes of sealed medical records are lodged with the court.

2/21/14: The people’s 1054 motion and request to quash defense SDT’s mentioned on 1/31 is filed with the court. The fourteenth set of discovery materials is provided by the people to the defendant. Parties confer regarding ongoing discovery.

3/7/14: Parties confer regarding ongoing discovery. The people’s motion to compel discovery and quash subpoenas is continued to next court date.

3/14/14: People’s motion is continued to next court date. Defendant is instructed to file under seal, a document indicating how subpoenaed documents relate to his defense.

4/18/14: Matter continued  to 5/9. The people turn over more discovery materials to the defense.

5/8/14: Defendant is not present. An in camera hearing is held in chambers. Court reporter’s notes are sealed. 

5/9/14: The court is in receipt of the notice of results of [an] administrative hearing to deny defendant’s in custody [at LASD] pro per privileges for cause filed May 1, 2014. A hearing was conducted at Men’s Central Jail by the Sheriff’s Department on April 25, 2014. The hearing officer terminated defendant’s in-custody pro per privileges. A hearing date is set on May 16, 2014, for the court to review the Sheriff’s Department decision. LA County counsel is notified to appear on behalf of the LASD on May 16. An in camera review was held in chambers on May 8. Discovery is ordered turned over to defendant’s investigator to copy and return to this court upon completion. 

Delay #3
The event mentioned in the court file on 5/8 and 5/9 is is the third event that delays the case. When Gargiulo was returning to the jail after his court hearing on April 18, 2014, he was caught with contraband, a piece of metal hidden inside his mouth. This was a violation of LASD jail policy. The LASD revoked Gargiulo’s in custody pro per privileges and access to the law library. Even with this setback, defendant does not wish to relinquish his pro per status. He hangs onto it for six more months.

May 16, 2014 - November 7, 2014

5/16/14: The court conducts a review of the LASD administrative hearing [Wilson hearing] to deny defendant’s in custody pro per privileges. The cause is argued. The court finds substantial evidence to support the sheriff’s action to deny defendant’s access to the law library and pro per phone privilege. Defendant requests a transcript of today’s hearing. Defendant does not wish to relinquish his pro per status and will remain in pro per.

5/30/14: Defendant not present. Court rules on defendant exparte motion to receive local daily news paper and daily journal. The expasrte request is denied without prejudice.

6/27/14: Discovery material provided by the people to defendant. This is the seventeenth set of discovery documents from the people. People state that discovery to the defense is complete. People’s response to defendant’s informal discovery filed.

7/11/14: Matter delayed and case called in Dept. 107 as defendant needs a wheelchair to appear in court. Judge Lomeli signs a medical order for defendant to have his back and ankle checked.

9/25/14: Defendant’s motion for continuance is filed. Defendant’s oral motion to reinstate privileges is a matter for the sheriff’s department to address to the court. (There is no motion to reinstate privileges in the legal court file and the defendant cannot produce a conformed copy on this date.) Medical order is signed
10/10/14: Defendant’s opposition to people’s motion in liming re: statements obtained during Perkins operation at El Monte Jail is filed. People will re-submit a copy of people’s motion in limine. The parties confer regarding the letter dated 9/29/14 from the LASD re defendant’s pro per privileges. 

Note: This is the only significant motion that Gargiulo filed during his entire 30 month run representing himself in a death penalty case. The motion was not hand written like many of his other motions but typed. Someone other than Gargiulo prepared this motion.

11/07/14: Defendant’s motion to relinquish his pro per status is granted. Standby counsel Charles Lindner is appointed as defense counsel. Court orders LASD that defendant is allowed to keep his papers related to his case in his cell until further order of the court set for 1/9/2015. All papers in storage are to be preserved until further review on 1/9.

January 9, 2015 - July 23, 2015

1/9/15: Court and counsel confer regarding discovery. Defense counsel to meet with Detective Lillienfeld regarding discovery material in the possession of the defendant.

1/16/15: In camera hearing with defense counsel. Defendant is not present in court. Court reporter’s notes are ordered sealed. Defense document submitted to the court is ordered sealed and placed in a sealed-records envelope as confidential. Envelope not to be opened except on order of the court. 

5/7/15: Defendant’s motion to dismiss pursuant to PC section 995 is filed. Defendant’s oral Marsden motion is continued. 

Delay #4

Gargiulo trying to get his counsel replaced again with another Marsden motion is the next event that delays the case while the issue is resolved. I have no solid evidence to base my opinion on, but it appears to me Gargiulo and his court appointed attorney cannot stand each other and Gargiulo is doing everything he can to get a new attorney assigned.

Gargiulo’s Marsden hearing is held on seven different court dates over the next five weeks. 5/7, 5/14, 5/27, 6/2, 6/5, 6/9, 6/12.

6/12/15: On this date, the court denies Gargiulo’s oral Marsden motion. Gargiulo orally informs the court that he wishes to withdraw his general time waiver. The court, sensing Gargiulo is trying to punish or retaliate against his counsel, also orders defense counsel to speak to his client privately in the lock-up area. Lindner’s paralegal, his son Abe Lindner, and defense investigator Chris Nicely join Lindner in lock-up for this meeting. Afterwards, defense counsel informs the court that his client refused to speak to him in lock-up.  The defendant’s oral motion to withdraw his general time waiver is continued to 6/15.

6/15/15: Defendant’s oral request to withdraw general time waiver is granted. Counsel’s response to defendant’s request for speedy trial is filed. The last day until the trial must commence is 8/14/15.
6/30: Ongoing discovery is discussed.
7/14/15: Defense counsel informs the court that attorney Dale Rubin has been reappointed as co-counsel.  Court orders attorney Dale Rubin to be present on next court date.
7/23/15: Dale Rubin is present. Ongoing discovery is discussed. Defendant through his attorney requests to read a statement in open court without his attorney’s approval. Upon speaking to his attorney, the request is withdrawn. Case continued to 9/9.

August 27, 2015 - September 9, 2015
8/27/15 Department 123: On August 3, 2015, Charles Lindner counsel for the defendant submitted to this court a six-page letter detailing the circumstances of the inappropriate withdrawal of approximately $10,000 from the attorney-client trust fund in this matter by a third party. 

9/4/15 Department 100: On the direct order of Judge James Brandlin, [Presiding Judge of the LA Co. Superior Court] a Marsden motion is assigned to Judge Scott Gordon on 9/9 in Dept. 123.

9/9/15 Department 123: Cause is called for OSC and Marsden motion. Defense counsel Lindner and Rubin are present. Order to show cause is granted. Mr. Lindner is ordered to cooperate with the superior court’s finance department. Marsden motion is heard. Motion is granted. Lindner is relieved as counsel of record. Good cause exists for relieving Mr. Lindner as counsel independent of the findings in the Marsden motion. No conflicts exist between Mr. Rubin and the defendant. Rubin is conditionally appointed. Lindner is ordered to self-report himself to the State Bar of California and provide proof of reporting to this court within 30 days.

Delay #5
The court removes defense attorney Charles Lindner and Dale Rubin is conditionally appointed, pending court consultation with the I.C.D.A.[California Bar Assn, Indigent Criminal Defense Appointments].

Gargiulo’s desire for a different counsel comes true, but not based on anything he did. Dale Rubin is advanced as the attorney of record. Rubin has to present a budget to defend the case to Dept 123 and get it approved. He also has to find a co-counsel for second chair. Rubin will need to review all of the people’s discovery to date.
These next steps will take time and delay he case.

Note: The full details of the theft from Lindner's client trust account and who was responsible will not be revealed until early in 2019 when defense counsel Dale Rubin files his non-standard 995 motion to dismiss the case (and reply motion) and the 995 motion is argued in open court.

November 5, 2015 - December 16, 2016
Dale Rubin has several appearances in Dept. 108 and in Dept. 123 to get a budget approved and find co-counsel. 

5/27/16 Department 123: Dale Rubin and his co-counsel Daniel Nardoni appear before Dept. 123, Gargiulo’s 987.9 judge for a closed hearing.

7/14/16: Defense co-counsel of record is Daniel Nardoni.

11/21: Sometime before November 21, Judge Ohta is moved from Dept. 108 to Dept. 123. A new judge is assigned to Dept. 108. The people file an affidavit of prejudice against the new judge in Dept. 108, the Honorable Judge Lisa B. Lench. The matter is set in Dept. 100 for assignment on 11/28.

11/28/16 Department 100: Counsel for the people and defendant are all present. Court transfers the case to Department 106, Judge Larry P. Fidler and orders parties to Dept. 106 on December 16, 2016.
12/16/16: Case is continued to March 17, 2017.

Delay #6
The people's request for a new judge delays the case. The Gargiulo case is moved from Dept. 108 to Dept. 106, Honorable Judge Larry P. Fidler. Judge Fidler’s case load is already extensive and Gargiulo’s case is low on the totem pole in this new court. Judge Fidler’s calendar is backed up for months. This transfer delays the case for more than a year.

March 17, 2017 - January 12, 2018

3/17/17: The case is continued until June.
9/8: Due to Judge Fidler having potentially back-to-back death penalty cases, the Gargiulo matter is scheduled for trial on January 12, 2018.

1/12/18: Gargiulo amends his plea to add not guilty by reason of insanity. 

Delay #7
Gargiulo’s additional not guilty by reason of insanity plea delays the case for another year. Trial is expected to start in January 2019.

Note: This means there will now be three separate trials to the Gargiulo case. First will be a trial to determine if Gargiulo is guilty or not. If Gargiulo is found guilty, then a trial will be held to determine if Gargiulo was sane at the time he committed the murders and attempted murder.  If Gargiulo is found sane, then there will be a third trial to determine punishment of life without parole or death penalty. The prosecution is now entitled to see the medical file and psychiatrist notes on every visit Gargiulo had with his doctor. The people are also allowed to have Gargiulo examined by their own mental health expert. All this will take time.

November 2, 2018

Delay #8
Judge Fidler’s packed calendar bumps the Gargiulo case to start March 19, 2019.
Jury selection starts in the Gargiulo trial on March 19, 2019.

Note: I was able to attend the Opening Statements on May 2, 2019. I'll have my notes up in a few days.

Friday, May 3, 2019

THE LAZARUS FILES: A Cold Case Investigation - Book Signings

Earlier today, the Los Angeles Times published a Q&A with Matthew McGough on his new book, The Lazarus Files: A Cold Case Investigation.

Matthew has two upcoming book signings where he will discussing the case.

May 14, 2019 at 7:00 pm (Pacific)
Vroman's Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91101
Matthew McGough, in conversation with Michael Connelly & Miles Corwin, discusses and signs THE LAZARUS FILES: A COLD CASE INVESTIGATION.

May 19, 2019 at 3:00 pm (Pacific)
DIESEL, A Bookstore
, 225 26th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90402
DIESEL, A Bookstore in Brentwood welcomes Matthew McGough to the store to discuss and sign The Lazarus Files: A Cold Case Investigation on Sunday, May 19th at 3:00 pm. Please note that this event will take place in the lower outdoor courtyard adjacent to our store.

If you can't make a book signing event, you can order the book at

I was sorry to miss the book launch on April 30 at The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles. Matthew's wife, the extraordinary Kathryn Busby was kind enough to pass on photos from the event.

The Last Bookstore
453 S Spring St, Los Angeles, CA

Matthew McGough, busy signing a book.

(l-r) Detective James Nuttall, solved the Sherri Rasmussen murder;
Event moderated by screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker;
Author Matthew McGough.

(l-r Matthew, Andrew, James

Look who showed up at the book launch.
(l-r) Author Michael Connelly; Tom Bernardo, producer on BOSCH;
Author Matthew McGough

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Lazarus Files: A Cold Case Investigation, by Matthew McGough

The Lazarus Files: A Cold Case Investigation, by Matthew McGough

On sale today from Henry Holt, Matthew McGough’s long awaited book, The Lazarus Files: A Cold Case Investigation.

A Journey

I first met author Matthew McGough over seven years ago on February 14, 2011 when I was looking for a new case to cover and decided to attend pretrial hearings in the Stephanie Lazarus murder case. LAPD Detective Stephanie Lazarus was charged with the 1986 murder of Sherri Rasmussen. Over the following year of pretrial hearings, I got to know Matthew and we became friends.

I have so many memories from this journey. 

Becoming fast friends with Matthew on day one of the trial. Saving seats for each other and trading notes, etc. All the sushi lunches we went on at our regular sushi spot near the courthouse. The trip to the desert to the Federal Archives in Perris, California searching for documents in the Catherine Braley civil trial. This is where we photographed thousands of pages one by one.

When this trial started, I remember Sherri Rasmussen’s sister, Teresa Lane bringing Matthew some blue chicken eggs from her hens to court. They were for Matthew’s twin boys, who were five and-a-half years old at the time. They will become teenagers this year.

For the past seven years, 

I went along with Matthew on his journey and the excitement as he shared the latest twists and turns in his investigative research. 

Lately, people have been telling me to write a book about my own experiences covering high profile murder trials. However, I know from my friendship with Matthew, what a daunting task it is to write a non-fiction book. I saw up close how much time and effort went into Matthew's research and how important it is to get the facts right. I don’t know if I have the mettle for such a task.

I have been covering murder trials since 2007. No case has impacted my life as much as Sherri Rasmussen’s. I’ve made life long friends in Nels and Loretta Rasmussen, Jayne and Michael Goldberg and several others.  

Having read Matthew’s book, I believe it will be recognized as the definitive account of this historic murder case.

Order the book at

Book Synopsis
On February 24, 1986, 29-year-old newlywed Sherri Rasmussen was murdered in the home she shared with her husband, John. The crime scene suggested a ferocious struggle, and police initially assumed it was a burglary gone awry. Before her death, Sherri had confided to her parents that an ex-girlfriend of John’s, a Los Angeles police officer, had threatened her. The Rasmussens urged the LAPD to investigate the ex-girlfriend, but the original detectives only pursued burglary suspects, and the case went cold.

DNA analysis did not exist when Sherri was murdered. Decades later, a swab from a bite mark on Sherri’s arm revealed her killer was in fact female, not male. A DNA match led to the arrest and conviction of veteran LAPD Detective Stephanie Lazarus, John’s one-time girlfriend.
The Lazarus Files delivers the visceral experience of being inside a real-life murder mystery. McGough reconstructs the lives of Sherri, John and Stephanie; the love triangle that led to Sherri’s murder; and the homicide investigation that followed. Was Stephanie protected by her fellow officers? What did the LAPD know, and when did they know it? Are there other LAPD cold cases with a police connection that remain unsolved?

"The Lazarus Files is crime writing at its finest. Matthew McGough’s deep dive into one of the most controversial cases in Los Angeles history is expertly researched and recreated in exacting and haunting detail. I was riveted.”   --Michael Connelly

The Lazarus Files chronicles one of the most fascinating homicide cases in the history of the LAPD. Matt McGough does a herculean job of research and reporting in order to track down the many serpentine threads in this coldest of cold cases. This is a thrilling story of justice long delayed―but justice finally served.”   --Miles Corwin, author of the national bestseller The Killing Season and Los Angeles Times bestseller Homicide Special

April 30, 2019 at 7:30 pm (Pacific)
The Last Bookstore, 453 South Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Matthew McGough, author of The Lazarus Files: A Cold Case Investigation, discusses the book and the case with LAPD detective Jim Nuttall and screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker (Seven).

May 14, 2019 at 7:00 pm (Pacific)
Vroman's Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91101
Matthew McGough, in conversation with Michael Connelly and Miles Corwin, discusses and signs The Lazarus Files: A Cold Case Investigation

May 19, 2019 at 3:00 pm (Pacific)
DIESEL, A Bookstore, 225 26th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90402
DIESEL, A Bookstore in Brentwood welcomes Matthew McGough to the store to discuss and sign The Lazarus Files: A Cold Case Investigation on Sunday, May 19th at 3:00 pm. Please note that this event will take place in the lower outdoor courtyard adjacent to our store.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Michael Gargiulo Case: Status Update April 2019

Michael Thomas Gargiulo, Arrested 6/6/08.

April 27, 2019
Here is a status update on the pending Michael Thomas Gargiulo murder trial.

Gargiulo is charged with two murders (Ashley Ellerin 2001, Maria Bruno 2005) and one attempted murder (Michelle Murphy 2008). Evidence of another alleged murder, Tricia Pacaccio (1993 Glenview, IL) will be presented as 1101(b) evidence, prior uncharged acts (in California). On July 7, 2011, Gargiulo was charged with first degree murder in the death of Tricia Pacaccio by the Illinois Cook County State's Attorney.

Trial Schedule
Opening statements are scheduled to start Thursday May 2, 2019.  Testimony will start on Monday, May 6. No live streaming of the trial will be allowed. Although the court announcement did not mention it specifically, I expect this also covers live tweeting. No photography or filming of witnesses.

The trial will be held four days a week, Monday through Thursday (9:30 a.m. to 12 noon; 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.) and is estimated to last six months. The court will be dark the first week of July and for any other court needs.

For opening statements, closing arguments, verdict and sentencing (if necessary), filming and still photography will be allowed. The court is allowing laptops to be used for note taking only.

I have followed the Gargiulo case for over 6.5 years from my first post on August 21, 2012. It was inconceivable to me back then that it would take almost 11 years to bring Gargiulo to trial.  Sadly, due to the recent changes in my life and the length of this trial, I will be unable to cover this case in the depth and detail that makes T&T what it is. I will not even be able to attend opening statements. I will try however, after the trial has started, to drop in on testimony in May or June as my schedule permits.

Note: I am still trying to obtain a copy of the defense response motion to the people's 1101(b) motion regarding the murder of Tricia Picaccio. I will upload motion documents as I obtain them. Sprocket

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Stephanie Lazarus In Her Own Words (Part IX, 4/18/85)


Stephanie Lazarus In Her Own Words (Part IX, 4/18/85)

In 1986, Sherri Rasmussen was murdered in her Van Nuys home.

23 years later, in 2009, LAPD Detective Stephanie Lazarus was arrested for the crime. Lazarus was convicted of first degree murder in 2012, a trial I covered from gavel to gavel.

Early in her LAPD career, Stephanie kept a diary of her daily patrol rounds.

This diary entry is from April 18, 1985, 34 years ago today. 

At the time, Stephanie was a patrol officer assigned to the LAPD’s Deonshire Division.

0730 - 1615 (1545)


No roll call, it was work out day. This was my first day out in the field. I worked with John M---, a P 3+1. Real nice guy. We worked the Northridge Mall Z Car. The Z Car is an extra car, receives no radio calls. We basically patrolled the Mall (inside) and Parking Lot (outside).

First thing out of the Station, we did stop for coffee at Foster’s on Reseda.

Then we checked out Bryant and Vanalden. This is the area for selling Heroin. It looks worse than Leland / McCadden and St. Andrews and Marathon in Hollywood.

Then we checked out the parking lot in the Mall. We made a lot of high school students who weren’t 18 go back to school and not go into the Mall. Most of the kids say they're 18 but they're not.

Then we walked around the Mall, keeping an eye out for the opening of the jewelry stores. John knows everyone in the Mall which is neat.

At about 1130 John had to go to a special lunch for a special award. I went to Fuddrucker’s and met another unit that was already there. It was 2 guys that I don’t really know. But they were somewhat nice. I could tell not real thrilled. This place went 1/2.

After lunch I was leaving the lot and I saw John Ruetten’s car. Just my luck. I put a note on it and watched the car for 1/2 hour and checked up on it a few times. Well I find out from him later that he had gotten into Fuddrucker’s at about 1210. Just about 5 minutes before I left.

Then I patrolled the mall a bit. Some girls stopped me to tell me that they saw this lady beating her child. I went and checked it out. A lady was really upset but it didn’t look like she had beaten her child.

Then I picked John up at the Sub Station in the Mall and we patrolled around and walked in the Mall before End of Watch which was about 1540.

Heissel today said something about my tan. I said, Yeah, I was wearing my bikini at the run. She said, Yeah, I heard. I couldn’t imagine what was said.

My friend Matthew McGough's book, The Lazarus Files: A Cold Case Investigation, will be released on April 30, 2019. You can pre-order his book on Amazon HERE.

The previous diary entry can be found HERE.
The next diary entry can be found HERE.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Stephanie Lazarus In Her Own Words (Part VIII, 4/16/86


Stephanie Lazarus In Her Own Words (Part VIII, 4/16/1986)

In 1986, Sherri Rasmussen was murdered in her Van Nuys home.

23 years later, in 2009, LAPD Detective Stephanie Lazarus was arrested for the crime. Lazarus was convicted of first degree murder in 2012, a trial I covered from gavel to gavel.

Early in her LAPD career, Stephanie kept a diary of her daily patrol rounds.

This diary entry is from April 16, 1986, about seven weeks after Sherri's murder.

 At the time, Stephanie was a patrol officer assigned to the LAPD’s Devonshire Division.

0730 – 1615 (1545)

I had to go to loan to North Hollywood. They had a training day. I got to work w/ Scotty which was ok. At least I knew him. I drove. We didn’t do a thing all day. I think we had 3 radio calls.

I drove around the North Hwd Hills because I like to look at the large houses. We took a Code 30 in the Hills off of Dona Pegita. We checked the house, nothing, then the woman came home. She had a lovely house and her husband had just died. She was nice though I felt sorry for her. Scotty was looking for an old Stove. So we looked at used appliance stores.

Then we ate at the Sea Food Broiler. They didn’t go 1⁄2 or anything but I had crab. It cost 10.95 but I didn’t care.

The only other call we got was a child abuse. Well lucky for us it was only a DPSS social worker checking on a child that might have been abused by her mother, a broken finger. The mother was 21 yrs old and didn’t seemed to concerned, but the DPSS worker didn’t take the child because the people the child was staying w/ promised to take the child to the hosp.

We did have a call in Van Nuys – family dispute. The wife was bothering the husband, but she had left. The man was really sleazy and the house had about 6 cars in the front yard.

We stopped for Baskin Robbins ice cream on Victory / Fulton. Surprisingly enough it was free.

H--- was nice and picked up my dishwasher and delivered it to my house.

My friend Matthew McGough's book, The Lazarus Files: A Cold Case Investigation, will be released on April 30, 2019. You can pre-order his book on Amazon HERE.

The previous diary entry can be found HERE.
The next diary entry can be found HERE.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Stephanie Lazarus In Her Own Words (Part VII, 4/15/86)


Stephanie Lazarus In Her Own Words (Part VII, 4/15/1986)

In 1986, Sherri Rasmussen was murdered in her Van Nuys home.

23 years later, in 2009, LAPD Detective Stephanie Lazarus was arrested for the crime. Lazarus was convicted of first degree murder in 2012, a trial I covered from gavel to gavel.

Early in her LAPD career, Stephanie kept a diary of her daily patrol rounds.

This diary entry is from April 15, 1986, seven weeks after Sherri's murder.

 At the time, Stephanie was a patrol officer assigned to the LAPD’s Devonshire Division.

0730 - 1615


We played basketball for work out day. I worked by myself. I wrote a ticket at Louise / Prairie. The woman ran the stop sign. Of course she said she stopped. All she could do was argue.

Then I had to go to the Station. I had to take Capt Fried to Marilla and Lasaine for a Earth Quake Drill that was put on by Hal Bernson’s office. This was Earthquake Awareness Week. It was I guess a privilege to drive the Capt around. The earthquake drill was interesting. They used citizens and had them made up with wounds and simulated what a rescue team would do if a real earthquake occurred. I did this from about 0915 to 1100. Then I drove around. I went and bought my dishwasher.

Then I got a call Tampa / 118 FWY. There was a TA. I took all the info and got a traffic car. Party 1 ran a stop light on the offramp and ran into this woman. Party 1 he worked at Rockwell, real nerd, didn’t even know what happened. Then I waited for C-7 to go w/ H---. Well I had to pick up Schuster at the Station. I wasn’t too happy. Dr. Schuster is OK but he likes to butt into the conversation and the work, like he knows it all.

I didn’t do anything for about 1 1/2 after lunch w/ him.

My friend Matthew McGough's book, The Lazarus Files: A Cold Case Investigation, will be released on April 30, 2019. You can pre-order his book on Amazon HERE.

The previous diary entry can be found HERE.
The next diary entry can be found HERE.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Jennifer Francis v. City of Los Angeles (LAPD) Verdict

Stanley Mosk Courthouse, downtown Los Angeles
April 5, 2019
I arrived on the 5th floor of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse a little before 10am. I was late to court. I had gotten all the way to the bus station when I realized I didn't have my Metro tap card or credit card. I had left them in the pocket of the jacket I had worn yesterday.

Jennifer Francis's counsel were in the hallway as well as two of the alternate jurors. A little farther away down the hall were a group of attorneys from the LAPD's Legal Affairs Office. They had been in the courtroom for the past week.  Defense counsel Reginald Roberts, along with Deputy City Attorney Karen Park, have stayed inside the courtroom waiting on deliberations.

I started reading the web and got lost for a bit. The next time I looked up, there were several jurors in the hallway and John Taylor was headed into the courtroom. Not long after, a new courtroom assistant was hanging a sign on the outside of Dept 56 that said, "Jurors wait in the hallway until called." I was guessing that the jurors were either on a break or they had a question.

The verdict form has eight questions the jurors, depending on their answers along the way will answer. Here is verdict form question number 1:

My friend Matthew McGough arrives and we find out that the jury had a question that was answered. Here is the first  question from the jurors.

The answer that was sent back to the jurors is "No."

Everyone's now back inside the courtroom. The courtroom assistant, a man I've never seen before, is telling the clerk at the desk that the jurors need five sheets of paper. They have five questions.

Another buzz from the jury. The courtroom attendant enters the jury room. A file folder is brought out. The attendant makes copies and walks the papers into Judge Fujie's chambers. They have their second question.

Mr. Roberts states, "I thought there were five questions. The attendant replies, "maybe expect four more buzzes. Ms. Park shows me the jurors question on her phone. I don't write it all down quickly enough.

Judge Fjuie comes out from her chambers for a moment. Plaintiff's counsel John Taylor and Matthew McNicholas leave, then come back.

Judge Fujie is on the bench. She reads out loud for the record the second question from the jury.

The jurors continue deliberating while counsel argue to the court what the answer should be.

I have in my notes this comment, but I'm not certain if it's the court, the Defense or Plaintiff's counsel who said it. It is not what is in her mind ... It is up to the jury to determine if the content of the disclosure is a violation of state or federal law. It's possible this is what the court said.

Counsel for the Defendant, the City of LA, argue the answer should be "Yes." Counsel for the Plaintiff, Jennifer, argue the answer should be "No."

And back and forth it goes. Like I've seen many times during this trial, the court is indecisive and waffles back and forth on the record. At first, Judge Fujie appears to side with the Plaintiff. The court and Defense argue back and forth about what the prior case law has interpreted this issue.

I believe it's defense counsel who states, something to the effect of ... [it's the] Plaintiff's burden to establish ... accessory to murder. In the discussion, It appears to me the court cannot decide on how to answer the question. Judge Fujie states, in reference to question #1, "It's confusing."

Ms. Park and Mr. Roberts discuss the issue between themselves.

Judge Fujie muses, "I'm looking at .. is whether if what Ms. Francis disclosed ... if they ... true or if ... would have been [against?] a state or federal law."

Both sides of the aisle just want either a yes or no answer to the jury. Judge Fujie decides to draft her own answer for the jury.  The court tries to craft something out loud. "Is it up to the jury to decide ... if what the plaintiff disclosed ... potentially is a [violation] of State or Federal law?"

I believe it's the Defense who states, "The instruction does not say potential." Mr. Roberts has serious objections to the instruction. John Taylor speaks, and it appears everyone is talking at once. Judge Fujie, appearing exasperated addresses counsel, "Please stop talking."

Judge Fujie goes back into chambers and drafts her own answer to the jury and comes back out with it. Defense counsel agree with the instruction. Plaintiff's counsel is still considering it at the start of the lunch hour.

The lunch hour is called and I have to leave for a special dental appointment I've been waiting months to get. I could not have rescheduled it. It was set months ago. I cannot stay to see if the Plaintiff's counsel agrees with the court's language in the answer to the jurors' question #2. I tell Matthew he's on his own if a verdict comes in while I'm gone.

I take the Expo Line train down to the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry at USC.

I'm sitting in the dental chair, waiting for the professor to stop by when I get this text from Matthew around 2:08 pm: "Jen lost - 12-0 on question #1." Matthew tells me that Jennifer left the courtroom before the jury was polled.

My heart sinks for Jennifer.

This is the answer the court crafted for the jurors to their second question.

It is up to the jury to determine if the contents of the disclosure, if true, violated state or federal law. - Jury Rejects LAPD Criminalist's Whistleblower Case
LA Times - Jury Sides With City in Retaliation Lawsuit