Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Moncia Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker, Pretrial Hearing 14

Fabio Sementilli

November 13, 2019
I almost didn't make it to the hearing on time. I was held up at the 9th floor Los Angeles County Sheriff's security station. I'll talk about the ever changing security policy for the 9th Floor in a new post next week.

I ran into Deputy DA Beth Silverman on the 9th floor elevator bay She was in front of me at the scanner. She appeared quite rushed and not her usually cheerful self.

Inside Dept 101 8:36 AM
When I enter Judge Coen's court he is already on the bench. There is a pretty prosecutor at the people's table I don't know. Two of the defense attorneys, Michael Simmrin and Hans J. Allhoff are chatting with the court off the record. Deputy DA Beth Silverman is nowhere in sight.

I'm not certain, but I believe it is the court who asks where Ms. Silverman is. There is some speculation chatter that maybe Deputy DA Melissa Opper will be here and not Silverman. Then I believe one of Judge Coen's clerks informs him that Deputy DA Silverman went to Department 104 first.

Checking the DA's daily court calendar, there is a hearing in Dept. 104 where Deputy DA Tannaz Mokayef  of the Major Crimes Unit is prosecuting defendant Patrick Watkins, charged with capitol murder and two dozen attempted murders. It's a good bet Deputy DA Beth Silverman is co-counsel on that case.

When the parties in the well of the court hear that Deputy DA Silverman went to her hearing in Dept. 104 before her hearing before this case, Judge Coen has a look on his face and I hear this multi-voiced "oooooooooooooooh" coming from the well of the court. I'm not sure if Judge Coen's cryptic response was related to the news or not.

Defense counsel and the court chat off the record about potential trial month dates in 2020. Judge Coen states he has two death penalty cases and that ".... Beth says this case will take eight weeks." I believe it's Mr. Simmrin who states he can't believe the trial will take that long.

Judge Coen's clerk indicates the court does have some time in January 2020, but not the full 8 weeks. One of the defense attorneys asks if Judge Coen has anything in April. The court responds to the April request, "That's also a death case." There's also a trial in mid May that's a death penalty case. Judge Coen tells the parties, "It looks like I have June and July open ... that's how it looks now."  Mr. Simmirin tells the court, "You're a popular judge." Then there is a change in what I'm understanding about April. Now I hear that as April stands now, there's no more that six weeks available. [I'm taking that to mean April and then two weeks in May, since a death case starts mid May.]

Sprocket Note: Understand that cases are fluid and things can change at the last minute. A defendant can take a plea or a case with multiple defendants can successfully argue to sever their cases. These are the things that make judges court calendars change. Attorney's sometimes take their chances when juggling their own case load to get a favorable trial start date.

We are waiting for Deputy DA Silverman. The pretty prosecutor at the table approaches me and asks if I am "... on the Raymond case." I tell her, "No, I'm sorry. I'm not."  The court is waiting for the defendants in the other prosecutor's case and the sheriff's have no news on when they will arrive. The last news was the defendants were ten minutes out.

Judge Coen addresses the pretty prosecutor. "The job as Assistant Head Deputy is really hard." He then tells her that he read that a new "DA" has come into the race. District Attorney Jackie Lacey is running for reelection in 2020 and there are a few challengers.

I believe Judge Coen is talking about former defense attorney Rachel Rossi, who is joining former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, and two Los Angeles County Deputy DA's, Richard Ceballos and Joseph Iniguez in their bid to take over the coveted LA County DA spot. The prosecutor is cautious since press are in the room. She asks the court, "Your honor, may I approach?" He grants the request and she goes to the bench to talk to the court privately.

8:48 AM
Deputy DA Beth Silverman arrives, greeting Judge Coen's staff and opposing counsel. There is a bit of small talk between counsel about hard drives and when they will be ready.

Very quickly, Sementilli is brought into court. She doesn't look to cheery today. She takes her seat and Mr. Allhoff leans in to whisper to her.

Daniel Nardoni, one of Michael Gargiulo's defense attorneys, enters Dept. 101 and takes a seat in the gallery.

The court asks off the record about a return date for the Baker/Sementilli case. A date of January 9, 2020 is proposed. Deputy DA Silverman quickly agrees. The deputies bring Baker out. He sits in his usual spot on the end. 
8:51 AM
The court goes on the record for the next pretrial setting. Mr. Simmirin speaks for the record to set the case for January 9 and the case calendar for zero of 90 with the "reasonable people's continuance." Counsel agrees.

Judge Coen then asks each defendant if they agree to put their case over until January 9th. Both defendants respond yes. And that's it. Over in less than two minutes max. It looks like as Sementilli is getting out of her seat to return to the custody area, she quickly looks back to the gallery. After Sementilli, Baker is taken back into custody.

As I leave Dept. 101, I stop to ask Mr. Nardoni if he and co-counsel Dale Rubin will be representing Gargiulo through his appeal. Mr. Nardoni says they will not.

Next court date is January 9, 2020.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Christian-Newsom Torture Murders Status Update, Lemaricus Davidson New Trial Bid

We have another guest post from T&T contributor David in Tennessee!

Judge Rejects New Trial for Lemaricus Davidson in Christian-Newsom Torture-Murder Case

On Friday, November 8, 2019, Judge Walter Kurtz turned down a bid for a new trial by Lemaricus Davidson in the January 2007 murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom.

Davidson has been considered all along as the ringleader and prime mover of the crimes.

"But Kurtz ruled Friday that killer George Thomas' claim that Davidson had no role in Newsom's death was suspect and not enough to merit either a new trial or a new sentencing hearing."

Judge Kurtz decided "the newly presented facts related to Mr. Davidson's role in the death of Christopher Newsom would not have affected the guilty verdicts in this case nor the imposition of the death penalty."

Davidson's attorneys contended Thomas' testimony at the August trial made Boyd responsible for Newsom's murder with Davidson not involved.

Judge Kurtz ruled Davidson was a central figure in the crimes with "... an active and prominent role in the commission of the crimes for which he was convicted."

In other words, the Judge considered the totality of the evidence.

Thomas had taken a secret deal to testify against Boyd. For doing so his sentence would be reduced from Life Without Parole to 50 years. He put the blame for the rape-murder of Newsom on Eric Boyd.

Kurtz didn't believe a lot of what Thomas said. Why? "The court has difficulty in crediting all of Mr. Thomas's testimony given the court's knowledge of his role in these crimes," Kurtz wrote.

A major point is that even in his putting blame on Boyd, Thomas gave still more proof of Davidson being the ringleader of the crimes.

"The court accredits Mr. Thomas's testimony that Mr. Davidson ordered the killing of Mr. Newsom, and that Boyd was the person who killed Mr. Newsom and (set his body afire)."

The full details of the crime are told in earlier articles at Trials and Tribulations.

In his 2009 trial, Davidson claimed that Christian and Newsom weren't kidnapping victims but had come to his house to buy drugs. Davidson claimed the killings happened while he was out selling drugs.

All five suspects claimed to have seen and heard nothing, either stoned, asleep, frightened, etc.

When Davidson and attorneys learned of Thomas's deal, they tried to use it to their advantage. This, despite Thomas's testimony completely refuting Davidson's assertion the couple were willing visitors, not kidnap victims.

"Prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald argued Thomas's testimony would have 'destroyed' Davidson's defense strategy in his 2009 trial and shouldn't be used now as a basis to attack his convictions and death sentence."

The Judge ruled Thomas's testimony did nothing to absolve Davidson's guilt. Thomas's testimony has Davidson ordering Boyd to kill Newsom and told Thomas to go with him.

Taking Thomas at face value, Boyd and Thomas left the house with Newsom under orders from Davidson.

My own view is that Davidson, Boyd, and Thomas -all three- took Christopher Newsom out to be killed. This was after Newsom had undergone horrendous torture.

Judge Kurtz based his ruling on the "totality" of the evidence. Davidson's attorneys will undoubtedly appeal the ruling.

Incidentally, when Davidson was captured, he was wearing Chris Newsom's shoes. Newsom's cap's and partially burned drivers license were found in the house in which Davidson was hiding.

Eric Boyd provided the vehicle used in the kidnapping.

Here is a video report by Knoxville's ABC affiliate.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Stephanie Lazarus Case - HLN ORIGINALS, New Episode 11/3/19

Sherri Rasmussen & John Ruetten, 11/23/1985

New Show on Sherri Rasmussen Murder
New show airing on HLN Originals, November 3, 2019 at 8pm ET. As part of HLN's series DEAD WIVES CLUB, a new episode will air this Sunday on the murder of newlywed Sherri Rasmussen, murdered by Stephanie Lazarus, a trial I covered from gavel to gavel.

Journalist Matthew McGough, author of, former news anchor, writer and producer Pat LaLama and I were interviewed for the episode.

Complete T&T Lazarus trial coverage.

Stephanie Lazarus, Arrested June 2009

Friday, October 18, 2019

Michael Gargiulo Penalty Phase - Jury Has Reached A Verdict

Michael Thomas Gargiulo, 2008
The day of his arrest

UPDATE 10/20: The jury recommended death for Gargiulo. Local NBC4 has the story.
The Washington Post reports Gargiulo will be formally sentenced in February 2020.

October 18, 2019
The LA Superior Court has announced a verdict has been reached in the penalty phase of the case. The verdict will be read in Dept. 106 at 1:30 p.m., Pacific Time.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Moncia Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker, Pretrial Hearing 13 and Sprocket Update News

Fabio Sementilli, murdered 1/23/2017

October 16, 2018
Taking public transportation into downtown Los Angeles is always a chore for me and can take up to two hours or longer. Today went pretty smoothly for once. I left home at 6:20 a.m. and was on Temple Street, a block from the courthouse by 8:00 a.m.

After I stop to get a hot tea at the 5th floor snack bar, I'm on the 9th Floor by 8:15 a.m. The door is open but there is only one Sheriff at the security scanner and the deputy tells me he needs two deputies (one to operate the belt scanner and one to watch people walk through) to let people into the hallway.

While I'm waiting, defense counsel for Michael Gargiulo, Daniel Nardoni, -one of the nicer defense attorneys I've met around the courthouse- approaches the security station. He's carrying a recently laundered white shirt on a hanger covered in plastic. To get the shirt to his client, he has to sign a document -I note Mr. Nardoni is a fellow lefty- and put the shirt on the belt scanner without the hanger or plastic.

8:20 AM
After Mr. Nardoni clears security with his briefcase and shirt the security guard decides to let me and a few jurors go through to the 9th Floor hallway even though a second deputy has not arrived yet.

While I'm waiting at the end of the hallway I note that there is a sign hanging on the door to Dept. 101, Judge Coen's courtroom that says something to the effect of, "Jurors wait until called." This tells me that Judge Coen is currently in trial. An attorney approaches Dept. 101 and tries the door. It's locked and the gentleman takes a seat to wait. 

I then see Deputy DA Melissa Opper arrive. She's wearing a tan skirt suit with a black jacket, black handbag and what looks like a long, thin gold necklace. She has a great smile and is kind enough to say hello. She is about to try the door to Dept. 101 but I tell her it's still locked.

8:25 AM
It's quiet today. There are less than a dozen people on the floor, with most of them wearing juror badges. Michael Simmrin, defense counsel for Baker arrives.

While I'm waiting another familiar face arrives. It's defense attorney Steve Meister. Mr. Meister was co-counsel with Mark Werksman on the James Fayed murder trial. We chat for a moment about love behind bars and the criminal justice system. I then see Dept. 101 open and I tell him I have to go.

Inside Dept. 101
8:33 AM

The gentleman I saw in the hallway is sitting at the counsel tables and there are other counsel here as well. There are spiral notebooks on the juror's chairs. DDA Opper and Simmrin take seats in the well directly in front of the jury box and start to chat. I don't recognize the bailiff or the individual at the clerk's desk. There's a young, handsome black man sitting in the back row with a notebook. I sense he is here for the case in trial.  More counsel arrive for the current case. Judge Coen calls for counsel at sidebar for the case that is currently in trial. One of the prosecutors reminds me of the actor, William H. Macy without Macy's beard. It appears the court is discussing jury selection in the current case. 

8:35 AM
Defense counsel for Sementilli, Leonard Levine and Hans J. Allhoff arrive. It appears Ms. Berk will be a no show today. Mr. Levine takes a seat by DDA Opper. Their phones are out and they are talking return dates.

8:37 AM
Deputy DA Beth Silverman arrives and joins her co-counsel in trying to find a return date in the middle of November. I hear several dates thrown out. November 11, 12 and 14. It goes back and forth between Mr. Simmrin, Levine and the prosecution trying to find a date that works for everyone. It appears they have a date and the court is informally notified.

8:45 AM
Baker and Sementill are brought out. Both defendants are in orange jumpsuits. Since the attorneys for the case in trial are at the counsel tables, the defendants, their counsel and the prosecution team are all standing. Judge Coen goes on the record and asks the parties where they are. Mr. Levine starts off telling the court they have agreed to a return date of November 11, but that's wrong since it's a holiday. DDA Silverman takes over and tells the court the return date is November 13, with the case calendar set at zero of 90 with a "reasonable people's continuance." The court asks each defendant individually if they agree to the continuance to 11/13. They each give a verbal, "Yes." And that's it. It's all over in a few minutes.

Note: We learned at the last pretrial hearing that Mr. Simmrin will not be ready for trial in 2019. I expect there will be monthly continuances until a trial date is selected.

Sprocket Update News

I wanted to let everyone know what's been happening with me.

December 31 of last year I moved into my new home. I'm pretty much settled in now and life is very good in this safe space. I love my little house! I'm hopeful for nesting hummingbirds in the ficus trees I was able to bring with me when nesting season starts.

At the end of September I started school for a new career in the health care field. I will be done with my training in early January, and then schedule my testing with the state. Once I pass the exam, I'll be looking for work in that field. I don't know where I will land but I'm hopeful I will be employed before the end of February.

I will continue to attend pretrial hearings in the Sementilli/Baker case as long as I am able. Once I'm settled in a new job, I will be trying to find the time to write up the rest of my notes on the Jennifer Francis civil trial that I attended earlier this year. There's a lot to digest in that case that is related to the Stephanie Lazarus murder trial.

T&T since it's inception has had no advertising. T&T is 100% reader supported. Thank you everyone, for reading and supporting T&T since its inception in February 2007.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker, Pretrial Hearing 12

Fabio Sementilli

Preious post on this case can be found HERE.

NOTE: I apologize for the lateness of this post. I've been under the weather with a head cold and cough. Sprocket.

UPDATE: Corrected home security system to a neighbor's security system.
September 4, 2019
Right when I entered the security line for the Clara Shortridge-Foltz Criminal Justice Center, I run into a gorgeous reporter that has been covering the Baker-Sementilli hearings. We say hello and introduce ourselves for the first time. Her name is Chetna and she is a producer for Dateline. We clear security and ride the elevator together.

The 9th Floor

Judge Coen’s courtroom is already open. There are two older women -probably close to my advancing age- seated in the second bench row where I usually sit. They have been here before and I believe are friends or relatives of defendant Sementill.  One woman has very short dark hair. She’s wearing a long strand of pearls. The other woman has darkish hair with blond highlights and blue framed glasses.

Some of the prosecution staff is already here. Deputy DA Melissa Opper is in the courtroom along with another Deputy DA, Paul Pzrelomiec who assisted Deputy DA Beth Silverman on the Grim Sleeper (Lonnie Franklin, Jr.) trial. Two LAPD Robbery-Homicide Detectives enter the courtroom. I recognize them immediately. One is the handsome Daryn Dupree and the other I believe is his partner, whose name escapes me at the moment.

Dupree greets Deputy DA Paul Przrelomiec. 

Blair Berk and Leonard Levine are not here. The defense attorney who stood in for them at the last hearing, Hans J Allhoff is here. The gray haired older gentleman who works with Sementilli’s defense team is in his usual spot, chatting with Judge Coen at the clerk’s counter.  Baker’s defense attorney, Michael Simmrin is not here but one of his support staff is, a youngish blond woman who signs for some documents in the well. 

I think we are waiting on Deputy DA Beth Silverman to arrive.

There is some off the record chatter. I overhear that Mr. Simmrin will not be able to make it and Sementilli’s defense attorney will stand in for him. 

Moments later Deputy DA Beth Silverman arrives. She’s wearing strapping black pumps, a red dress and a loose-fitting black jacket. Seeing the two RHD detectives and the young Deputy DA Paul Pzrelomiec, Silverman says something to the effect of, looks like a pretty good team ... a serial killer team.

The defense attorney and the prosecution team exchange a bit about putting the case over to another hearing. The date October 16th is mentioned.

Deputy DA Silverman banters, “… she said [at the] last court date she would be ready for trial.”

It’s a good guess that Silverman is referring to Ms. Berk. The defense counsel answers, “Yeah, but there was more discovery.” Silverman responds, “…there’s always more discovery. That’s just the kind of case  it is.”

Judge Coen calls another case. The defendant is brought in through the front doors. A tall, youngish man, he’s in a wheelchair.  This hearing is over pretty quickly and we are waiting for Baker and Sementilli to be brought out.

8:52 AM
Sementilli is brought out first. Her hair continues to grow out. It's longer and appears darker. She has what looks like an expanding file folder with her in a clear plastic bag. 

Semintilli turns and smiles to her supporters in the gallery. The woman with the dark hair and pearls puts her hand to her lips and gestures with her hand like she is blowing defendant Sementilli a kiss.

Right after Sementill turned to the gallery to give eye contact to her supporters, Judge Coen loudly admonished her to face the front of the courtroom and not turn around to the gallery. It's not in my notes but I believe Judge Coen called the bailiff over to monitor her to make sure she didn't turn around again.

A face I’ll never forget enters Dept. 101. It’s the lead counsel for Lonnie Franklin, Jr., Seymour Amster. The arguments between Amster and Silverman during the Franklin case were over the top bitter. Amster enters and drops his briefcase onto a chair in the well of the court. 

I believe he quickly leaves.

Defendant Baker is brought out at the same time and Judge Coen goes on the record.

Defense counsel Allhoff informs the court that he will be standing in for Mr. Simmrin today. Judge Coen clarifies for the record that he is representing Baker for this hearing only. 

Counsel and the court agree to put the court calendar at zero of 60 on October 16.  Judge Coen asks defendant Baker if he agrees. Baker agrees. He then asks Sementilli if she agrees. Sementilli agrees. 

As the bailiffs get the defendants ready to return to the custody area, Sementilli, is standing and turns to look at her family again. She smiles and mouths some words. It appears to me she is saying, Bye bye Bubbie, or maybe Mommy but that's just a guess.  The dark haired woman repeats her earlier gesture of blowing her a kiss again. 

And that’s it until October 16.

Exiting the courtroom Chetna and I follow Deputy DA Beth Silverman out. Silverman is silent regarding any questions about the prosecution or LAPD's success in locating the second assailant who was seen with defendant Baker on a neighbor's home security system. CBS 48 Hrs. has a report with images of the two assailants from the neighbor's security system.

In some of the pretrial banter between counsel it was discussed that Baker's counsel, Mr. Simmrin has communicated to the prosecution that this case will not go to trial this year. From what I heard, it appears to me that Mr. Simmrin will not be trial ready before 2020.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Michael Gargiulo Sanity Phase Verdict Reached

Michael Thomas Gargiulo, June 2008

August 22, 2019
2:05 pm KTLA is reporting that Gargiulo was found sane when he murdered two women (Ashley Ellerin, Maria Bruno) and attempted to murder a third (Michelle Murphy).

In the guilt phase of the trial, jurors will hear testimony and determine if Gargiulo will receive life without parole or the death penalty.

11:23 am
I just received notice that a verdict has been reached in the sanity phase of the Michael Gargiulo Trial. It will be read at 11:45am Pacific Time.

Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend the reading of the verdict. As I get news I will update this post.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Michael Gargiulo Verdict Reached

Michael Thomas Gargiulo, June 2008

August 15, 2019
The Los Angeles Superior Court's Public Information Office states that a verdict has been reached in the Gargiulo trial. The verdict will be read at 11 am PT.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend the reading. I will update T&T readers as soon as I hear news from the court.

August 16, 2019
Yesterday, after a little more than three days of deliberation, Gargiulo was convicted of first degree murder in the stabbing deaths of Ashley Ellerin on February 21, 2001 and Maria Bruno on December 1, 2005. Gargiulo was also convicted of premeditated attempted murder of Michelle Murphy on April 28, 2008 and attempted escape from the El Monte Jail on June 18, 2008. In the murders and attempted murders, the jury also found true the special circumstances of lying-in-wait and using a deadly weapon, a knife.

There are two more phases left in the Gargiulo case: Sanity and penalty phase.

Jurors return Tuesday, August 20, to hear evidence in the sanity phase. If jurors decide that Gargiulo was sane during these crimes, they will then hear evidence to determine Gargiulo's punishment. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Christian-Newsom Torture Murder - Day 6 Eric Boyd Trial

 Eric Boyd, at his murder trial


This post will be updated throughout the day. Sprocket

August 13, 2019

8:40 PM PT
On Tuesday the jury found Eric Boyd guilty for his role in the torture-murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom.

The seven-woman, five-man jury deliberated around eight hours over two days before returning the verdict of first degree murder along with guilty verdicts on 36 charges in all. 

The verdict carries a life sentence with possibility of parole after 51 years for each of the two deaths. Judge Bob McGee will determine at a sentencing hearing on September 18 whether the two life sentences will be consecutive or concurrent. Also, what extra punishment Boyd will receive for the other charges, including kidnapping and rape. 

Of the other defendants, Lemaricus Davidson is on death row. Letalvis Cobbins is serving life without parole. Vanessa Coleman is serving 35 years. 

George Thomas had been serving 127 years (not up for parole until his eighties) until he agreed to testify against Boyd in return for a 50 year sentence. With the latter, Thomas could be up for parole in his late 60's. 

Thomas' testimony in this trial was somewhat ambiguous, but he placed Boyd at the scene and told the jury Boyd murdered Chris Newsom. 

Hugh Newsom, father of Chris, said, "We said we would not stop until Eric Boyd was prosecuted. There were times we wanted to give up. He'll never be back on the streets of Knoxville to commit more crimes." 

Here is a video report of comments from the victims' parents after the verdict.

David in TN

11:10 AM PT
GUILTY! The verdicts are being read now, halfway through the 36 charges. More later tonight.

9:54 AM PT
The jury has just asked a question on aggravated robbery. It concerns whether if Channon Christian was not hurt during the carjacking but was later. That's the question according to the Knoxville ABC station. The jury has been given lunch.

Knoxville News Sentinel's Jamie Satterfield tweeted this likely meant the jury has decided the murder counts and is going down the line (of 36). 

I expect a verdict sometime today. That's been the pattern of how long deliberations lasted in previous trials.

David in TN

Christian-Newsom Torture Murder - Day 5 Eric Boyd Trial

 Christopher Newsom & Channon Christian


August 12, 2019
As Day 5 begins, the prosecution reads into the record Adrienne Mathis testimony in the 2008 federal trial of Eric Boyd.

"Mathis said Boyd, her cousin, borrowed her car (white Pontiac used by the suspects to get to the apartment complex where they carjacked the couple) on either the fifth or sixth of January."
"Mathis said she found a bag of bullets in her car."
The state rested its case. The defense moved for the case to be dismissed due to lack of evidence. Judge Bob McGee ruled it can go to the jury. 

The defendant declined to testify. The defense rested. 

ADA Phil Morton gave the closing argument to the jury. Morton emphasized Xavier Jenkins' testimony of seeing the Pontiac Sunbird which Boyd had provided for the drive to the apartment complex where the victims were kidnapped. Jenkins also saw activity at the Chipman house, Christian's car, the Pontiac Sunbird parked behind Christian's car, and four black men in Christian's car. If there were four black men, one had to be Boyd.

Morton mentioned Mathis' testimony. He points out what George Thomas saw in the Pontiac. Thomas saw Boyd bring the victims in the house, bring Newsom to the tracks. 

Morton mentions the violence inflicted on the victim's bodies, the attempt to destroy evidence with bleach, and Boyd's DNA on the gun holster. 

The state said Boyd hid Davidson after the crimes. The state said Boyd was the only one with transportation to fulfill plans to steal a car and carry out the carjacking. "How are they going to get there? It's miles away."

The state goes through all 36 charges in order and shows the evidence on every charge. The charges are 9 counts of first degree murder of Newsom, 9 counts of first degree murder of Christian, two counts of especially aggravated robbery, four counts of aggravated kidnapping and 12 counts of aggravated rape.

The state goes over the concept of criminal responsibility, which was used to convict Thomas twice. Then the timeline is reviewed. 

Morton said of Boyd, "He set the wheels in motion, literally and figuratively for all this to happen." 

Morton said the suspects were a team who had choices in their actions. They were a "team of rapists." And "it was there for just unimaginable reasons, they decided to brutalize these kids. They decided to rape these kids," Morton said. 

Morton used Thomas' account to say Boyd shot Newsom in the head. Morton explained why they were previously unable to use Thomas' statement against Boyd. 

One suspects statement to police can't be used against another suspect unless he takes the stand. Photos of the victims came on the screen when Morton finished his argument.

The defense attorney, Clinton Frazier, began by saying the acts were "disgusting" but it was Davidson, Cobbins, Thomas, and Coleman. 

Frazier pointed out none of the DNA evidence belonged to Boyd. The state proved its case against the others, but not Boyd. 

Frazier claimed Jenkins saw only silhouettes, not features. He said Thomas's loyalty is to Cobbins, and still doesn't implicate Cobbins. 

Frazier details Thomas' conflicting accounts, which "don't make sense." 

Frazier said "Don't let your anger make the decision for you." He asks the jury to hold the state to its burdens and find Boyd not guilty.

The defendants have been skillfully defended in every trial. 

Takisha Fitzgerald, who has been the lead prosecutor throughout, gave the rebuttal. 

Fitzgerald said the state had proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. She reviews all the evidence and said testimony corroborates it. 

"Mr. Boyd was a part of it...We ask you to hold Mr. Boyd accountable," Fitzgerald said. She said it took 12 years because they want to get it right."

The judge read the instructions to the jury. Three men and one woman were excused. The final panel is seven women and five men. 

The jury deliberated for two and a half hours Monday and recessed for the evening. They are to resume deliberations at 9 am. 

David in TN

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Christian-Newsom Torture Murder - Day 4 Eric Boyd Trial

Eric Boyd at his murder trial
Photo Credit:

UPDATE 8/11: Corrected where Jenkins workplace was in relation to crime scene house. Sprocket

August 10, 2019
I have watched the trial on live stream all four days.

Friday was the fourth day of testimony in the trial of Eric Boyd for his role in the January 2007 Christian-Newsom murders in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Boyd was indicted in 2018, 10 years after being convicted in federal court for aiding "ringleader" Lemaricus Davidson after the crimes.

It was long thought Boyd had provided the vehicle used in the carjacking and was involved. There wasn't much more evidence against George Thomas, but unlike Thomas, Boyd didn't admit to being in the Chipman street house. 

The only testimony directly linking Boyd was by Xavier Jenkins. Jenkins worked in a waste treatment facility in the neighborhood of the Chipman street house. Jenkins testified to seeing four black males in a white Chevy Sunbird, which was the car Boyd provided for use by the suspects. In every trial, defense attorneys have tried to shake Jenkin's story but he stood firm again in this trial. 

The other witness linking Boyd to the murders was Adrienne Mathis, Boyd's cousin. She testified in an earlier trial to loaning Boyd the Sunbird. This week, Mathis claimed to have "amnesia" and couldn't remember. She didn't change her story, she claimed to not remember.

More on this later.

The first testimony of the day had to do with Davidson's phone records. Then a friend of Boyd and Davidson gave a lively account of the two visiting her apartment. 

Forensic specialist Jennifer Millsaps testified to a piece of Boyd's stained clothing. Although it could not be linked directly to the murders, Judge Bob McGee allowed it in.

The key testimony of the day was by Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan. She is the medical examiner. The live stream doesn't show the autopsy photos. I saw them when I attended the Vanessa Coleman retrial.
Here is what I wrote after seeing the medical examiner's testimony and the photos in 2012. The testimony on Friday was identical.

"The first photo was of Chris Newsom's burned body lying beside the railroad tracks. His body was blackened from about the knees up with the face unrecognizable. There was a blindfold over his eyes which somewhat preserved them. A police officer who was a friend of the Newsoms could recognize Chris 'because of his eyes,'

"The other photo was of Chris Newsom's bare feet which were still tied by a belt and ligature." 

"Now came Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan's (ME) presentation concerning the rape and murder of Channon Christian. Her body was not removed from the garbage can until at the medical examiner's office. The can was covered by a tarpaulin while being hauled there. Her face had been covered by a white plastic bag and the body enclosed in several black plastic bags. 

"Channon Christian was a beautiful 21-year old woman who stood five feet, eight inches, and weighed 122 pounds."

"On the screen appeared a photo of Channon's body lying on a gurney. Her body was still contorted in the position it was in after being 'crammed' into the trash can. She was naked from the waste down."

"The mouth was open. The eyes were half-closed. Her face was frozen in horror. She had died of asphyxiation after hours of agony. The left arm was extended upward from the elbow."

"This photo hit me like a punch."

"The next photo showed abrasion inside the lips. Her gum had been knocked loose from her teeth. A photo of her face was next."

"Then came a photo of her genitals. It revealed tremendous trauma. She had been kicked and beaten repeatedly in the vagina. During Davidson's trial, a beginning female deputy DA fainted at this photo."

"The next photo was of her anus with still more heavy bruising. It looked like she had been clubbed, She had been raped anally, vaginally, and sodomized."

I repeat viewers of the Court TV live stream didn't see this. The Court TV talking heads in their Atlanta studio could not see it.

Knoxville News Sentinel reporter Jamie Satterfield tweeted from the courtroom "Jurors are struggling with these images. One guy rubbed his face and kept his head down, another rubbing his temples, lady covers her mouth, etc..."

Of Newsom, Satterfield tweeted "Savaged-that's the best way to describe what happened to Chris."

On Friday, Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan said there was tearing, bruising and lacerations of Newsom's anus. "That was indication of damage," she told the courtroom. "Plus, on the inside there were some additional tears and additional bruising." 

The anal injuries occurred one to two hours before Newsom was shot, she said. She confirmed that Newsom was raped.

George Thomas' testimony this week and prior by the suspects said nothing about the horrible wounds inflicted on the victims. 

The prosecution rested. 

Now, the state asked Judge McGee to allow Boyd's cousin Adrienne Mathis' prior testimony in which she told of loaning Eric Boyd the Sunbird. Without this testimony, the state can't connect Boyd to the Sunbird. 

Prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald asked McGee to let in prior testimony only from Boyd's 2008 federal trial. 

Judge McGee gave the state a win. He ruled Mathis was "unavailable" because of her claimed loss of memory and will allow into evidence prior federal testimony.

That was the end of Friday's session. Court resumes on Monday.
David in TN

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Christian-Newsom Torture Murders - Day 3 Eric Boyd Trial

 Christopher Newsom & Channon Christian


August 8, 2019
Today was Day 3 of the trial of Eric Boyd for his part in the Christian-Newsom murders.

The cross examination of George Thomas by Eric Boyd's attorney was not as extensive as expected. Clinton Frazier, Boyd's attorney, mainly went over Thomas' not seeming to know much of anything. 

The Court TV guest commentators were disappointed the cross was short.

The mothers of the victims, Deena Christian and Mary Newsom, took the stand in succession. This is the eighth trial they have done so. Both told of the last time they saw their children and the shock upon finding them missing.

Since both were over 21, the police wouldn't look for them and Chris and Channon's friends had to search themselves.

Former Knox County Sheriff Jimmy Jones questioned Vanessa Coleman, Letalvis Cobbins, and George Thomas in January 2007 in Kentucky. Jones thought Thomas was most truthful but "you never get the whole truth, ever."

Daphne Sutton, "ringleader" Lemaricus Davidson's girlfriend, testified to thinking there was another woman in the bathroom. The door was closed and Sutton was kept away. While telling her to leave, Davidson gave Sutton some of Channon's clothes. When seeing them today, Sutton cried.

This never happened before. 

In a trial I attended in 2013, I walked by Daphne Sutton while she was sitting on the bench outside the courtroom for prospective witnesses. She gave me quite a look. 

Tomorrow (Friday), the medical examiner will testify. The jury will see gruesome photos and the description of the torture and death inflicted on the victims.

David in TN

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Christian-Newsom Torture Murders - Day 2 Eric Boyd Trial


August 7, 2019
Here is a video report by Jamie Satterfield of the Knoxville News Sentinel.

I watched the testimony of George Thomas on live stream by Court TV. As always Thomas played down his own involvement. He makes the atmosphere inside the death house seem placid. He claims to have never heard either victim say anything, cry out, fight back. 

Thomas now says Cobbins didn't go with him and Boyd to kill Chris Newsom. Before he had said Davidson went with Thomas. Thomas puts all crimes against Chris Newsom on Boyd. 

Thomas' account of Newsom's death doesn't fit the way the body was found, no pants or shoes. Thomas has Newsom clothed. 

A new story. Thomas claims at one point Boyd was left in the house with Channon Christian while he, Davidson, Cobbins, and Vanessa Coleman drove off somewhere for a short time. 

What Thomas said today doesn't fit what came out at his own (two) trials and Cobbins' 2009 trial. 

Thomas did place Boyd at the scene. The other suspects had said Boyd was present in their police interviews, but none had in court under oath until today. 

My own opinion and most other people who have followed the case is Boyd was far more involved in the crime than Thomas was. The difference is Thomas admitted to being in the Chipman Street house while Boyd didn't. 

Jamie Satterfield was interviewed on Court TV this evening. She said when federal prosecutors tried Eric Boyd in federal court for accessory after the fact in 2008 for hiding the "ringleader," Lemaricus Davidson, they basically made a murder case against Boyd. He had furnished the vehicle for the carjacking. 

The feds wanted to try the whole thing themselves as a carjacking-murder which federal statutes could have allowed. 

However, the torture-murders of two attractive, likable young people outraged the Knoxville community. The local District Attorney General's office demanded the opportunity to try the murder case in state court. 

The local DA, according to Ms. Satterfield, wanted to be certain of winning convictions and was afraid of possibly losing if he tried Boyd. 

There is now a different administration in the Knox County DA's office and they filed the case. The victim's parents, especially the Newsoms who have always believed it was Eric Boyd who raped and murdered their son were insistent on Boyd being charged. 

While Boyd denied being in the Chipman house when interviewed by Knoxville police, he gave considerable detail about what went on, claiming Davidson told him. 

Tomorrow, Boyd's attorney will cross examine Thomas. Prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald will have work to do on redirect. 

Eric Boyd has the most extensive criminal past of the suspects starting very young. Boyd was a stick-up man. He walked into convenience stores, service stations, etc, pulled a gun and demanded the contents of the cash register. He was also an experienced carjacker. He served several prison sentences for these offenses. The jury won't hear about Boyd's criminal record.

David in TN

Christian-Newsom Torture Murders - Eric Boyd Trial


This is a short update by David in TN on the Eric Boyd Trial. Sprocket

August 7, 2019
This is a summary of the first day of testimony from the Knoxville ABC affiliate. Adrienne Mathis, Eric Boyd's cousin, had testified at earlier trials to loaning Boyd the vehicle used in the kidnapping. Yesterday, she claimed to "not recall" doing so. 
David in TN

Note: There is a live stream of the trial at the ABC affiliate link. Sprocket

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Christian-Newsom Torture Murders - Eric Boyd Upcoming Trial

Christopher Newsom, Channon Christian

GUEST ENTRY by David in Tennessee!

Tomorrow (Monday) jury selection begins in the trial of Eric Boyd for his role in the torture-murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom in Knoxville, Tennessee on January 7, 2007. 

Since my report last February, there have been two developments.

One, Knox County Criminal Court Judge Bob McGee rejected the bid by Boyd's attorney for a jury pool outside Knox County.

Two, George Thomas, a suspect already convicted in the case and sentenced to two life terms, is on the prosecution witness list. According to the sentence, Thomas would be eligible for parole after 50 years.

Knoxville News Sentinel reporter Jamie Satterfield wrote:
"Boyd has long denied he was anywhere near the Chipman Street home when Christian and Newsom were brought there, bound, blindfolded, and gagged, after they were kidnapped while preparing to  leave a North Knoxville apartment complex for a date."

"Thomas, on the other hand, admitted he was inside the home and saw what was going on, but he denied any active role in any of the crimes committed against the couple. A jury twice convicted him anyway. He has exhausted most of his appeals."

"It's not clear yet if the state has offered Thomas a reduction in his sentence in return for his testimony against Boyd. Newsom's parents, Hugh and Mary Newsom, had once hoped to convince another suspect--Letalvis Cobbins--to testify against Boyd, but he later refused after a plea deal fell through."
The other suspects have said Eric Boyd furnished the vehicle used in the kidnapping.

David in TN

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker, Pretrial Hearing 11

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

I arrive on the 9th floor just in time. Judge Coen's courtroom is already open with defense and prosecutors inside. Judge Coen is off the bench, over by the clerk's desk.

The first thing I notice is, Leonard Levine and Blair Berk representing Sementilli are not here today. It is Mr. Hans J. Allhoff, an associate of Ms. Berk subbing in. I've seen him in the courtroom several times before but did not know his role. Levine and Berk must be busy with other cases.

Mr. Simmrin is by the clerk's desk, chatting with Judge Coen, who is out of his robe.

Deputy DA Melissa Opper greets three young male interns from the DA's office sitting in the front row. I believe I hear that one of them is going to Stanford. Sitting right by them on the aisle is a pretty young blond woman, also possibly an intern working with defendant Baker's counsel, Mr. Simmrin.

Deputy DA Silverman is chatting with the really nice victim's advocate representative from the DA's office. I know I've been told her name a dozen times but it escapes me at the moment.

The parties are not on the record and I hear a return date being offered and the calendar would be set at zero of 60. It's not a trial date.  Deputy DA Silverman is chatting off the record with Simmrin, something related to deposits in a bank account and a "$30,000" transaction.

There are counsel from another case in the court room and the defendant in that case is brought out. Judge Coen goes on the record. I hear Judge Coen talk about a Pitchess Motion. That hearing is over in less than two minutes.

I now overhear what the delay is about. Defenant Baker refused to come out of his cell. Simmrin says something about going to visit him down at the jail to try to circumvent a potential extraction order by the court. Judge Coen tells Simmrin that "... once they refuse [I] sign a permanent extraction order."

I hear the September 4 date again and it looks like that will probably be the return date.

Mr. Simmrin mentions that he just received new discovery today, 30 items. One item is different sets of financial records.

I miss the next bit of exchange, but then hear Deputy DA Silverman say to Mr. Simmrin, something to the effect of, This is where [we? you?] can drop the [length of the] trial down ... make some deals. She then says to Simmrin, "Well, you already know what your deal is."

Judge Coen goes on the record in the Baker/Sementilli case. Defendant Sementilli is brought out. She is in an orange jumpsuit. Her hair is very dark brown. The court puts on the record that counsel requested a return date of September 4. Mr. Simmrin agrees on that date for his client and to delay the trial 60 days from that date. Judge Coen asks defendant Sementilli if that date is acceptable and she agrees. Judge Coen then puts on the record a permanent extraction order for defendant Baker.

And that's it.

Next pretrial hearing is September 4, 2019.

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