UPDATED 07/07/11 4:19 p.m.
GLENVIEW, Ill. (CBS) — A suspected killer dubbed “the Hollywood Ripper” has been charged in the 1993 stabbing death of a teenage girl from the northern suburbs.
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced Thursday morning that alleged “Hollywood Ripper” Michael Gargiulo, 35, is charged with the murder of Tricia Pacaccio, a teenager from unincorporated Northfield Township near Glenview, who was brutally stabbed to death in 1993 on the doorstep of her home.
As CBS 2’s Dave Savini reports, Pacaccio’s parents have fought for years to have Gargiulo charged with their daughter’s murder. DNA evidence linked him to the case eight years ago, but he wasn’t charged back then and remained free and allegedly continued to kill.
Rick and Diane Pacaccio believe their daughter’s case was mishandled, ignored and put on a shelf until Gargiulo was arrested in California for killing two other women. They expressed mixed feelings Thursday.
“Today is her day,” Rick Pacaccio told CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman. He planned to take flowers to his daughter’s grave. “When I get out there, I’ll have a talk with her about it. I’m sure she’s going to be quite happy.”
“It should be a really happy moment and it is a really, really happy moment,” Diane Pacaccio said. “But what we had to go through was insulting.”
The question is, did Cook County authorities let an alleged serial killer slip through their fingers, allowing him to kill again?
“This has not been an easy investigation for anyone involved, particularly Tricia’s parents and her siblings, but we have never given up on Tricia and the search for justice in this particular case,” Alvarez said Thursday morning. “It has been difficult but we are extremely pleased to be finally bringing … these charges.”
That’s what the Pacaccio’s have been waiting to hear since 1993, when Rick Pacaccio found his daughter, Tricia, 18, stabbed to death on their doorstep.
“She was right here on the stoop. … She had her keys in her hand,” Rick Pacaccio said in a November interview.
“And I know my daughter fought back too … but he stabbed her too many times,” Diane Pacaccio said in the same interview.
The 18-year-old Pacaccio’s father found her body on the family’s doorstep on Aug. 14, 1993. She had been stabbed 12 times, according to the Cook County sheriff’s office.
Gargiulo was a teenager living a block away from the Pacaccios at the time.
Gargiulo is awaiting trial in California for allegedly brutally attacking one woman and killing two others. But California law enforcement officials have said for months that they believe Pacaccio was Gargiulo’s first victim.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, a former prosecutor, said authorities found Gargiulo’s DNA under the victim’s fingernails in 2003 and thought the case against him was strong. They presented it to prosecutors, Newsradio 780’s Steve Miller reports.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Steve Miller Reports
Dart won’t go so far to say that if he were were prosecutor he would’ve brought charges sooner.
“I’m not going to go down that road,” he said. “Times were different when I was prosecuting.”
CBS’s “48 Hours Mystery” devoted an hour to Pacaccio’s case last May, which led to Correspondent Maureen Maher getting a tip from a man who used to work with Gargiulo in New York. Ultimately, two witnesses came forward, claiming Gargiulo bragged about stabbing a girl in Chicago and leaving her for dead.
“For nearly two decades nobody would do anything to help this family and I feel very proud to be a part of it,” Maher said.
“There were two sides to Mike — normal person Mike and mad Mike,” Olson said in January.
He said he and Gargiulo played in a band together and that his friend had a “crazy switch” that Gargiulo’s own parents feared.
Sources say Gargiulo’s DNA was the only genetic material found on her body, even though she had been out with friends and a boyfriend the night she was killed.