Accused Serial Killer Charged in Tricia Pacaccio Cold Case Murder

Former neighbor and classmate, Michael Gargiulo, charged with the teen's 1993 stabbing death.

The man police say is responsible for the nearly two decades ago will be charged in Cook County Court, Glenview Patch learned exclusively Wednesday evening.

Michael Gargiulo will be charged with first-degree murder, Cook County State's Attorney Spokeswoman Tandra Simonton told Patch. She also said that a comment on a previous Patch article about the murder played a part in bringing the charges against Gargiulo, 35, who was a neighbor and acquaintance of the Pacaccio family and went to school with Tricia. 

When Pacaccio was murdered in 1993, it devastated the community. She was 18 years old. Until now Gargiulo, the lead suspect in the case, had not been prosecuted. The one-time cold case was reignited following a string of vicious crimes in California when DNA evidence surfaced linking Gargiulo to a 2008 Santa Monica rape.

In addition to the Pacaccio charges, Gargiulo is currently facing two murder charges and an attempted murder charge in California.

The announcement follows a segment in May on the Pacaccio murder by 48 Hours Mystery.

One of the obstacles in prosecuting the case has been involvement from multiple departments and investigators who may not have always been on the same page with one another, 48 Hours Correspondent Maureen Maher told Patch.

“There have been a lot of cooks in the kitchen,” Maher said, referring to involvement by the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, the State’s Attorney’s Office and the state’s cold case unit.

Maher and 48 Hours’ producer Doug Longhini—both Chicago natives—have been working with the Pacaccio family and investigators for the last three years to see that justice is done for Pacaccio.

“[The Pacaccios] have been wanting to know the reason Cook County had not prosecuted the Pacaccio case, despite the DNA match,” Maher said, speaking of the DNA evidence discovered in 2003 connecting Gargiulo to the Pacaccio crime scene. 

Tricia's brother Doug spoke to the "Early Show" the day before the 48 Hours Mystery piece aired. In that interview, he expressed the family's frustration.

"We've had the hardest time figuring out why this is happening the way it's happening," Doug Pacaccio said in the interview. "They have DNA at the scene. ... So, why they haven't pursued this, to me, being on the inside, it seems somewhat political.

"They would maybe have to admit that some mistakes were made and reconcile those mistakes, and at times I think, when political careers are involved, it's easier to ignore something that isn't close to them than to actually do the right thing and pursue it."

Patch's role in the investigation

On May 14, 48 Hours ran a special segment examining connections between Pacaccio’s murder and the murders and rape in California. Glenview Patch interviewed Maher for a piece in May. After the program aired, Patch received a news tip in the comments section of the article from a man who said Gargiulo had confessed to Pacaccio’s murder.

"Please you got to believe me mike confessed to me he killed the girl this all new to me i did not know of his arrest till 3 days ago i was with mike 1997-1999 i worked at the rainbow with i was with mike day and mit's we had a lot in common i believe info i have can help please contact me," the reader wrote. 

Patch brought the comment to the attention of the State's Attorney's Office. Wednesday we received a call from Simonton.

“As a result of the source [Glenview Patch] passed on, the State’s Attorney's Office will be charging Gargiulo in the Tricia Pacaccio case,” she said.

Maher pointed to the ever-growing importantce of social media and online reporting in today’s crime solving.

“Nothing else was able to do it for 17 years,” Maher said. “[Glenview Patch] was a conduit.”

Maher said she’ll be waiting to see what happens in court but for now is happy to be moving in the right direction.

“It’s extremely gratifying. This is why we do the type of shows that we do,” she said.

The State’s Attorney’s Office said they will release an official statement in the morning and plan to hold a press conference. Sources close to the Pacaccio family have said Pacaccio’s parents will not attend.

Stay tuned to Glenview Patch for more coverage Thursday and live updates from the press conference. 

Editor's note: An earlier version of the story misstated the lesser of the California charges against Gargiulo. The charge is actually attempted murder.  

Claire Hanan July 07, 2011 at 07:16 PM
Great story, Joanna! Scoopin' everyone!
Tim Froehlig July 08, 2011 at 01:05 AM
What wonderful news! It was so great everyone worked together so well to share information on this to bring this case to trial. May this girl's family get the conviction and closure they have waited for so long for. This restores my faith in people never ever giving up hope.
Colin McEwen July 08, 2011 at 02:50 AM
Great coverage!
Lola July 08, 2011 at 03:17 PM
What a shame that the family had to struggle with an open case for 18 years when all the evidence was there. How fortunate for the State's Attorney's Office that a few more people were murdered so that they could confirm that they were on the right track. In fact, it seems that there are an 'untold' number of open cases that might be tied to Gargiulo. Too bad somebody didn't try to stop him 18 years ago, before he became the 'Hollywood Ripper'...
Jefferson Tactics July 11, 2011 at 05:18 PM
Dayum son! Good job!


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