Who Murdered Our Daughter?

A harrowing tale of three murders, inconclusive evidence, and the 18-year search for a serial killer.

By Bryan Smith | from Reader's Digest Magazine

Rock and Diane Pacaccio

Diane and Rick Pacaccio mount the stairs in silence. 
They trudge to the second floor of their modest two-story house in Glenview, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, and stand before the bedroom just to the left. Diane turns the knob with a trembling hand.

The room is all pastel pinks and powder blues. 
Porcelain clowns line a set of shelves. The words Happy Sweet 16 shimmer on a piece of poster board. “Everything is just the same,” Diane says. She pauses, spots a framed photo of her daughter. The girl’s dark hair, parted on the left, falls gently over her shoulders. Her smile is girlish, sweet, tinged with yearning. “She’s got a beautiful face, this girl,” Diane murmurs.

Rick lets out a sudden, sharp sob. He turns and waves at the air, as if beating back an attacker. He staggers toward the door. “I gotta go,” he says.

A Grisly Scene
Eighteen. That’s how old Tricia Pacaccio was on August 14, 1993, when, between 1 and 2 a.m., someone plunged a knife into her a dozen times on the stoop of her home’s side door. Her father found her bloody body later that morning.

From that day forward, the Pacaccios, now in their early 60s, have wanted one thing: to catch the killer. When the investigation began, detectives had what seemed to be a few good leads. Police collected physical evidence, including Tricia’s key chain, which they found next to her, and some fingernail clippings. They also found a man’s shoe print.

The Pacaccios’ usually quiet cul-de-sac was teeming with potential witnesses the night of the murder—their neighbors had hosted a pool party earlier that evening.

Tricia PacaccioTricia Pacaccio in 1993. She knew the man accused of her murder.
Yet the leads evaporated as quickly as they appeared. The key chain and fingernail clippings were examined, but 
the less sophisticated forensic testing methods at that time yielded no useful evidence. The shoe print, it turned out, belonged to Rick Pacaccio, left in the first frantic moments after discovering his daughter. No one from the party reported seeing anything out of the ordinary that night.

Detectives tried to determine a motive-. Sexual assault was ruled out as Tricia had been found fully clothed with no sign of such injuries. Nothing had been taken from her, so robbery didn’t fit. The brutality of the crime suggested personal animus, but investigators couldn’t find anyone who harbored the slightest ill will toward Tricia. “She was a beautiful person, inside and out,” says Karen Isenberg Jones, a friend of Tricia’s, who was with her earlier on the night of the murder. “She was genuinely nice to everybody.”

For more than ten years, leads 
appeared and faded, trails went cold, strings of detectives came and went.

Then in 2006, homicide detective Tom Small from Hollywood, California, called the Pacaccios. He was investigating the similarities between Tricia’s death and the 2001 murder of a Los Angeles woman. He had a question: Did they know a Michael Gargiulo?

They did.

Next: Portrait of an Accused Killer

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