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Aspects of Son's Slaying Torment Mother

Grief: She says she cannot reconcile the apparent lack of concern among those who reportedly saw him being held before he was killed.


WEST HILLS — Still numbed by the loss of her 15-year-old son, Susan Markowitz said Wednesday she was stunned by reports that two dozen people may have seen Nicholas Markowitz while he was held captive before his execution-style killing Aug. 8.

"I have no idea who they are or what they were thinking, or what their mentality was," Markowitz said. "Maybe they didn't know.

"There are several people, I wonder if there are any ethical values in their heart," she added. "I honestly believe everyone knows between right and wrong, and you have to listen to that little voice up there."

Three men--including a Simi Valley resident--and a 17-year-old boy have pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping and murder in the West Hills teen's death. The alleged mastermind, Jesse James Hollywood, is a fugitive.

Investigators allege that Hollywood orchestrated the kidnapping in retribution for unpaid drug debts of the boy's half-brother, Benjamin Markowitz. Hollywood, however, was not present when the boy was gunned down in the mountains near Santa Barbara, authorities say.

During his two days in captivity, at least two dozen people became aware that Nicholas was being held at various locations but did not call police, the Santa Barbara News-Press reported Wednesday, citing sealed grand jury transcripts. Prosecutors had earlier confirmed that one of those people was Hollywood's lawyer, Stephen Hogg.

The transcripts also said that a woman returning from church in West Hills saw Nicholas being beaten and thrown into a van, and called the Los Angeles Police Department with a vehicle license number, the News-Press said.

The LAPD did not connect the report to the Markowitz case until a month later, when Santa Barbara police brought it to their attention, LAPD Cmdr. Sharon Papa said.

Papa declined to say whether police tried to find the van or its owner, who turned out to be a friend of Hollywood's. But she confirmed that an internal investigation had been launched into the department's handling of the matter.

"At this point, we don't know that it involves any misconduct on the part of officers, but appropriate action will be taken if warranted once the investigation is completed," Papa said.

Papa said the department wasn't aware of the connection to the Markowitz case "until Sept. 5, when the Santa Barbara detectives contacted our West Valley Division."

"Once we received that information, we immediately began an internal investigation to find out what happened," she said.

Susan Markowitz, a 41-year-old West Hills resident, said she's having a hard time moving on, describing herself as "a stay-at-home mom whose job has been taken away."

She and her 46-year-old husband, Jeffrey, have grown estranged from Nicholas' half-brother, Benjamin, whose $36,000 drug debt allegedly prompted the abduction, she said. And though they are alone in the house, she still anticipates Nicholas' presence when she walks into his room.

She is so despondent over her loss, she said, she has twice tried to commit suicide.

Despite her grief, she has managed to find some purpose by producing "wanted" posters for Hollywood and is tacking them up anywhere she can.

"When they killed him, they killed me," she said. "He was a bigger part of me than anyone will understand, and when I speak of him, I feel like I'm still alive."


Times staff writers Zanto Peabody and Roberto J. Manzano contributed to this story.

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