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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Sibling of Slain Teen Arrested in Robbery Case

Crime: Benjamin Markowitz, whose half-brother Nick was killed in August, is taken into custody during traffic stop.

February 09, 2001|NEDRA RHONE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Benjamin Markowitz, whose drug debt allegedly led to the kidnapping and murder of his young half brother last summer, was arrested Thursday in Van Nuys on suspicion of armed robbery.

Markowitz, 22, had been stopped for driving without a license when he was arrested on a robbery warrant that was issued Monday. Police allege that on Dec. 23, Markowitz, armed with a gun, went to the Woodland Hills home of an acquaintance and demanded money. The victim told police that Markowitz took $200.

Markowitz's 15-year-old half brother, Nick, was kidnapped from near his West Hills home in August by young men who said Benjamin owed them $36,000 for drugs, according to police. Nick was held hostage for several days in Santa Barbara, then taken to a mountainous area and murdered, police allege.

Markowitz has previously been charged with a variety of offenses ranging from cultivating marijuana to driving under the influence, according to the Ventura County district attorney's office. In a court appearance last year, his father, Jeffrey Markowitz, testified that Benjamin was a troubled teenager with multiple tattoos, a penchant for pistols and brass knuckles, and a habit of disappearing for stretches at a time.

He lived with a number of friends, his father said, and probably had as many enemies as he had friends. Markowitz was held in lieu of $100,000 bond at the Van Nuys jail, authorities said.

Four men are in custody and have been charged with murder and kidnapping in the death of the younger Markowitz: Ryan James Hoyt, 21, of West Hills; Jesse Taylor Rugge, 20, of Santa Barbara; William R. Skidmore, 20, of Simi Valley; and Graham Pressley, 17.

Authorities are still searching for a fifth suspect, Jesse James Hollywood, 20, of West Hills. Detectives have described Hollywood as a drug dealer.

After the slaying, Hollywood fled to Colorado. Authorities said he reappeared in late August after a friend dropped him off in West Hills, but in six months they have not been able to locate him.

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