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4th Man Convicted in Death of Valley Teen

November 22, 2002|Jean Guccione | Times Staff Writer

Four months after he was acquitted of kidnapping, a 19-year-old Goleta man was found guilty of murder for his role in the execution-style slaying of West Hills teen Nicholas Markowitz.

Graham Pressley was the fourth man convicted in Santa Barbara County Superior Court in connection with the abduction and fatal shooting of the 15-year-old in August 2000. The fifth suspect and alleged mastermind, Jesse James Hollywood, has evaded authorities.

Following a monthlong trial, a jury found Pressley guilty Wednesday of second-degree murder and for use of an assault weapon. Another jury in a separate trial in July had deadlocked on the murder charge but acquitted Pressley of kidnapping.

Pressley faces 18 years to life in prison, said Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Ron Zonen. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 15.

A day later, Superior Court Judge William L. Gordon is expected to decide whether Ryan Hoyt, 23, of West Hills, should be executed for his role in Markowitz's death. Hoyt was convicted last year of shooting Markowitz nine times at a remote camping area near Santa Barbara.

Zonen said Pressley chose the site where Markowitz would be killed and dug a shallow grave to place his body in. Later that night, authorities say Pressley led Markowitz, who was bound and gagged, and others back to the campsite.

Two other men were sentenced in September in connection with the crime. Jesse Rugge, 22, of Santa Barbara was found guilty of kidnapping for ransom and sentenced to life. William Skidmore, 22, of Simi Valley was ordered to serve nine years after he pleaded guilty to kidnapping and robbing Markowitz.

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