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Fugitive in 2000 Slaying of Teen Found

Jesse James Hollywood, 25, reportedly is captured in Brazil. He is suspected of killing the 15-year-old West Hills boy over a drug debt.

March 10, 2005|From Times Staff Writers

Jesse James Hollywood, a West Hills fugitive wanted in the 2000 kidnapping and slaying of a 15-year-old boy, has been captured, authorities said Wednesday night.

Hollywood, 25, an alleged drug dealer, is on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's most-wanted list for allegedly masterminding a plot to kidnap Nicholas Markowitz of West Hills and drive him to Santa Barbara, where he was shot and buried in a remote camping area. Hollywood killed the boy over a $1,200 drug debt owed by Markowitz's older half-brother, authorities say.

In 2003, a Santa Barbara judge ordered one of Hollywood's alleged associates, Ryan Hoyt, 24, to death row for his involvement in Markowitz's murder.

Hollywood reportedly was arrested in Brazil, but details of the arrest were not available. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department and FBI said they would hold a news conference this morning to discuss the arrest, but would give no further information.

Hollywood has been at large since he was charged with murder and kidnapping two years ago.

Authorities say Hollywood, who owned a house in West Hills, was the mastermind of the plot to kidnap and kill Nicholas. The motive, authorities say, was revenge for the failure of the older brother to pay the drug debt.

Hollywood and his friends drove Markowitz to Santa Barbara, where the boy was held at various homes before being moved to the Lemon Tree Inn downtown in the hours before his death.

Prosecutor Ronald Zonen said Hoyt brought the weapon used in the killing to Santa Barbara from Los Angeles.

Then with another defendant, Graham Pressley, Hoyt went to a remote camping area known as Lizard's Mouth and dug a grave.

Later that night, Hoyt led Markowitz, bound and gagged, to the camping site and shot him to death.

Hoyt "accepted this assignment" from Hollywood to kill Markowitz to raise his stature among Hollywood and his friends and to erase the drug debt, Zonen said.

"All of this was done for the purposes of money and prestige," he said.

A Santa Barbara County judge later ordered Hollywood and two co-defendants to pay $11.2 million to the victim's parents.

Susan and Jeffrey Markowitz sued Hollywood and 31 others over their son's death.

The defendants ranged from the Hollywood family friend whose van was used in the kidnapping to the owners of several homes where Nicholas was held captive, including family homes and the Lemon Tree Inn.

The suit alleged that dozens of people who encountered Nicholas during his last days could have helped him escape. The boy was held at the Santa Barbara home of one of his teenage abductors, and had visited another teenager's San Fernando Valley home in the days before he was killed.

The West Hills couple settled with at least 14 defendants, including the Los Angeles Police Department, for nearly $350,000.

As for Hollywood, Markowitz family attorney Richard Tarlow once said: "Someday, somewhere, he will be caught."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Jesse's gang

Police have apprehended Jesse James Hollywood, wanted in connection with the 2001 slaying of a 15-year-old boy. Others involved in the case:

Ryan Hoyt: Sentenced to death for the shooting of Nicholas Markowitz.

Jesse Rugge: Bound Nicholas before the killing, sentenced to life in prison. Could be released on parole after 7 years.

William Skidmore: Pleaded guilty to kidnapping and robbery. Sentenced to nine years in state prison.

Graham Pressley: The youngest of five defendants, sentenced to five years in a California Youth Authority facility.

Source: Times Reports

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