Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Jesse James Hollywood

Real Name: Jesse James Hollywood
Aliases: None Known
Wanted For: Murder, Kidnapping
Missing Since: August 23, 2000


Details: Jesse James Hollywood was a teenage crime boss in Southern California. By the age of 19, he had bought a $20,000 house in West Hills, California, where he had two dogs, drove a black Mercedes and fancy blue sports car and his house was the spot for heavy foot traffic and luxury cars that kept coming and going. Hollywood was a popular guy, who was also a large scale-marijuana dealer. Twenty-two-year-old Benjamin Markowitz was one of his customers and he had a marijuana debt to Hollywood that was over $1,500. One day, Benjamin smashed a window at Hollywood's house, which sent him over the edge.
On August 6, 2000, he was driving to the Markowitz home when he spotted Benjamin's fifteen-year-old half-brother Nicholas Samuel "Nick". Although they originally planned to kidnap Ben, they instead decided to take Nick instead. Hollywood and his two accomplices, Jesse Rugge and William Skidmore assaulted Nick and forced him into the van. They then transported him to the home of another accomplice, and held him for ransom. The next day, witnesses saw Nick at the home. However, he did not appear to be a hostage; instead, his captors treated him like a guest. When the ransom was not paid, Hollywood spoke with his attorney and learned that he would be facing a life sentence for kidnapping Nick.

Nicholas Markowitz

Hollywood soon decided that it would be better if Nick was killed than released. Three known associates of Hollywood, one being Ryan Hoyt (who also had owed Hollywood money), took Nick to a very mountainous region of Santa Barbara off of Highway 154, where he was held until late in the evening of August 9, 2000.
Police believe that two of the three associates, Ryan Hoyt and Jesse Rugge, walked Markowitz up a trail while the third suspect, Graham Pressley, remained at the vehicle. Rugge and Hoyt duct-taped Markowitz's hand behind his back, placed tape over his mouth, put him in the grave that had been dug earlier in the day, and shot him several times in the torso and head. They buried his body and covered the grave site with branches.
Nicholas' body was discovered on August 12, 2000, six days after the kidnapping. Hoyt, Rugge, Pressley, and a fourth accomplice, William Skidmore were all arrested and charged with Nicholas' murder. However, Hollywood was able to escape. Police traced him to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he had once lived. The last confirmed sighting of him was on August 23, 2000, in the San Fernando Valley.
Extra Notes:

  • This case was on the August 2, 2002 episode of Unsolved Mysteries.
  • It was also profiled on America’s Most Wanted during the investigation and the case was documented on Dateline after it was resolved.
  • The film, Alpha Dog, was based on the events on the case.

Jesse James Hollywood

Results: Captured. In March of 2005, after five years on the run, Hollywood was captured in the Brazilian resort community of Saquarema, sixty-two miles from Rio de Janeiro. He was living with his pregnant girlfriend, using the alias Michael Costa Giroux and reportedly was teaching English. In July of 2009, Hollywood was convicted of the Markowitz murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole when the jury deadlocked during sentencing.
Hollywood's associate, Ryan Hoyt was convicted of first-degree murder and is currently on death row at San Quentin State Prison in California. Jesse Rugge was paroled in 2013 after serving thirteen years of his life sentence in Pleasant Valley State Prison for aggravated kidnapping with special circumstances. Graham Pressley was released from the California Youth Authority Facility in 2007 after serving five years for second degree murder. William Skidmore was released after serving nine years in prison for kidnapping and robbery.