Jesse James Hollywood

Jesse James Hollywood

Photograph taken in 2005.
Born Jesse James Hollywood
January 28, 1980 (1980-01-28) (age 31)
Residence Currently housed in Calipatria State Prison, Imperial County, California.
Other names Michael Costa Giroux and Sean Michaels
Known for For kidnapping and ordering the murder of Nicholas Markowitz.
Children John Paul Hollywood-Reis

Jesse James Hollywood (born January 28, 1980) is a former drug dealer who kidnapped and ordered the murder of Nicholas Markowitz and is serving life without parole for the murder in the California prison system.


Childhood and adolescence

He was born to John (Jack) and Laurie Hollywood and raised in West Hills in Los Angeles.[1] As a child he was involved in junior baseball league. His father moved the family to Colorado in attempt to run a restaurant in the mid-1990s, but returned to West Hills in 1995.

Hollywood attended El Camino Real High School where he played baseball.[2] During his adolescent years he started power lifting and ingesting muscle supplements to help build up his muscle mass. His coach would later describe him as an "emotional kid" who was later expelled for erupting into a violent fit of rage at one of his teachers near the end of his sophomore year. He transferred to Calabasas High School where he played on the varsity baseball team until he injured his back and leg, forcing him to give up the sport.[2] Investigators believe that he started selling marijuana a year before he committed the murder of Nicholas Markowitz. He recruited his former high school friends William Skidmore, Brian Affronti, Benjamin Markowitz and Jesse Rugge to dispense narcotics for him and build up a profitable illicit drug operation.[2] He had been a close friend of Benjamin Markowitz, playing on the same junior baseball league and would visit the same Malibu, California gymnasium to exercise together.[3]

Narcotics operation and murder

Benjamin Markowitz had been one of the schoolmates that dispensed drugs for Hollywood. Jesse James started a successful auto insurance-scam where he would report one of the many cars that were registered to him stolen and collect the money. This scam was later found out by Benjamin which irritated Hollywood. At nineteen years old, Jesse's drug operation proved so successful that he was able to afford a three-story white stucco home for $200,000, situated a few blocks away from the Markowitz household. Apart from hosting barbecues, he rarely talked to his neighbors, always having his head down and remaining silent. His every day wardrobe consisted of blue jeans and tank tops. He kept two pit bulls tied to an elm tree in the backyard. Despite his thriving drug operation he had no drug convictions, except for being charged as a minor for possession of alcohol and resisting arrest. He supplied drugs to Ryan Hoyt, the man who would later be convicted for the murder of Nicholas Markowitz and co-conspirators Jesse Rugge, William Skidmore and Graham Pressley.[2]

The feud between Benjamin Markowitz, Nicholas Markowitz's half-brother, and Jesse James Hollywood, began over the alleged debt to Hollywood incurred by Markowitz of $1,200.[4] On August 6, 2000, Hollywood and several of his gang members decided to confront Benjamin. On their way to see him, however, they saw Nicholas Markowitz walking on the side of the road, having run away from home. Hollywood and his gang decided to abduct Nicholas in broad daylight in order to hold him for ransom in lieu of Benjamin Markowitz' debt. They chased, assaulted, and abducted Nicholas, escaping in a van. He then returned the van to the owner--his dad's friend John Roberts.

Nicholas, Hollywood, and his gang then traveled to a motel in Santa Barbara, California, called the Lemon Tree Inn, where they held a party. After the party, members of Jesse's gang allowed Nicholas to believe that he was heading home soon. Hollywood called Ryan Hoyt, a crew-member of Jesse's gang who was also $1,200 in debt to him,[5] to "take care of" Nicholas, giving him a Tec-9. Two members of the crew decided to commit the murder in the Goleta Hills north of Santa Barbara, California. The two dug a shallow grave and returned to the hotel to pick up Nicholas and drive him to the mountains. Before Hoyt headed up to Lemon Tree Inn, Hollywood borrowed a vehicle that belonged to the mother of a friend, claiming he needed it to help him move; he really used it, however, as transportation to the murder scene. Hollywood let Hoyt drive the borrowed car and Hollywood drove his girlfriend's car to celebrate her birthday at the Outback Steakhouse while Hoyt and the crew killed Nick Markowitz.

Within a few days, police began arresting the crew members based on tips.

Life as a fugitive

At the time of Hoyt's arrest, Hollywood fled the country through Canada and went to Brazil with help from his father Jack, godfather Richard Dispenza (who was unaware he was a fugitive at the time), and his girlfriend at the time.[6][7] Law enforcement agencies and the Markowitz family offered a reward of $30,000 leading to Hollywood's capture,[8] this was later raised to $50,000.[9] He lived on Copacabana Beach where he assumed the identity of "Michael Costa Giroux" and claimed to be a native of Rio de Janeiro and later on, of Saquarema.[2] In an attempt to blend in with the countryside he took up the Portuguese language. He worked in Brazil by putting up posters advertising a nightclub and later landed a job teaching private English language classes and being a dog walker. Yet, the bulk of the money Hollywood lived off came from a $1,200 monthly stipend funneled by his father.[10] While in Brazil, he met Marcia Reis who became pregnant by Hollywood. Jesse James believed the pregnancy would protect him from extradition to the United States as Brazilian law stated "If you're the father of a native Brazilian, you cannot be extradited" (See the case of Ronald Biggs); however, Jesse James was wrong about the Brazilian laws, which had been changed since the international controversy with Biggs.[2] Additionally, he was in Brazil as an illegal immigrant because he had arrived in the country with a false passport, a fact that already would have allowed his deportation, regardless of his fathering a child with a native Brazilian.

United States authorities worked with Brazilian agents and found out that Hollywood was supposed to meet a cousin in a mall.[11] He was arrested by Brazilian authorities in Saquarema in March 2005.[2] In July 2005 Reis gave birth to Hollywood's son, named John Paul Hollywood-Reis.[12]

He was profiled on America's Most Wanted from September 2000- June 2004 and twice in 2005 after being captured.[13] NBC's Dateline and Fox Network's America's Most Wanted have covered this story extensively.[2]

While Hollywood was in Brazil, all participants in the murder were convicted or made pleas. Hoyt is currently on death row at San Quentin State Prison in California, Graham Pressley was released from the California Youth Authority Facility in 2007, and Jesse Rugge is currently serving a life sentence in Pleasant Valley State Prison. William Skidmore was released in April 2009 after serving 9 years behind bars for the kidnapping.[14]

In 2005, on the same day Jesse James was arrested in Brazil, his father was arrested for manufacturing the illicit narcotic GHB,[15] but the charge was later thrown out in court. Jack remained in custody on an outstanding 2002 warrant for a marijuana-related charge, and later received 18 months in an Arizona prison.[16]

Court rulings and trial

In 2006, the movie Alpha Dog, based on Jesse Hollywood and the kidnap and murder of Nicholas Markowitz, premiered. During filming, Santa Barbara County Deputy District Attorney Ronald J. Zonen provided copies of many documents on the case and served as an unpaid consultant to the film, citing his desire to have Hollywood captured. Zonen prosecuted Hollywood’s co-defendants and was poised to prosecute Hollywood. James Blatt, Hollywood's defense attorney, claimed there was a conflict of interest, and the California Court of Appeal for the Second District ruled on October 5, 2006 that, based on Zonen's disclosure of the files and consultant service—he should be recused from further involvement in prosecuting Hollywood.[17][18] On December 20, 2006, the California Supreme Court granted review on the case effectively staying the order to recuse Zonen.[19] On May 12, 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that Zonen should not be recused.[20] Nonetheless, Zonen was replaced with Joshua Lynn, who is serving as lead prosecution attorney. While in jail Hollywood began signing his mail as "Alpha Dog" and had mentioned an "Alpha Dog World Tour."[21]

After the Court review, in June 2008 his trial date was set to begin February 19, 2009,[22] but it was delayed. Three months later the murder trial officially started Friday May 15th with the defense's opening statements saying Hollywood was not involved with the murder.[23][24] In his opening statement, Santa Barbara County Deputy Dist. Atty. Joshua Lynn described Hollywood as "a ruthless coward."[25] On Monday May 18th witnesses called to the stand were Jeff Markowitz (the victim's father), Pauline Mahoney (who was driving with her sons when she saw a group of men attacking Markowitz), and Brian Affonti (a one time friend of Hollywood's who was picked up after the kidnapping).[26] Affonti told the jury that he knew about Hollywood's gun, a TEC-9, which is the alleged murder weapon.[26] Chas Salsbury, Hollywood's getaway driver, testified at trial that following the murder "Hollywood seemed remorseful, depressed, and at some points even suicidal."[27] Saulsbury continued on the fifth day with Kelly Carpenter discussing the actions of Rugge and Pressley’s mother.[28] The following day had testimony from Rugge childhood friend, Richard Hoeflinger, who spoke about what he witnessed.[29] Subsequently, several Santa Barbarans told the jury about events leading to Nick Markowitz’s murder.[30]

At the start of the second week Michelle Lasher, Hollywood's former girlfriend, testified that she still loved Hollywood while being emotional and was hostile to prosecution.[31] Lasher also admitted on the witness stand to lying to police because she didn't want him to be caught.[32] The Hollywood family friend, attorney Stephen Hogg, told the jury about "a tense conversation in the attorney's Simi Valley backyard" where he told Jesse James "that kidnapping can carry a life sentence."[33][34] Graham Pressley's testimony about the events followed Hogg's appearance.[35] Pressley testified Rugge "told me that Jesse Hollywood offered him $2,000 to kill Nick, but [Rugge said] that that was crazy, [Hollywood] was crazy."[36] Pressley's testimony, important for the prosecution, continued Friday and early into the third week.[37] Then Ben Markowitz was on the stand.[38] Then Casey Sheehan quoted Hollywood as saying that as he and his longtime friend, Hollywood, dined at an Outback Steakhouse the suspect told to his friend “the situation” had been taken care of.[1][39] In the following days, various medical experts and law enforcement officials testified then the prosecution rested their case on Wednesday of the third week.[40]

Hollywood's defense began on the Monday of the third week. Hollywood took the stand on the first day of the defense denying any role in the murder and said he was angry when Hoyt told him about the murder at a birthday party.[41] Hollywood recounted the kidnapping, the events that led up to it, and discussed his life on the run.[42] Hollywood's testimony lasted four days with the prosecution cross-examining Hollywood about making threats, closing bank accounts, withdrawing money, and selling his home.[43] Much of Hollywood's responses were denials about previous witness testimony.[44] The last witness the defense called was District Attorney investigator Paul Kimes, questioned by co-counsel Alex Kessel about phone records.[43] Closing arguments began on Tuesday and Wednesday of the fourth week, and the case went to the jury.[45] During closing statements, the defense said Hollywood's associates lied[46] while the prosecution called Hollywood "a child killer."[47] The jury considered three different charges with penalties ranging from 8 years in prison to the death penalty.[48]

Conviction and sentencing

On July 8, 2009, following three days of deliberation, the jury reached a verdict.[49][50] The jury found him guilty of kidnapping and first-degree murder with special circumstances for which he can face the death penalty.[51] On Monday July 13 the jury began the penalty phase of the trial.[52] The mothers for the defendant and the victim took the stand.[53] Additionally, brothers of the defendant and the victim testified and closing arguments began during the second day of the penalty phase.[54] In July 2009, the jury recommended that Hollywood receive life in prison.[55] On February 5, 2010, the judge sentenced Hollywood to life in prison without the possibility of parole.[56]

See also


  1. ^ "Middle-class Valley suburb unlikely breeding ground for a killer". Los Angeles Daily News. July 13, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Uehlinger, Tim (April 12, 2006). "The long hunt for Jesse James Hollywood". Dateline. Retrieved 2007-01-01. 
  3. ^ Haldenby, Andrew (Mar 3, 2001). "With Friends Like These". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-01-01. 
  4. ^ "The real story behind 'Alpha Dog'". MSNBC. 2005. 
  5. ^ "February trial for Jesse James Hollywood". San Francisco Chronicle. June 27, 2008. Retrieved 2009-07-08. [dead link]
  6. ^ Risling, Greg (Aug 25, 2000). "Manhunt: Richard Dispenza is suspected of helping Jesse James Hollywood". Los Angeles Times. 
  7. ^ "Kidnap, Killing of West Hills Teen Unfolds in Testimony". Los Angeles Times. Dec 10, 2000. 
  9. ^ "Timberlake To Begin Shooting 'Alpha Dog'". MTV. Oct 20, 2004. 
  10. ^ "INFAMOUS WEST VALLEY MURDER COMES TO BIG SCREEN". Los Angeles Daily News. Jan 7, 2007. 
  11. ^ "Fugitive in 2000 Slaying of Teen Found; Jesse James Hollywood, 25, reportedly is captured in Brazil". Los Angeles Times. Mar 10, 2005. 
  12. ^ "The real story behind 'Alpha Dog'". MSNBC. 2005. 
  13. ^ "Jesse Hollywood — Fugitive". America's Most Wanted. 2005. 
  14. ^ "Hollywood's Day in Court". The Santa Barbara Independent. May 21, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  15. ^ "Longtime fugitive Jesse James Hollywood captured in Brazil". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Mar 10, 2005. Retrieved 2009-07-01. 
  16. ^ Piccalo, Gina (Jan 7, 2007). "No Hollywood ending; The true-crime `Alpha Dog' becomes a part of the teen murder case it depicts". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-07-01. 
  17. ^ "Deputy DA removed from Jesse James Hollywood murder case". USA Today. October 5, 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-01. 
  18. ^ Hollywood v. Superior Court, 143 Cal. App. 4th 858, 49 Cal. Rptr. 3d 598 (2006).
  19. ^ Savage, David G. (Oct 21, 2008). "Jesse James Hollywood appeal turned down by the Supreme Court". Los Angeles Times.,0,2900953.story. Retrieved 2007-01-01. 
  20. ^ Hollywood v. Superior Court, ___ Cal.4th ___ (May 12, 2008, S147954).
  21. ^ "Testimony in Hollywood Case Ends". The Santa Barbara Independent. June 27, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-27. 
  22. ^ Associated Press (2008-06-27). "February Trial for Jesse James Hollywood". [dead link]
  23. ^ "Opening Statements Presented In Jesse "James" Hollywood Murder Trial". KEYT. May 15, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  24. ^ Risling, Greg (May 15, 2009). "Jesse James Hollywood called coward at trial". Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  25. ^ "Kidnap-murder trial opens for Jesse James Hollywood". Los Angeles Times. May 15, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  26. ^ a b "Testimony Continues In Hollywood Kidnap-Murder Trial". KEYT. May 18th 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  27. ^ "Hollywood's Getaway Driver Testifies". The Santa Barbara Independent. May 21 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  28. ^ "The Fifth Day in Hollywood". The Santa Barbara Independent. May 25, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  29. ^ "Santa Barbara Witness Takes Stand in Hollywood Trial". The Santa Barbara Independent. May 27, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  30. ^ "More Santa Barbarans Testify in Hollywood Trial". The Santa Barbara Independent. May 29, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-02. 
  31. ^ "Hollywood Girlfriend Accuses Prosecution of Blackmail". The Santa Barbara Independent. June 2, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  32. ^ "Former Girlfriend Testifies In Hollywood Murder Trial". KEYT. June 2, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-02. 
  33. ^ Chawkins, Steve (June 3, 2009). "Family friend testifies at Jesse James Hollywood's murder trial". Los Angeles Times.,0,4400178.story. Retrieved 2009-06-03. 
  34. ^ "Lawyer Who Advised Hollywood Takes Stand". The Santa Barbara Independent. June 3, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-03. 
  35. ^ "Memory, Truthfulness Scrutinized at Hollywood Trial". The Santa Barbara Independent. June 4, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  36. ^ "Man who dug boy's grave testifies". Santa Barbara Daily Sound. June 4, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  37. ^ "Graham Pressley Testimony Continues". The Santa Barbara Independent. June 7, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  38. ^ "Ben Markowitz on the Stand, Brother of Victim in Jesse James Hollywood Trial Faces Former Friend in Court". The Santa Barbara Independent. June 8, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  39. ^ "Hollywood Boasted About Killing, Witness Testifies". Noozhawk Newsletter. June 11, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-11. 
  40. ^ "Prosecution rests in 'Alpha Dog' murder trial". The Santa Barbara Independent. June 16, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-11. 
  41. ^ Risling, Greg (Jun 22, 2009). "Hollywood takes the stand in Santa Barbara trial". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 2009-06-23. 
  42. ^ Risling, Greg (Jun 22, 2009). "Dealer says he regrets kidnap in 'Alpha Dog' case". The Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-06-23. 
  43. ^ a b "Testimony in Hollywood Case Ends". The Santa Barbara Independent. June 27, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-27. 
  44. ^ "Hollywood trial inches to an end". Santa Barbara Daily Sound. June 27, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-27. 
  45. ^ Chawkins, Steve (July 1, 2009). "Nicholas Markowitz's parents weep at Jesse James Hollywood's trial". Los Angeles Times.,0,4554244.story. Retrieved 2009-07-27. 
  46. ^ "Defense In Hollywood Trial Says Hollywood's Associates Lied". KEYT. July 1, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-02. 
  47. ^ "DA calls Hollywood 'child killer'". Santa Barbara Daily Sound. July 1, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-02. 
  48. ^ "Hollywood Case to the Jury". The Santa Barbara Independent. July 1, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-02. 
  49. ^ "Jesse James Hollywood convicted of first-degree murder and kidnapping". Los Angeles Times. July 8, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  50. ^ "Verdict reached in Jesse James Hollywood trial". Associated Press. July 8, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  51. ^ "Jesse James Hollywood convicted of murder, kidnap". Associated Press. July 8, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  52. ^ "Penalty phase set in Jesse James Hollywood trial". San Francisco Chronicle. July 13, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-13. [dead link]
  53. ^ "Parents take stand in Jesse James Hollywood trial". Mercury News. July 14, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  54. ^ "Closing arguments begin in Hollywood penalty phase". Associated Press. July 14, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  55. ^ "Jesse James Hollywood Sentenced to Life". The Santa Barbara Independent. July 14, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  56. ^ "Jesse James Hollywood gets life in prison for Santa Barbara murder". Los Angeles Times. February 5, 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-21. 

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