Saturday, April 13, 2013

My Stolen Son

This next book tells of the TRUE story of kids and drugs leading to murder. The fact was that the lives, other than parents, in this case/story were kids. This tells the story from the victims mother/author of this story, Susan Markowitz, whose only son, Nicholas, was murdered in retaliation of a drug debt by Jesse James Hollywood.

On the same day as Jesse's arrest in Brazil, his father, Jack Hollywood, was arrested in the U.S. on charges of manufacturing the drug G.H.B. Detectives timed it to where Jack would be unavailable to bribe anyone when his son was apprehended. After being turned over by the Brazilian officers to the U.S. on 3-8-2005, Jesse James Hollywood bragged about escaping for so long. He showed NO REMORSE for his actions.

All Susan Markowitz wanted to do in life was be a mom. She had met a man, Jeff, at a bar. He had had two children from his first marriage, a son, Ben, and a daughter. Jeff worked for his family's business. A year later, after their first date, Susan found out that she was pregnant. Even w/ a late arrival, on 9-19-84, Susan gave birth to her son, Nicholas Samuel Markowitz. After he was born, Susan was COMPLETE.

Three months after Nick was born, Jeff's mother ordered them to get married. They were married at the L.A. courthouse on 12-7-1984. Ben's behavioral problems later on in school were soon confirmed as A.D.D. Susan thought it was that Ben was physically uncomfortable all the time. He was extremely fidgety and fluxuated w/ aggressive tendencies. Susan points out that Ben had trouble from the start. From an early age, Nick worried about his mom.When he was 11, Ben was in his first illegal offense.Things progressed from there.

After Ben was in a fight w/ his mom over the film Boyz In The Hood that became physical, his mom gladly turned him over to Jeff & Susan full time. They thought Ben being w/ them as a family would bring about change. Susan then goes into what type of boy she had. Meanwhile Ben's criminal activities increased. Eventually car theft and gun possession bought Ben a ticket to juvenile hall for 3 weeks. To channel his energy, Susan and Jeff got Ben involved in sports and Tae Kwan Do. When Susan would randomly go through Ben's dresser drawers, she found markers, which were for making graffiti. Ben was a natural athlete and they tried to focus his energy that way with winning a yellow belt in Tae Kwan Do. This positivity progressed in growth in other areas. But it wasn't enough to sustain him. There were too many temptations.

They kept an even bigger eye on Ben when he began high school and watched for signs of gang involvement. Ben resented every minute of it. Nick often looked to Susan for council. He was sensitive to teasing and took it to heart. He cared about what kids thought of him and whether he fit in. The honeymoon period was fading w/ Ben and he was soon back to skipping school and mouthing off only to his dad. When it came to Ben losing his temper when he didn't get his way, it was like watching a firework ignite.  One thing they had ALWAYS done and kept up with doing as a family was journal writing to each other as a form of communication.

Ben's tae kwon do teacher wanted to take him for awhile. Jeff would pay for Ben's expenses and the instructor would provide discipline and a strict environment to get Ben's act together. Even though Ben & Leah separately had their own troubles for not being around, Nick missed living with them. Nick was never one into sports, but he enjoyed the tae kwon do classes anyway. He cherished his books more than anything. Once it seemed that Ben was on the right track and considering monthly costs, Jeff seemed Ben didn't need the school anymore. When Ben got home, things exploded over painting his room. Jeff later figured Ben was on something. When Ben informed his dad he was learning how to cartoon in tattooing w/ permanent ink, he failed to mention it was on himself. He would tell people he was 18 when he was TRULY 15. They thought that SOMETHING would wake him up. Ben was full of contradictions; he was Jewish with a tattoo, which was forbidden.

Ben stayed with people he met on the streets. When Jeff met w/ him, in hopes he was ready to come home, he came to meet a tattooed skinhead. It brought Jeff to tears. Ben had been kicked out of his high school due to a fight. Jeff had to HARD SELL Ben into a school nearby. Worrying about Ben became a full-time job. To & from school and to work with Jeff. With Ben w/ his dad, his mom began a new life w/ a man who already had sons. Ben felt COMPLETELY unwanted. When Jeff and Susan took a much needed 2 days away, they came to find their residence manager throwing them out due to Ben having a drug party in their absence. Afterward, Ben disappeared.

When he returned, it was considered for Ben to attend a continuation school. It was there, at the school, he initiated a gang war. The prior day Ben had been initiated into a gang called the Black Hearts Pariah.  After the incident w/ the gangs, that was the end of Ben's high school career due to expulsion. Eventually, thanks to an unknown stolen car and assault w/ a deadly weapon, Ben was sent to a juvenile detention center. Nick was 10 at the time.
Nick Markowitz

When Ben was at the detention center, letters lowed back/forth. In one of his letters to Nick, Ben admits that if their dad & Susan are too hard on him/Nick, Ben is to thank. From what they know in letters, Ben EXCELLED at this facility. On 2-25-95, Ben came home. A few months later, it seemed things weren't so different. Living arrangements were complex again after he decided to bring pit-bull puppies home. During this time, Ben wasn't stable. He resided here and there w/ a girlfriend and friends. He would stay at his dads at times, but couldn't stay there if he couldn't follow rules.

Things were worsening when Nick, who was becoming 13, was having a hard time as well. He was concerning about fitting in. He would style his clothes to match other tougher kids. Susan didn't like this group of kids and wished that Nick was a leader and not a follower. Nick also didn't want to go by "Nicholas" anymore.

One trait BOTH Ben & Nick shared was the importance of standing up for the underdog and not letting kids be bullied. It was hard for teachers to argue w/ Nick when he could verbally outsmart them, thanks in part to his love of reading. At some point during the night of Nick's bar mitzvah, Ben gave him his father's ring. It wasn't what Jeff had in mind. It was a traditional gift for the age of 16. After Ben gave it to Nick, it never left Nick's finger. To compensate for her over-protectiveness, Susan tried to be a fun mom. Nick began high school in 1998.

Jesse James Hollywood
Even though Nick was brilliant, controlled & steadfast; one thing that bothered him was that he was tired of being kept from Ben. Susan COULD NOT figure out why Nick looked up to Ben. Nick snuck out at times w/ Ben and went to parties at a friend of Ben's, Jesse James Hollywood. Jesse was a drug dealer who ventured into "high end" marijuana and more. His father, Jack, was a major supplier. Several of the dealers working for Jesse also ran a tab, including Ben.

At this time, Nick had failed a class and had attended summer school. It was becoming apparent that Nick didn't care about school anymore. Around this time/point, Nick was gradually becoming closer to Ben. The more Susan tried to pull him back, the further Nick pushed away. Before long, Ben was getting high w/ Nick and soon he would follow in his brother's footsteps. Ben was introduced to Nick's friends of whom  dealt drugs. Nick tried smoking pot, but they occasionally tried harder drugs. For a few weeks, Nick was a "self-proclaimed pot dealer".  Susan had NO IDEA! Leah tried to tell Susan & Jeff of what was going on w/ Ben's activities, but they weren't listening. She informed them of the blinders they were wearing towards the situation. Nick, like Jeff, was an outdoors-man. 3-days-to-a-week later, Susan's world ended.

Even though  Ben & Jesse James Hollywood had known each other since Little League, it wasn't until Ben was in his 20s that he began to socialize w/ Jesse's group. Ben had asked Jesse James Hollywood if he was interested in dealing drugs to him. Ben had burned his bridges w/ other local dealers, running up debts w/ all of them, so he had to finds someone new. After Jesse agreed, he was finding himself fronting Ben w/ thousands worth a week. Jesse would collect more than $100,000 in one transaction. Throughout this time, they were becoming friends and Ben was an everyday member of their group.

Ryan Hoyt
Of their group, Ryan Hoyt, thanks to owing Jesse James Hollywood money from a marijuana deal, he became Jesse's personal servant, doing whatever when asked/told. Everyone thought it was funny. Jesse James Hollywood was small for his size, but his power allotted him that privilege. Jesse James Hollywood's position as the leader of the group had gone unchallenged - until Ben wasn't backing down anymore. It all began w/ a drug deal gone bad.

When Ben owed Jesse $1,200 and couldn't sell off what what were thought to be escatsy pills, he still owed Jesse the money. Jesse James Hollywood's expenses weren't that of a typical 19-yr-old kid. Even for a teenage drug dealer, NO ONE wanted to mess w/ the Hollywood's, neither Jack or Jesse. No one but Ben. Ben kicked things up a notch by alerting an insurance company to a scam Jesse James Hollywood was running. Jesse had reported his customized car stolen, in an attempt to collect $35,000. Ben had gone w/ Jesse to make the car insured, that's how Ben knew of the amount. Because of Ben's call, Jesse wasn't able to collect on the insurance. That was when Jesse vowed revenge and let everyone know it.

At this time, Nick, who was 15, had begun working w/ Jeff. Jesse had talked about leaving West Hills, CA after coming home and finding one of his two pit bulls dead, thinking/deciding that Ben had poisoned his dog. Thanks to broken windows and "too many assholes knowing where he lived", Jesse began moving his belongings into a storage until he could figure out his next move. Nothing came close to those threats until Sunday morning 8-6-2000.

Nick was beginning to push his teenage boundaries. A few months earlier, Nick was busted w/ a marijuana joint on school grounds. He was arrested and fingerprinted. He had remorse and took his groundings w/o complaint. Nick had always been upset at the path Ben embarked on, that was why Susan found it hard to accept that Ben had been taking the sane steps. Jeff was COMPLETELY UNAWARE of what was going on, but Susan was more aware of the signs.

Early the next morning, after waking Nick up for information and Jeff was about to leave, kissing his son good-bye, without knowing it, it would be the last time. When Jeff returned and Susan was making breakfast, she went to go tell Nick breakfast was ready, he wasn't there. Somewhere between 9:30A-11:00A, Nick disappeared from his room. Susan had bough him a pager w/ strings attached. After 11 minutes and no response, minutes became hours w/ Susan's anger heightening. She thought he had run to Ben's. Jeff wasn't worried. By night fall, anger became fear. She cleaned his room out of nervous energy. Susan worried herself into exhaustion. After waking up from a nap, Susan's mother instincts kicked in that her son needed her b/c he still hadn't come home.

Jesse Rugge
At 1:00P, on 8-6-2000, a woman was driving back from church with her 3 boys when she seen a van w/ a bunch of young men grab a younger boy who was walking down the street. They pummeled him and threw him into the van. The woman called 9-1-1 and told the operator what she witnessed. Right afterward a UCLA student also called with the same story. The officers were the first ones that COULD HAVE saved Ben's life, but failed to do so. Information w/ calls were NOT connecting w/ police of this being a kidnapping. NO ONE knew what was happening to Nick. Susan had paged Nick over-and-over that morning becoming more frustrated. Nick's uncle and cousin had been driving home that afternoon and had seen him and offered Nick a ride home. He politely declined. At this point, at the point of the kidnapping, NO ONE knew what happened or of Ben's whereabouts. All of this happened in the middle of daylight. In front of witnesses. After they grabbed Nick and were in the van, they tried to get UNKNOWN  info from him, just then Nick's pager went off. It was his mom. Nick honestly told them who it was. They knew that Susan was already looking for him. They ordered Nick to give up everything in his pockets. They were all supposed to go to Santa Barbara for the festival, Fiesta. Every few minutes, Jesse Hollywood would bark threats at Nick if he fled. Jesse Rugge wondered what to do w/ Nick since they really wanted his brother, Ben. Jesse Hollywood told Rugge to keep him at Rugge's house Rugge stated that he couldn't b/c his dad was there. They tried to stash Nick at the house of a friend of Hollywood's.

Hollywood threatened for their silence. It proved powerful w/ a gun. Rugge explained to the guys in the apartment what the situation was w/ Nick. Jesse Rugge was a 20-yr-old high school dropout covered w/ tattoos. 2 guys, at this point, had decided NOT to take part in any of this any longer. It was getting too intense. They made excuses to leave; one told Jesse Hollywood had had committed to a date. Considering his circumstances; Nick was extremely calm. He took it for what he thought it was, he was going to hang in and be there until his brother came through. When Jesse Hollywood came back, not only did he see that Nick was untied, but he was smoking pot and playing video games w/ his captors. A few KIDS really thought this entire ordeal would blow over. When Jesse Hollywood left for the night, he left an unhappy Jesse Rugge in charge of Nick for the night. They both spent the night at Jesse Rugge's father's house. Jesse Rugge assured to Nick this would be over soon.

Susan was bereft w/ worry. At one point, she had had all of Nick's friends parents' numbers, but Nick had erased them. He claimed it was "accidental". After much searching in his belongings, Susan reprogrammed them into her Palm. She documented the calling and texting. In the middle of all of that, Ben showed up. He hadn't seen Nick. Ben said he was in Arizona working construction w/ his uncle. He swore he hadn't heard from Nick. Ben had joined in w/ everyone in making phone calls and one of the first people he called was Jesse James Hollywood. Even though he left a message, Ben did suspect that Hollywood was involved. Ben thought Hollywood was hanging out w/ Nick simply to piss him off.

After Ben left, Susan focused on making "Missing Persons" posters She had a room of people dispensing them out, someone had to have seen him. Susan had to keep to herself and stay positive. Ben was sure that Nick was just at a friends house cooling off for a few days after arguing w/ Jeff & Susan. Susan didn't believe it. She knew something was wrong. The day after the kidnapping, Jesse James Hollywood confessed it to his lawyer. He made it sound like the kidnapping was done w/o his consent by his friends. His lawyer told him his best-to-worst scenario.

At some point, Jack & Laurie Hollywood met up w/ Jesse at his girlfriend, Michelle Lasher's, house, but Jesse was evasive, as Jack described. Jesse wasn't giving ANY information. At this particular point, back at Jesse Rugge's house, his dad and step-mom weren't paying much attention to what was going on in their house. Even though Jesse had invited friends over, he had told them that Nick was someone staying w/ them for awhile. Jesse had told them NOT to leave Nick alone and NO using the phone. What tipped them off was the way Jesse was ordering Nick around. Eventually Nick told the group what was up w/ the kidnapping and ransom. He was going to stick it out for his brother. The girls in the group nicknamed him "stolen boy". Nick was only a year or so younger than them. They would talk and give Nick advice.

Jesse Rugge was contacting Hollywood questioning what to do? Rugge was contacting Hollywood while Hollywood was trying to contact Ryan Hoyt. When Nick was without his captors and with the other teenagers, they were told not to mess with Hollywood's plans. The kids asked Ben if he wanted to leave and he said he would stick it out for his brother. So they stayed and hung out. Jesse Rugge was once in charge of Nick, keeping him overnight while everyone else went to Fiesta. One of the girls, Natasha Addams, spoke to her mom, an attorney, for advice. The group met at Rugge's to discuss "the situation". Jesse Rugge told one of the girls, Natasha, that Hollywood had offered him $2,000 to kill Nick. They didn't know what to do w/ him. But they knew they weren't going to hurt him. Everyone was quiet due to fear of Hollywood going to jail if word got out. Natasha was in  tears. She didn't know what to do. Nick, this entire time, just looked at this experience as something to one day tell his grand-kids. Jesse Rugge kept promising he would get Nick home. All of these kids could have saved Nick's life. . . .but didn't.

Jesse Rugge REALLY didn't want to be a part of ANY of this. He offered to give Nick $50.00 and put him on a train back home. THAT NIGHT! He just didn't want to deal w/ law enforcement in return. He offered and repeated the offer several times. One of the girls again asked Nick why hadn't he taken off. He stated "he just didn't want to". He took self-defense classes and KNEW how to defend himself. Ryan Hoyt at this point had been doing menial jobs for Jesse Hollywood, to work off his debts. He would have done ANYTHING to impress him. Jesse Hollywood told him there was a way to clear his debt. The kids partied at a hotel, the Lemon Tree Inn. Nick & Graham Pressley were in the the hot tub next to the pool w/ other ladies. They talked conversation. He talked about his family and discussed earlier about the girl he liked. When they were out of the hot tub, Nick said he wanted to see that girl after this was over and he went home.

At 11:00P, Jesse Rugge announced for everyone to go home. Nick and the girls exchanged numbers and farewells. Graham Pressley was going to leave but Rugge asked him to stay. After Nick fell asleep in the room, here comes Ryan Hoyt cleaning a gun clip in the bathroom of the motel. Graham was in fear for his life. Rugge insisted later on that he didn't know until the minute Hoyt arrived that Nick wasn't actually going home. He HONESTLY expected for Jesse Hollywood to show up. Hoyt & Rugge got into a Honda Sudan.

Graham Pressley was alone w/ Nick and COULD HAVE SAVED him. After borrowing a car, Hollywood left solo and drove back to his house where Hoyt was doing menial jobs. Hollywood arrived and gave the car to Hoyt. This was becoming REAL!! Hoyt had the weapon and the car. He was sent by Hollywood to kill Nick.

After celebrating his girlfriend's 20TH birthday on an American Express card, making that Jesse Hollywood's alibi, at the same time Hoyt & Rugge drove to Rugge's house and picked up 2 shovels from the side yard and duct tape from the garage. Hoyt then asked Jesse Rugge for a spot to dig a grave. When Hoyt returned to the Lemon Tree, he just kept plying Nick w/ alcohol, pot & Valium. He later claimed "Nick seemed to have a good time." Pressley had later thought that when Hoyt ordered for him to go to the hiking trail in the mountains, he thought he was dragging his own grave. It was now past midnight and Graham had dug a hole where and when Ryan thought it was to be enough. They taped up Nick's hands and legs and then untaped him.

Going back to the car, it had all 4 of them: Nick, Graham, Jesse Rugge & Ryan all headed back up to the site. His captors later said that "Nick was barely able to sit up straight on the ride there due to all of the drinking and drugs." Graham said "it wasn't until they were walking up to the site that he KNEW FOR SURE it was Nick the were going to kill" Then he froze while everyone else continued up. Pressley went back to the car and CRIED. Nick was still walking ahead of everyone. They passed a few people on the way. Hoyt sat Nick down while Rugge pulled out the duct tape. Rugge taped Nick's hands behind his back and they also taped up his mouth, which rendered him unable to breathe. Nick was knocked into the grave. Ryan Hoyt pulled the trigger w/ 9 bullets ending Nick's life.

Hoyt placed the gun under Nick's leg. The two killers; Pressley & Hoyt, quickly shoved dirt and leaves over him with the ground wet with pools of blood. Hoyt admired his own handiwork. At 9:00A, Pressley lied out his ass to Natasha Addams that he drove Nick home. Ryan slept over at someone's house and soon bragged to his friend about having killed Nick. He had NO REMORSE - NO GUILT! Hoyt slept at a friend's house again that night. It bugged him that he ha MENTALLY done something SERIOUS that resulted in a consequence. Susan felt her mental health slipping. Jeff & Ben spent their time on motorcycles. 3 days later, after the murder, 3 ladies were hiking and smelled the stench of death. The hikers kicked the sand and found Nick's body. It took detectives 2 days to OFFICIALLY identify him.

When Susan was told in the morning of what happened, she FELL APART. Ben had heard from his aunt after waking up from the previous night. His screams after finding out about his brother's murder awoke his 2 roommates. Susan felt numb, nothing & hollow. When Nick died - she died. Even w/ news headlines the following day, Susan was still wishing different. She was appreciative that the media had cared to report about Nick. Natasha Addams went to her mother's lawyer and conferred w/ what she knew. It matched facts w/ other anonymous callers. Natasha, at 17-yrs-old, was the only person, out of EVERYONE involved, who chose to stand up to Jesse James Hollywood. She was immune from being prosecuted but not from Jesse himself. The yard memorial in front of Susan's house went on for days. Detectives interviewed Ben at Jeff & Susan's house that day. He was candid from the start from past-to-present. When they asked him about the type of guns owned by Jesse James Hollywood, that was when Ben knew who was responsible for Nick's murder. It had ALL come down to Ben. When Susan got the FULL story, she remembers feeling betrayed in a way that was more visceral than ever before. She never wanted to look at Ben again.

On Wednesday, 9-6-2000, officers arrested William Skidmore, Jesse Rugge & Graham Pressley. At 2:00A, police found and arrested Ryan Hoyt. Every kids parents were SHOCKED when police did the complete search warrant. Everyone - except the Hollywood's. When Susan was told at the last minute that you could place something in the casket w/ Nick, she felt rushed and defensive. She thought that Ben was such a coward for NOT showing up to the funeral. She didn't know that Jeff asked him NOT TO! Susan figured, but didn't remember the discussion, that Ben made himself the focus of EVERY ONE of Nick's monumental moments.  It just made Susan ANGRIER that Ben wasn't there. She had written into her journal and a promise to her mom that she wouldn't commit suicide.

By the time police sat down w/ Jesse Rugge, they had a clear picture of what happened and their involvement. Rugge was determined to play dumb even w/ an article in the paper. Detectives questioned him and worked hard for a confession. They just let him talk. Throughout the interview, Rugge kept trying to get info from the police about what they already knew. More talking led to who actually shot & killed Nick. Afterward, Rugge wanted the cops to leave his sister out of it, b/c she was a good mother. Shortly after his arrest came Hoyt. Hoyt had tried to get his grandmother to vouch he was home w/ her at the time of the murder. He tripped on his words which led to a confession. That led to him talking.  After hearing from him and everyone else, the detectives main objective now . . . . was to find Jesse James Hollywood.

On the day of Nick's murder, Hollywood leased a new car, cashed out his bank accounts and went around collecting from those who owed him. Considering he was on the run, Jesse James Hollywood went to see his mom while he could. He, along w/ Michelle Lasher & William Skidmore moved from Las Vegas to Colorado. Michelle later went home by plane. Jesse Hollywood eventually hitched a ride to an old family friend's home, who hadn't seen or heard from Jesse since the Hollywood's moved away in 1995.His friend's name was Chas Saulsbury. Chas stated that Hollywood came to his mother's house and he was shocked to see Hollywood waiting on his doorstep. He said that Jesse Hollywood gave a very bare-bones account of what was going on. The police were after him and he needed help out of town.

Jesse couldn't figure out where to go, Mexico or Canada, North or South. It became a 15-hr ride in total. Little-by-little, Hollywood was coming unglued. Praying and crying and wishing he were dead. He had revealed more of the story of Nick's murder and more. At this point, Saulsbury got spooked about his fate and wanted out if the situation and quick. He took Jesse to John Roberts' house where Hollywood and Roberts became emotional, also so Hollywood could get access to a fake I.D. to leave the country A.S.A.P. Hollywood was off again, this time without Saulsbury to drive him around. Hollywood was actually staying in a friend's borrowed trailer in a remote location. He was watching TV and seen a stand-off between police and John Roberts, which made Jesse feel guilty. For 2 weeks, Jesse Hollywood stayed at that trailer, living on frozen food, beer and cigarettes. America's Most Wanted picked up on the case and Hollywood seen it feature him while he was in the trailer. It made him more determined to get out of the country. He hopped a plane from LA to Seattle. He stayed for 2 weeks, then paid $2,000 for someone to smuggle him to Canada by boat. At this time, when Susan wasn't making posters, she was going on internet chat rooms and making message boards, cutting and pasting messages over-and-over again of Jesse Hollywood's being wanted by the F.B.I.

Nick Cassavetes
Susan began drinking and taking a lot of pills to make the days go away and drill the pain. She was eventually admitted into one hospital because a neuropsychicatric hospital didn't have a bed available. Jeff himself was becoming unglued as well. He tried hard to be the stable one and keep a sense of normalcy within their lives.Susan realized she HAD TO stay alive for justice for her son. Jeff had bought Ben a new pair of shoes for court. Susan didn't want Jeff to EVER do anything for Ben again. Each day in court seemed longer and more agonizing for Susan than the last. According to an interview w/  filmmaker, Nick Cassavetes, Natasha Addams' mom relived the events of her wedding anniversary and that her mom was high on esctasy and didn't want to be bothered. Natasha TRIED talking to her mom. When her mom showed her the article, she cried right away.

At this point, Natasha's parents knew their daughter knew who was responsible and made an appointment with a lawyer. Others testified one after another w/ their TRUTHFUL testimonies. When Jack Hollywood was called to testify, he was asked about Jesse and he wanted to confer with his attorney. The D.A. announced to the press they were considering seeking the death penalty for Hollywood, Rugge & Hoyt. On Thanksgiving Day, Jeff & Susan mustered up the bravery and went to the site of Lizard Mouth and needed to feel the pain that awaited them. Jeff chiseled Nick's name into a boulder w/ his date of birth and the date of his death. Even though Susan felt lost & alone, preserving Nick's memory was the most important thing to do. Susan felt Jeff had more to live for than she did. He still had other children + grandchildren, thanks to his daughter, Leah. Thanks to 2 other unsuccessful pregnancies, Nick was even more important.

The entirety of the trial, from selections to hearings; overlapped each other. Jeff & Susan were at all of them. Back in CA, when America's Most Wanted did a long segment on Jesse James Hollywood that generated TIPS, people claimed sightings from him EVERYWHERE! Some thought him to be the Jesse James, who's NOW the ex-husband of Oscar-winning actress, Sandra Bullock. The sheriffs dept. and the F.B.I. weren't allowed to tell Susan anything about the investigation. Thanks to that fact, Jeff & Susan followed some of the tips that were coming in themselves. After Nick's death, Ben went into a free-fall  Beforehand he had sold more drugs than he used, afterward it became the opposite. He told the press many times "it was his fault his 15-yr-old brother is dead". Even after Nick's death, Ben still wouldn't straighten up. It was like nothing changed. He later said he was on his own suicide mission by committing crimes trying to get himself in trouble or shot.

Ben eventually got himself in BIG trouble and was sent to "BIG BOY" prison and it scared him to pieces.  In prison, Ben promised to God if he were to survive prison, he would never break the law again. It was the truth. After attending groups and finding out there were those that weren't so lucky, Susan found reasons to thank God for the small blessings they had. At least they knew the who, what, when, why & where of Nick's murder. Jeff, his best friend & another attorney filed a civil lawsuit on their behalf w/ a mediator naming 32 defendants, the L.A.P.D. for failure to investigate the 911 calls, Natasha Addams, Kelly Carpenter, the Lemon Tree Inn & Laurie and Jack Hollywood. They reached a settlement totaling $330, 200 which was split. They actually received about $193,000, plus the rights to Jesse James Hollywood's house, which Susan and Jeff sold for $90,000.

Ryan Hoyt was the next person to go to trial. On the stand, even w/ evidence, Ryan claimed amnesia. His new story was that someone else killed Nick and all he did was deliver a bag. The psychiatrist begged to differ in testimony. Aside from a few family members and the media, no one was there for Ryan. They were all there for Nick. The defense tried to paint a pitiful picture of Hoyt. Ben was still in prison during the trial and had to be moved to Santa Barbara to testify. The trial lasted until 11-21-2001 when Ryan was found GUILTY of first-degree murder after just 1 day of deliberations. One of the most difficult things for Susan to do was speak during the penalty phase of Hoyt's trial. After court, Susan crawled into her hotel bed and slept to make the day shorter. Ryan was sentenced to death by lethal injection in San Quentin.

Somehow it seemed the world knew before Susan that Ben had gotten out of prison. Jeff & other family members tried to hide it from her. Jesse Rugge's trial began w/ a snag in April 2002, the jury could not hear Jesse's confession. It was a media frenzy.With the confession thrown out, Jesse Rugge was able to completely change his story without the jury knowing any different. He claimed "he took off running once he heard the gunshots." Aside from Graham Pressley's parents, NOT ONE person apologized or showed remorse. The jury convicted Jesse Rugge of kidnapping, but they acquitted him of murder. It took months before a judge sentenced him. Susan had to feel like he/Jesse Rugge had beaten a murder charge.

Graham Pressley
The judge sentenced Rugge to the mandatory sentence for his crime: life in prison but the possibility of parole after 5 years. The only person Susan had ANY compassion for during the trial was Graham Pressley. She seen something in him the others didn't have: a soul. There were actually 2 trials for Graham Pressley. The first trial was deadlocked. He was freed on $50,000 bail, had to abide a curfew and refrain from drugs and alcohol. The second trial commended in October 2002. Ultimately Graham Pressley was found guilty of
2ND Degree Murder at the second trial. Pressley hung his head and cried as he heard the verdict. Although he was tried and convicted as an adult, Graham Pressley was sentenced as a juvenile. Susan didn't fight it, she let herself feel for them. Graham Pressley would be in juvenile prison until the age of 25. Graham's mother, Christina, wrote a letter contacting Susan in July 2003. Their correspondence continued and they met for lunch several times. Even though she never got there or expressed it, others thought Christina was just trying to get Susan for an early release for her son. Susan felt very comfortable with her.

Ben was dating the same girl a year prior to Nick's death. In 2003, they were expecting a baby and preparing to get married. They had a  daughter. Susan did write him a letter. There did happen to be an instant when Susan talks about running into the mother of Jesse James Hollywood. The run-in caused Susan to up the reward money for someone to talk. Jesse'e parents were still playing dumb, pretending they didn't know of his whereabouts, but they knew. In September 2003, Susan told her psychiatrist that she felt like she needed to be in a sage environment right then. He arranged everything and she got herself into a hospital. They diagnosed her w/ P.T.S.D. While being admitted in the hospital, Susan got herself sober by accident. It had finally hit Susan that she HAD TO be sober if she was EVER to pull out of her depression.

After being in/out of the hospital for treatments of overdose or suicide, not knowing where help would come from, Susan wrote to The Dr. Phil Show asking for help. She read 'The Purpose Driven Life'. The show wanted to put her appearance on hold until the feeling of suicidal tendencies past. She had asked for help. She allowed time to pass. Little by little . . . . Susan ACTUALLY got better. Something GOOD was changing withing her. Her feelings of HOPE about life changed her views on life. She told Jeff if he wanted a relationship w/ Jeff, he could have one. In June 2004, the feelings of wanting to die were leaving. Because the feeling of cutting herself didn't subside, Susan's therapist suggested she wear something of Nick's to see and remember.

Canada hadn't been what Jesse James Hollywood hoped it would be. The media there picked up on the story. He stuck out like a sore thumb. For six months, he traveled place-to-place in Canada by bus. In Quebec, he paid $1,000 for a fake passport that included a 5-yr visa to Brazil. First, he flew to Mexico-then to-Brazil in 2001.

In 2002, a filmmaker had contacted Jeff & Susan wanting to buy their story rights for the USA Television Network. They agreed, but that film never made it off the ground. Another filmmaker had 2 daughters that had gone to the same school as Nick and knew ALOT of the story already because the story was so close to him. That filmmaker was Nick Cassavetes. Nick had asked his friend, Kevin Connelly, for a script. The script was called 'Alpha Dog'. Jeff & Susan opened their home for him. Susan tried her best to give a picture of who Nick was and what their family had gone through. The only thing Susan asked for in return from him for their story and participation was that if the did well, Cassavetes would help pay the reward money still offered for Jesse James Hollywood's capture. Nick agreed. Jack Hollywood was a paid consultant on the film. He wanted to remind whomever played Jesse that he wasn't a monster, but Jack's son.

Kevin Connelly dropped out of the film due to 'Entourage'. Justin Timberlake, after being cast, was sent to actually meet Jesse Rugge in person. In several places, those hired SOLELY to find Jesse Hollywood kept barely missing him. Authorities had come SO CLOSE to catching him more than once. (It seemed from reading, they would be close enough, but only to find a footprint.) Jeff & Susan had upped their portion of reward money twice. It now totaled $70,000. $20,000 from the F.B.I. and $50,000 from Jeff & Susan. They offered to put their portion of the money into a college fund for Jesse James Hollywood's younger brother if he turned himself in. Jesse Hollywood already had a criminal record under his pseudonym. He was stopped on cocaine charges, but was let go thanks to the name he used.

Investigators tracked Jesse's phone and went back/forth with "wrong number" situation. Hollywood was suspicious about the phone calls - but not suspicious enough. Based on tips, the agents knew that an American cousin was to meet Jesse at a mall. After a violent standoff and military police and agents almost shooting each other, Jesse Hollywood was taken to the police station. He had ALL THE RIGHT answers for the wrong guy. After all of the B.S., it was as if all of the blood drained from his face. Hollywood KNEW he was caught. He stuck his hand out to congratulate the detective for catching him. Police were  already underway for Jack. All of the phone numbers or tracks weren't getting Jesse out of trouble. He was being extradited back to CA.

When Susan got the call from Jeff about Jesse's capture, she fell to her knees and sobbed out 4 1/2 years of grief. By the time Susan got to the police station, she was drained of emotion. Her only goal now was to see Hollywood convicted. The defense team objected to block the release of 'Alpha Dog', even though filmmakers changed EVERYONE's names: Jesse Hollywood was "Johnny Truelove";  Ryan Hoyt was "Elvis Schmidt"; Ben Markowitz was "Jake Mazursky" and; Nick was "Zack Mazursky". It was still being marked as a TRUE story! The defense team tried to say that Hollywood could never get a fair trial if the movie was released.  Hollywood lost his lawsuit against Universal Studios blocking the film's release. The judge seen the film and disagreed w/ Hollywood's motion of Jesse being painted as a "monster".  He refused to block it's release, making it the FIRST time a release was made about a criminal case being released before a trial began. 'Alpha Dog' was released in January 2007.

Ben today
Susan thought that Anton Yelchin's job as "Zach" was a terrific job. She thought Sharon Stone's portrayal as her, especially in the fat suit, really moved her. Sharon LISTENED to Susan and did a stellar job. Susan then goes into depicting what was FACT from FICTION in the film. Susan wasn't upset w/ the exaggerations in the film, because the spirit of the film was right, along w/ it's messaging. The film became a tremendous blessing for Susan. She's often asked about Ben today. He turned his life around, thanks to his 2 kids; a son and a daughter. He sent Susan a letter not knowing how to approach her. After 5 years, they both went to Nick's grave. They were ready and it was time. They took it for what it is. A quiet peace offering. It was still shaky ground. Ben's kids were his world. Susan was proud of the strides he's made.

Nine years after Nick's execution, Jesse Hollywood was going on trial for 1st Degree Murder and Kidnapping. The defense argued to strip the courtroom of ANY humanity whatsoever. There were to be NO reminders of Nick anywhere in the courtroom. Jeff was barred from the courtroom - in case he was called to testify. Later, Jesse James Hollywood began calling himself "Alpha Dog" after the film's release. While in prison, Jesse James Hollywood had fans, supposedly young women. He/Jesse expressed his confidence that he would prevail and to him this ENTIRE trial is just a big show. He NEVER ONCE SHOWED ANY remorse. He referred to Nick as "the kid" or "the boy". For him, it was all about self-pity.

The trial began in May 2009. When Chas Saulsbury testified about driving Hollywood to Las Vegas, he was granted immunity right away when he went to police. Susan was thankful that Chas testified that he kept bringing home the point - don't forget that a boy was killed. When Jesse James Hollywood's girlfriend, at the time, Michelle Lasher, testified, her "trauma" from this trial & case probably came from the fact that Hollywood moved on and had a baby w/ his next girlfriend, whom he actually called his wife.

On Graham Pressley's fourth day on the stand, since she had heard six times before in other trials of his polygraph tests, Susan took a small break and sat outside. She sat outside the courtroom and began a discussion w/ someone waiting to go inside. They got to talking. The woman almost fainted when she found out she was talking to Nick's mom. She, too, had lost a son in Hawaii. From their discussion, it seemed they were both looking for healing. At the end of the day, due to the emotional exhaustion, Susan would go back to her hotel room and crash-out early in bed by 7:00P. When it came time for Ben's testimony, the defense tried to block him from appearing as a witness because they said he wasn't credible. The judge denied the request. As it turned out, Ben was one of the most credible people to appear.

After constant objections/overrules, Ben described what happened after he was released from prison for armed robbery. The defense seemed to be irritatingly pick at him over dates and times. It just seemed like the defense was stalling w/ questions until better ones came. Ben's testimony was very EMOTIONAL at times. He opened up in ways like Susan had NEVER SEEN before. For the first time, she felt that Ben was 100% there for Nick. After testifying, Ben went over to Susan outside the courthouse and they just hugged and cried. It was like a wall had come down between them. To a surprise to everyone, on 6-22-2009, Jesse James Hollywood took the stand in his defense. NO ONE KNEW this was coming.

Jesse James Hollywood spoke about baseball, his O.C.D., his father & grandfather's "illicit activities". He was telling the truth in his testimony. When talking about Nick, he sounded rehearsed. When it FINALLY came to closing arguments, Susan felt like a boxer in the 9TH round. After closing arguments and four days later, Jesse James Hollywood was found GUILTY on First Degree Murder. On the charge of Special
Circumstance Of Murder using an assault pistol or machine gun, making Hollywood eligible for the death penalty - GUILTY! Justice was served.

Ben had come into the court just as they were reading off Jesse's kidnapping charges. He was found not guilty of aggravated kidnapping, but was found GUILTY of simple kidnapping. Even though the media wanted Susan to talk, she was relieved this was over w/ the RIGHT verdict. After the jury turned in their guilty verdict, sealed it in a locked room, some of the jurors asked the bailiff to see the TEC-9 murder weapon. The foreman called it "morbid curiosity." Thanks to this, it only gave more for the defense to pick. After constant appeals and reschedules, there were to be NO NEW trials GRANTED!  After the judge accepted  the 'Objection' from the defense for the family's impact statements, Ben HAD TO leave the courtroom because he was too upset. the judge did uphold the jury's recommendation: life in prison without the possibility of parole. It was FINALLY OVER.

Jack & Laurie Hollywood changed their last names to Haynes. With a detective standing by Jeff, Jack and Jeff shook hands. Jack said "he was just really sorry". Jack and Laurie just ignored Susan. After this was all over, Susan awoke excited that she was scheduled to speak to the group, 'Action'. The organizer to the group asked her to speak and she was READY to do it. Susan told of her own along with Nick's story. No questions were off limits. She looked around the room, no one was even breathing. They were listening so intently and sympathetically. Susan knew she was reaching them. She whispered the same exact thing to Nick. The Markowitz family had somehow reached their way making it back to the world. For Nick.

As of this book's publication, both Graham Pressley & William Skidmore were out of prison with a second chance. Susan, w/ all she's done and been through, is doing well. Her life is filled with hope. The GREATEST thing she EVER was in life was Nick's mom.

Nick Markowitz
(September 19, 1984 – August 9, 2000)


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