A suburban drug dealer is accused of kidnap and murder.

Mug shot of a smiling Jesse James

Jesse James Hollywood

A white van driving down the street

Nick was abducted by young men in a white van

CASE DETAILS

Just north of Los Angeles, in West Hills, California, Nick Markowitz celebrated his bar mitzvah with dozens of friends and loved ones. It would be the last joyous occasion before tragedy ripped the Markowitz family apart. It all started with Nick’s half brother, Ben, who was seven years older. For most of his life, Ben had been in trouble. And soon young Nick would be a victim of Ben’s world of deceit and betrayal.

Nick with his hands tied behind his back in a ditch

Jesse ordered them to kill Nick

Ben owed $1,200 to a man named Jesse James Hollywood, who was given his notorious name at birth. Jesse grew up in a loving middle class home and was given every chance to succeed in life. But somewhere along the way, Jesse went off track and turned to a life of crime. According to Commander Bruce Correll of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, by age 19, Jesse had amassed enough drug profits to buy his own house:

“Jesse James Hollywood was driving expensive cars. He was partying with his friends on nearly a daily basis. And he was living a rather lavish lifestyle for a young man without any legitimate means of employment.”

Two people stumbling across Nick's body in a forest

Nick’s body was in a forest

On August 6, 2000, Jesse allegedly decided to find Ben and collect what was owed to him. According to reports, Jesse and his friends cruised the West Hills area of Los Angeles looking for Ben. They could not find him, but they did locate his younger brother, Nick. According to Commander Correll, Nick Markowitz just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time:

“Witnesses say that they saw a van pull over, and, there was a physical confrontation, and young Nick was forced into the van… On that day… his only problem was that he had an older brother who had provoked the wrath of Jesse James Hollywood.”

After repeated unanswered phone calls to her son, Nick’s mother, Susan Markowitz, knew something was wrong:

“I was making Nick breakfast and went upstairs to get him, and he was not there. I paged him, and he did not return my page. I guess I must have paged him 100 times. I knew something was wrong.”

Police believe that Nick could not return his mother’s call because he’d been kidnapped and taken to a home in Santa Barbara. There he would remain a hostage until his brother Ben paid his debt to Jesse James Hollywood. Ben, however, was in no rush to pay up:

“He’s a real little guy. Very obnoxious. Just the type of guy you’d want to take his stuff. I didn’t fear him. He was… just a little man. I was, like, $1,200? Yeah, sure, I’ll get you later, buddy.”

Left: Old mug shot of Jesse with a buzz cut and goatee, Right: Current mug shot of Jesse with blond hair

Jesse was finally captured in Brazil

On the following day, witnesses reported seeing Nick at the Santa Barbara home. Jesse was not at the house. Nick was no longer bound nor gagged. According to Commander Correll, Nick’s captors seemed to treat him like a guest:

“Nick was free to move around the residence. Young people did come and go from the residence, although they were told that he had been in essence kidnapped…he was not acting as they might expect someone that had been kidnapped… I personally feel that Nick had the expectation that at some point in time he would be freed.”

In the ensuing days, there was no reported effort by Jesse James Hollywood to exchange Nick for the money Ben Markowitz owed him. According to witnesses, Jesse realized the situation was quickly spiraling out of control. He telephoned his lawyer for advice. Commander Correll believed that Jesse came to a disturbing realization—if Nick was released and told authorities about the spontaneous kidnapping, Jesse could spend the rest of his life behind bars:

“We believe that as a result of that conversation, Jesse came to the conclusion that he would be in a better situation to kill Nick, as opposed to trying to return him.”

Two police officers escorting Jesse

Hollywood awaits trial for murder

Authorities theorize that Jesse then contacted 21-year-old Ryan Hoyt, an acquaintance who also owed him money for drugs. Jesse allegedly offered Ryan a way to pay off his debt. On August 8th, police believe that Ryan Hoyt and two friends led Nick Markowitz to Lizard’s Mouth, a remote area in the Los Padres National Forest, and killed him. Four days later, the body of Nick Markowtiz was discovered.

Within days, police arrested Ryan Hoyt and three accomplices for the crime. Police had been tipped off by a teenager who had seen Nick and his captors at the home in Santa Barbara. However, Jesse James Hollywood was nowhere to be found. Police believe publicity about the murder caused Hollywood to flee. At their trial, each of the four suspects claimed they acted out of fear of Jesse James Hollywood. However, that did not stop the jury from convicting each of them with crimes ranging from aggravated kidnapping to murder.

Update:

Jesse James Hollywood has been captured. Five years after he fled the area, FBI agents tracked him down to a small coastal village near Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. He and his pregnant girlfriend were sitting at an outdoor café when Brazilian police swooped in and grabbed him. Hollywood was turned over to U.S. authorities and flown back to California. He went on trial for murder and was found guilty. Jesse James Hollywood was sentenced to life in prison without parole.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season eleven with Robert Stack and in season one with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

 

28 Comments

  1. Tarik D

    Jesse James Hollywood… Haha!! what a joke

    Reply

  2. Nottyd

    alpha dog

    Reply

  3. Chris

    Feel bad for susan she is a nice lady. Been friends with her for several years

    Reply

  4. Lg

    It’s 2020 and just watch the movie so I cry for nick mother so painful! I hope that she is doing better . When we lost someone we never forget about them,we just to learn how to live with out then. Nick RIP ‘ God welcome you with love ❤️ I’m sure you an angel .

    Reply

  5. Iglesias

    Son tantos los jueces, pero, y de las victimas, que son de ellas? Estúpidos! La humanidad casi siempre se hace de juez! Profanos idiotas!

    Reply

  6. anonymous

    yeah that’s pretty sad

    Reply

    • Normandie Kent

      It wasn’t a really a forest that nick was found in. It was more the side of a mountain on a hiking trail in the Santa Ynez mountains.

      Reply

  7. allison mills

    My heart weighs heavy over this after soooooomany years he was just a baby and drug debt is not worth an innocent life it would have been easier to pimp one of their hoes out or themselves instead of taking an innocent kids life were they too pussy to confront the real issue so not worth it it makes me sad

    Reply

  8. Anonymous

    You guys are harsh, although it was bad what he did and he should be punished I believe a death sentence as well as life in prison with no parole is to harsh, Just for ordering a kidnap and telling someone to murder the kid. The individual who did the killing could have said no, he wasn’t being forced. I think Jesse James Hollywood should have only received 40 years in prison and have been given a chance of rehabilitation in order to live in society again.

    Reply

    • Huh-Smh

      He got less than what he deserved!! He committed a crime, tore a mother’s heart into micropieces, and he ran like a coward. His sentence is very light in comparison to what he got. He should suffer just like Nicks parents have a life sentence as well. They lost their son and that’s definately forever. Jesse family still gets to see him and talk to him, the Markowitz family can’t do that!!! They will forever mourn the loss of their son, Jessie!!!? He even gets to get married, really? You call that harsh?

      Reply

      • SmarterThanYou

        You guys are both tripping!
        Huh-Smh:
        Yeah, life without parole is an incredibly harsh sentence no matter the circumstance. In cases like Hollywood’s, a life sentence is certainly appropriate, but it is stupid to try and argue that it isn’t harsh. Whatever little comforts he may be afforded don’t take away from the fact that he will be tortured (yes, spending time in vicious, high-security prisons is torturous) every day for the rest of his life. And you better believe that Hollywood is being victimized regularly, being the minuscule convicted child-killer he is. Oh, and fleeing the justice system doesn’t make someone a coward, it is the smart call in a situation like this (probably the only smart call Hollywood made during this whole ordeal).

        Anonymous:
        Really?! None of this would have happened if Hollywood wasn’t involved! No one was thinking “we should probably kill this kid” until Hollywood ordered his cronies to do it. FYI: ordering dumb people who are scared of you (for some odd reason) and in your debt to commit a crime makes you just as, if not more so, culpable than the people who actually carried it out. Are you saying that most mafia/gang leaders aren’t really committing any serious crimes because they are just ordering their underlings to commit serious crimes? I’m all for justice reform and despise how freely our courts hand out incredibly harsh sentences, but a dumb, angry wannabe gangster who thought “hey, I think it’s most prudent to murder this innocent kid” is not someone who deserves a chance at freedom. I know if I saw Hollywood as a free elderly man I would spit on him, just like everyone did at SB County Jail (after getting his autograph to sell on eBay, of course).

        Reply

  9. Anonymous

    It wasn’t my fault,honestly.I had nothing to do with it.

    Reply

  10. Patrick

    Just playing devil’s advocate for a moment, does anyone think there’s any possibility that Hollywood didn’t order Ryan Hoyt to kill Nick Markowitz, and that maybe Hoyt wanted to take the initiative in trying to “resolve” the problem? We do know that up until this incident Hoyt was basically Hollywood’s personal slave and would do various chores to pay off his drug debt, but he desperately wanted to be more accepted in the group and be taken more seriously. And it’s been said that he admired and maybe even idolized Hollywood in a weird way. So I think the possibility does exist that Hoyt may have done this in a twisted/warped way of being accepted by Hollywood and their friends, and also as a way to show everyone that he’s brutal and ruthless.

    Of course that certainly doesn’t mean that Hollywood is innocent and wasn’t liable for both the kidnapping and murder, but one of the issues I have with this is the only evidence that exists regarding the actual planning of the murder is primarily coming from the killer! Of course Hoyt would say that Hollywood gave him a bag with a gun and instructed him to kill Markowitz (and in return he would wipe clean the rest of his drug debt), because that takes some of the responsibility for the murder off of Hoyt’s shoulders. This is the same guy that testified during the trial that he had NO recollection of confessing to the murder to police detectives, so clearly he’s not a credible person with some major character flaws (that’s safe to say just from how he brutally killed an innocent 15 year old boy).

    And of course Hollywood says that he never told Hoyt to kill Markowitz, nor did he ever give him a bag with his TEC-9 pistol. Problem is there’s no other independent third-party that can confirm or deny any of what Hoyt and Hollywood have said regarding the planning of the murder itself.

    Reply

    • Jack McEntee

      Even if he didn’t Give the order, the kid would have still been alive if it was not for his stupid idea of kidnapping the kid. So the proper sentencing should’ve been lethal injection.

      Reply

  11. Jarrod Leitch

    I thought this took place in Palm Springs? Wonder why they kept Santa Barbara name out of the movie. However, “Fiesta” is a week long party in S.BARBARA. once a year. Strange???

    Reply

  12. Diidee

    I’ve just read the book My Stolen Son by Susan Markowitz (Nick’s mum) & Ben’s step mum. I cried nearly all the way throughout. Being from Australia I’m often impressed with the Justice system in the States compared to ours here in Australia. Particularly, where in the most heinous, gruesome crimes you have the Death penalty in certain Counties. That’s why I was extremely shocked when this poor excuse for a human being was allowed to keep on breathing (albeit in prison for the rest of his miserable life), how his crime doesn’t warrant the death penalty mystify me!!

    Reply

    • SmarterThanYou

      I’m not saying these guys don’t deserve the punishment they got (and more), but you gotta be insane to proclaim yourself “impressed” by the circus of cruelty and injustice that is the American court system! The main reason most Americans who oppose the death penalty believe so is because they know our courts are notorious for regularly convicting innocent people and handing out excessively harsh sentences because District Attorneys view court as a competition, not an avenue for actual justice where they are trusted with the immense responsibility of determining a person’s fate. It’s all “lock up as many of them as possible for as long as possible! Who cares if they actually deserve it!” Seriously, go look up America’s “impressive” record of executing innocent people.

      Reply

  13. Tiko

    Where can I find a pic of Michelle Lasher?…you know, JJH’s girl at the time?

    Reply

  14. Jon segotti

    I don’t agree with what this psycho did nor do I condone any of the actions taken but what a great brother Ben was for not just easily paying the man what he owed him. Especially since its for your own brother!

    Reply

  15. Natalie

    Who ever dose bad things on Earth Jeuse & His Father will clean.

    Reply

  16. Natalie

    I’m happy that all these Not so nice People are behind Bars!!! Becouse when Jesus & his Father comes thrue here they will take care of these People who ruins the Earth

    Reply

  17. Frankie boy

    He should’ve fried for what he did. He’s a coward

    Reply

  18. Cain

    Should’ve been on death role with his homeboy whom did the killing!

    Reply

  19. Angelica

    Is this what inspired the movie alpha dog?

    Reply

  20. Sky

    I really hate this guy

    Reply

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