Jesse Rugge was one of five young men who were perpetrators in the Murder and Kidnapped of Nicholas Markowitz. Rugged and his buddies kidnapped Markowitz when he was only a teenager over a quarrel he had with his half-brother, Markowitz. He was convicted in May of kidnapping Nicholas Markowitz on Aug. 6, 2000, near his home, but was acquitted in the boy’s murder that occurred two days later outside Santa Barbara.
His trial was started in April 2002. He was the getaway driver when Nicholas was abducted. He also tied Nicholas’s hands together put duct tape over his mouth right before his execution and helped Ryan Hoyt bury the body.
Jesse Rugge’s Early Life and Involvement in Markowitz Murder
Rugge was born on November 10, 1979 in Santa Barbara. In a later interview, Rugge described his early years as “a rough childhood” marred by his parents’ divorce. He characterized himself as a “budding artist” and a generally well-behaved young man who became remorseful for his crime.
Rugge was 20 years old in August 2000 when he assisted in the abduction of Markowitz, who was killed over a drug debt owed by his half-brother to Jesse James Hollywood.
Now 43, Rugge was convicted in 2002 of aggravated kidnapping and originally sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 7 years. Despite objections from Markowitz’s family and prosecutors, Rugge was released on parole in October 2013 for good behavior. He has reportedly had no parole violations in the decade since.
Jesse Rugge’s Life After Prison Release in 2013, Where Is he Today?
Jesse Rugge has kept a low profile since his release from prison in 2013 after serving time for his role in the 2000 kidnapping and murder of Nicholas Markowitz.
Rugge was granted parole in 2013 despite objections from Markowitz’s family and prosecutors. According to reports, he has had no parole violations on record since his release over a decade ago.
In a 2019 three-part interview with Fresh Out Productions, Rugge opened up about adjusting to life after prison. He discussed his difficult childhood, dislike of the prison environment, and personal growth since his conviction.
“I made a vow to myself to never go back to that environment ever again,” Rugge stated in the interview.
Now nearly 20 years removed from the infamous California case, Rugge has expressed deep remorse for his actions and a commitment to turning his life around.
Details of the 2000 Kidnapping and Murder of Nicholas Markowitz
Rugge’s involvement in the crime started with a deal gone wrong between Jesse James Hollywood and the victim’s older half-brother, Ben Markowitz.
Ben owed Hollywood $1,200. In an effort to hasten repayment on Ben’s behalf, Hollywood abducted Nicholas. Hollywood later recruited Rugge, Ryan Hoyt, William Skidmore, and Graham Pressley to help in Nicholas’ kidnapping and, eventually, death.
Rugge and the rest of Hollywood’s gang abducted Nicholas on August 6, 2000. The captors promised to free Nicholas eventually and even took him to various homes, including Rugge’s Santa Barbara home, where they gave him drugs and alcohol. Hollywood threw a pool party at the Lemon Tree Inn on August 8th, where Rugge reportedly vowed to get Nicholas home, saying,
“I’ll put you on a Greyhound. I’m going to get you home.”
However, Hollywood later realized the potential consequences of the kidnapping, so he decided it was necessary to murder Nicholas to cover up his tracks completely. Hollywood asked Rugge to commit the murder.
Rugge declined, so Hollywood contacted Hoyt, who also owed him money. Hollywood then gave Hoyt a TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun and told Hoyt that he could pay off his debt and earn an extra $400 by killing Nicholas.
On August 9, 2000, Rugge, Hoyt, and Pressley drove Nicholas to the Lizard’s Mouth trail in the Santa Ynez Mountains. The three took the victim to a remote campsite, where Rugge and Hoyt bound his hands and covered his mouth with duct tape. Shortly after, Hoyt hit Nicholas in the head with a shovel and shot him nine times using the handgun Hollywood gave him.
Hollywood was not present at the crime scene and went on the run for years. He hid under an alias in Brazil until police found him and arrested him in 2005. After four years, he was convicted of first-degree murder and kidnapping. He was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.
Legal Charges and Sentencing in Markowitz Murder Case
Rugge was convicted of aggravated kidnapping for ransom or extortion with special circumstances. However, he was acquitted of the murder charge. Hoyt, on the other hand, was charged with first-degree murder and sentenced to death on December 9, 2001. Skidmore was charged with kidnapping and robbery, while Pressley was charged with second-degree murder after being tried twice.
In September 2002 Rugge was sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of parole after seven years. Rugge was incarcerated in Avenal State Prison for his part in Nicholas Markowitz’s murder. His parole in 2006 was denied.
Jesse Rugge’s 2013 Parole Release
Jesse Rugge’s release from prison in 2013 after serving over a decade for his role in Nicholas Markowitz’s murder sparked vehement opposition and debate.
Rugge’s parole had been proposed and denied several times prior to October 24, 2013, when the state parole board finally approved his release. Their decision rested on Rugge’s good behavior while incarcerated.
Susan Markowitz, the mother of the murdered teenager, strongly condemned Rugge’s parole bid. Despite Markowitz gathering over 1,000 signatures against Rugge’s release, the parole board moved forward.
Santa Barbara prosecutors aligned with Markowitz in challenging the parole. California Governor Jerry Brown also objected to Rugge’s release in 2013 given the severity of the crime.
Prosecutors argued Rugge downplayed his involvement in the killing of 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz back in 2000. But the parole board defended the decision, stating Rugge no longer posed a public safety risk.
While legal, the freeing of Rugge after serving just over a decade of his life sentence was seen as highly controversial given his role in the shocking murder plot. Markowitz’s mother deemed the release a miscarriage of justice for her deceased son.
Rugge expressed regret over his participation in the kidnapping turned murder orchestrated by Jesse James Hollywood. Though not the gunman, Rugge aided in the abduction, binding, and transport of the victim prior to his execution.
Who is Nicholas Samuel Markowitz?
Markowitz was born on September 19, 1984. He was abducted and killed over a drug debt dispute between his half-brother Benjamin and Jesse James Hollywood.
The naïve teenager was caught in the crosshairs of a dispute he had no direct involvement in. Hollywood orchestrated the brazen kidnapping on August 6, 2000 as retribution over Benjamin owing him $1,200 in drug money.
Jesse Rugge and other young accomplices carried out the abduction and held Markowitz hostage for days before Hollywood ordered his murder. On August 9, 2000, Markowitz was shot nine times by Ryan Hoyt at a remote campsite.