Jesse Rugge

Courtesy Photo

Jesse Rugge

Jesse Rugge, Markowitz Kidnapper, Released

Let Go Over Objections From Santa Barbara DA, California Governor

Thursday, October 24, 2013
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Jesse Rugge (pictured), convicted on charges of aggravated kidnapping in connection with the killing of 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz 13 years ago, was released from Chino prison after serving 11 years of a life sentence. The state parole board voted to release Rugge over the objections of Governor Jerry Brown, Santa Barbara prosecutors, and Susan Markowitz, the victim’s mother.

Rugge was one of five young men arrested and convicted for the shooting masterminded by Jesse James Hollywood, a small-time San Fernando Valley pot dealer who ordered the kidnapping after Markowitz’s older brother ripped him off in a drug deal. Prosecutors alleged that Rugge was more intimately involved in the killing but could never prove it. Susan Markowitz reminded the 12 parole board officers that Rugge had initially told investigators that he had bound her son’s wrists with duct tape and had helped bury him after he’d been shot in the face at a location near Lizard’s Mouth. But those admissions were ruled inadmissible by Judge William Gordon because the investigator had suggested Rugge could face the death penalty if he didn’t confess. Rugge has never repeated those admissions, and during his trial he testified that he had left the group after they’d arrived at Lizard’s Mouth and had no idea that a murder was in the making.

Speaking to the parole boardmembers, Rugge said he took responsibility for Markowitz’s death because his role in the kidnapping precipitated the chain of events that led to the murder. Ron Zonen, who prosecuted Rugge and the other four defendants, termed the admission “shallow and cynical,” and he objected that Rugge has never really acknowledged the depth of his involvement. According to state prison records, Rugge — now 33 — had been a model prisoner, had taken numerous classes, completed his GED, and participated in AA meetings. Rugge had come up for release several times prior, but he had always been turned down. Hollywood was convicted of ordering Markowitz killed and was sentenced to life. Ryan Hoyt, the actual triggerman, was sentenced to death. One of Hoyt’s attorneys was disbarred for professional misconduct shortly after his conviction. Whether Hoyt received competent representation will be the subject of lengthy appeals.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

I reiterate: Releasing Rugge makes about as much sense as releasing Attias did.

LegendaryYeti (anonymous profile)
October 24, 2013 at 10:33 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Well, I shared a holding cell with Attias while I was going through my trials. Attias was obviously psychologically impaired and I would agree with the judgement that the "Angel of Death" was in fact a deranged young man off his meds. Jesse Rugge was my co-defendant. With respect to the specific issue of whether or not he should have been released, I do not wish to weigh in. My opinion would only be misinterpreted. However, I will say this. Jesse spent 13 years in custody. I spent 7. And every single day was torture. De Tocqueville. Foucault. Dostoevsky. "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons."
Interesting. Jesse Rugge is a free man. And he is also a living, breathing mirror for the rest of us to look into. For all of us to look into.

nonato (anonymous profile)
October 24, 2013 at 1:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

That mirror was broken and shattered when he entered that dark place.

spacey (anonymous profile)
October 24, 2013 at 1:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Hmmm somehow i dont think Dostoevsky had kidnap and murder in mind when he referenced civilization vs prisons....he is probably rolling over in his grave now

whosecityisthis2012 (anonymous profile)
October 24, 2013 at 2:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It's a simple concept - don't kidnap and murder, then you don't have to worry about the horrors of the prison experience.

An innocent kid is dead. And Susan Markowitz's nightmare never goes away.

LegendaryYeti (anonymous profile)
October 24, 2013 at 9:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It's not actually a simple concept Yeti. It's one of the most complex issues there is. He served 13 years for his part in that nightmare when he was 20 years old. Apparently some people think that's enough.

Nitz (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2013 at 12:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

..and some people realize that in the scheme of things being "part" of a "nightmare"- again, a kidnap and brutal murder - does not fit the concept of there ever being "enough" time served that would compensate for having the capacity and willingness to engage in the "part" in the first place.

whosecityisthis2012 (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2013 at 8:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Nitz, obviously I'm one of those who thinks 13 years isn't enough time.

The defendant was sentenced to 7 years to LIFE. I'm in favor of a life sentence actually being a life sentence for this defendant, because that's what Susan Markowitz got.

LegendaryYeti (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2013 at 1:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Welcome home Jesse. No one knows what really went on in the mind of those boys through that horrible ordeal. It's all been confused by now and we may never know. Some will stick to a story once they've said it and others may be weighed down with guilt and finally tell the truth. We do know that law enforcement plays a large part in the statements that were made by these young boys who blamed JJH after realizing they made a horrible mistake that couldn't be fixed. Bottom line is that Ryan Hoyt killed Nick Markowitz and for what ever reason the others didn't step in and stop it. They were young, scared, maybe high...I don't know and am not their judge. It's not my place to decide if they "deserve" a second chance, but I will say that I'm glad they have one and I hope they do well.

Cally (anonymous profile)
November 5, 2013 at 1:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

In regards to your article's statements that Hollywood "masterminded the shooting," "ordered the kidnapping" and was "convicted of ordering Markowitz to be killed," this is a case of the media echoing what they've said from the beginning. These statements are without validity and still have no proof to back them up. JJH's conviction was based on the felony murder rule which allowed a jury to convict based on the mere fact that JJH was present for the initial kidnapping in West Hills. That rule was NOT allowed by the Judge in Rugge's trial. The statements that you continue to chant are statements from those who were actually present during the time of the murder and were likely made to lessen their own involvement and save their own necks. Understandable I guess, but certainly not proof. I was at the trial and I'm not buying it. I'd appreciate if you'd stop the crucifixtion. JJH got LWOP due to this kind of media coverage. Just some food for thought. Love to all

Cally (anonymous profile)
November 5, 2013 at 10:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

of course they can never make up for what happend, but when you are a kid, and a kid on drugs mixed up in the head. things happend that you will forever regret...Im sure every day of their lives these now men are sorry for what happend...and you must know that everyone needs forgivesness..the kindness of a savior...everyone....all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God...Jesse is given a second chance at life so far he is one of the lucky ones...let him live in peace..Im sure he did learn his lesson and he must live with what happend for the rest of his life. that is far as JJH only time will tell...but leave it in Gods hands, He knows his heart God can always take what was meant for evil and turn it around and use it for his glory, so that many will be saved through the circumstances in this situation...

afriend (anonymous profile)
January 29, 2014 at 9:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I've followed this case since it began. These kids were my age, in my socioeconomic class, and experimented with the same drugs I did. Basically, this could have been my social circle. I empathize with the few girls in the story who wanted to intervene. I work as a therapist in substance abuse and have now for a decade. There were a lot of unfortunate circumstances surrounding this whole case. First and foremost,the Markowitz parents (AT ABSOLUTELY NO FAULT HERE) would have benefited tremendously from Al-Anon. They would have engaged with other parents handing similar problems and hopefully been able to set some boundaries. Their oldest son's out of control addiction and their enabling behaviors set the precursor for the escalation of events that led to this horrific event. I recognize they did not know better and wanted to help their son. Any parent would do this. I see parents do this everyday and it's admirable.

Second, the bystander effect sickens me. How many witnesses could have saved this kid? That, in itself, sickens me....and it should you too. I beg of you - IF you see something that looks shady or unusual, report it. Be mindful of details. Someone like you or me might could have saved Nicholas.

Lastly, these young ment involved hold a significant amount of blame and I think any of those young men will live with his event for the remainder of their lives. Bottom line is, I truly believe that there was one real "mastermind," if you will, and one young man who worshiped him who made this actually happen. I think the other two boys whom have been released, Mr. Pressley and Mr. Rugge, lacked assertiveness, moral integrity, and the courage to stand up for what was right. The could have saved Nicholas but did not. The claim it was out of fear - we may always question the truth.

Mrs. Markowitz found it in her heart to forgive her step-son (whom I applaud on his sobriey), and even Mr. Pressley. Maybe one day, she can make that peace with herself in regards to Mr. Rugge.

I tell the people I work with two things:

1. Forgiveness is for you. It's not because the other person deserves it, but because you deserve peace.

2. The only person it hurts when you're angry is you. Haven't you suffered enough?

I hope that they all find the peace to move forward.

floridafollower (anonymous profile)
June 4, 2014 at 7:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Help me out here. Morua was drunk and involuntary hit and killed a pedestrian. He got twenty years to life. This guy voluntarily took part in a kidnapping, extortion and a murder
He got seven to life. This makes no sense and certainly is not justice.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
June 4, 2014 at 10:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Does anyone know where Jesse Rugge is nowadays and how freedom is treating him?

GreenTree (anonymous profile)
October 26, 2014 at 10:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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