Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jesse James Hollywood

"Stolen Boy"

A few hours after the abduction, Hollywood contacted his lawyer, Stephen Hogg, according to court papers. Hogg told him the maximum penalty for kidnapping with extortion in California was a life sentence.

"He became spooked by it, and the decision was made that they weren't going to return (Nick)," prosecutor Zonen later told the grand jury.

Graham Pressley
Graham Pressley

Over the next two days, Nick was driven from house to house in Santa Barbara and frequently stayed at the family home of Jesse Rugge. At least two dozen people knew Nicholas was being held at various locations but did not call the police, the Santa Barbara News-Press reported.

"I mean, I just didn't want any involvement at all," said Richard Hoeflinger, one of the youths.

His captors fed Nick a steady diet of Valium and marijuana to keep him calm, but witnesses later told police that Nick appeared to take the drugs willingly, and that he walked freely around the house.

Jesse Rugge's father, Barron Rugge, told the Los Angeles Times that he saw Nick watching television with his son when he returned from work one day, and that the boy appeared relaxed.

"I thought Nick was up here visiting," he told the paper. "When I saw him, I saw him just to say 'Hi,' and 'Yeah, you can stay here if you want.'"

Friends of the kidnappers later described a kind of roving party that moved wherever Nick was being held. People dropped in to smoke pot, drink booze, drop Valium and watch television alongside Nick, whom they nicknamed "the stolen boy."

Many of the young partiers were offered immunity from prosecution in exchange for their testimony.

At one point Hollywood's father, Jack, met with Jesse to try to persuade him to let Nicholas go, but was unsuccessful, according to the grand jury transcripts.

At another point, Nick was brought to the home of a 17-year-old girl who dressed a cut on his arm. Although she knew Nick had been kidnapped, the party-like atmosphere surrounding his abduction belied any sense he was in real danger, she later testified.

Back in Los Angeles, the Markowitzes were frantic. Susan made a spreadsheet with the addresses and phone numbers of Nick's friends and started contacting them, the Los Angeles Times reported, while Jeff scoured local parks looking for his son.

A few exits down the freeway from the Markowitz home, the Hollywood family was also distraught. Jack Hollywood had heard from Jesse's lawyer that his son was in deep trouble. He called Jesse and demanded to know where Nick was being held, but his son refused to tell him, the paper reported.

The 17-year-old girl who cleaned Nick's arm also became worried. She invited one of Hollywood's crew — Graham Pressley, 17 — to go for a walk with her and asked him point-blank whether they were going to kill Nick.

"Of course not," Pressley's responded, according to the girl's testimony. But he did mention that the idea had come up: Hollywood offered Rugge money to kill Nick, but Rugge had refused it.

On August 8 — the same day the Markowitz's filed a missing person's report with the LAPD — Nick was brought to the Lemon Tree Inn in Santa Barbara, to what would be his final party.

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