Jesse James Hollywood
At 19, he bought a three-story white stucco home for $200,000, just a few blocks away from the Markowitz family, making the $41,000 down payment in cash. He drove a black Mercedes and a blue sports car.
Neighbors often saw him in the front yard hanging out with a group of young men similarly dressed in jeans and tank tops, smoking in the shade of large elm tree. In the backyard, he kept two pit bulls. They also noticed strange goings-ons, cars that would pull up to the house night and day, drivers who would dash inside for a minute before leaving again.
"Everyone knew it was drugs," a young man who lived in the neighborhood told the Los Angeles Times. "I mean, all the nice cars. He didn't really go to work or nothing."
Despite the apparent drug activity, detectives said Hollywood had no drug record, although he had been charged as a minor with possessing alcohol and on another occasion with resisting arrest. That a boy named "Jesse James" would grow up to be an outlaw seems less than ironic, although his family told the press he was named after an uncle, not the infamous gun-slinger.
On Wednesday, August 16, four suspects — minus Jesse James — were arrested. At their arraignment at the Santa Barbara Superior Court, all four pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping and murder. Hollywood was charged in absentia under a California law that allows any participant in a kidnapping that ends in a homicide to be charged with murder.
William Skidmore, who was convicted three times in prior years — twice for being under the influence of controlled substance and once for resisting arrest — was eventually sentenced to a nine year term for his part in the crime.
Jesse Rugge — who was convicted in 1996 of a felony for carrying a concealed knife to school and in 2000, for driving under the influence — was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in five years.
And 17-year-old Graham Pressley — who had no prior criminal record and was turned in by his parents — was sentenced to the California Youth Authority's Ventura facility until his 25th birthday.
Triggerman Ryan Hoyt — who also had no prior criminal record, not even a speeding ticket — was found guilty of first-degree murder in November 2001. Today Hoyt sits on Death Row at San Quentin, waiting to die by lethal injection.
On the same day that Hoyt was sentenced, two Los Angeles cops were disciplined for their shoddy work in handling the case. The LAPD found officers Donovan Lyon and Brent Rygh guilty for failing to appropriately investigate the 911 calls related to the kidnapping.
Meanwhile, police fanned across the region to search for the posse's leader.