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The Real-Life Murder That Inspired 'Alpha Dog'

If you've ever seen the movie Alpha Dog, you know more about the August 2000 slaying of Nicholas Markowitz than you may realize. The true crime movie takes some liberties in how it fills in the gaps of Nicholas Markowitz's kidnapping and slaying, but the skeleton of the story is true. Nick was 15 when Jesse James Hollywood and a group of illicit-substance dealers abducted the teen in retaliation for Nick's half-brother's debts.

Beyond the tragic demise of a teenager, this story stands out for the three days Nick spent as a "prisoner" of Hollywood and his crew. Over those days, Nick partied and played video games with his captors and was even driven around by parents who had no idea the teen's life was at risk. After Nick's body turned up and police pieced together what happened, a manhunt for Jesse James Hollywood began, and it took nearly five years for the search to come to a close.

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  • Hollywood Abducted Nick Markowitz In Broad Daylight

    On August 6, 2000, 15-year-old Nick Markowitz had snuck out of his home to avoid an argument with his parents. Nick happened to be walking down the street in West Hills, CA, when local controlled-substance dealer Jesse James Hollywood and two of his associates, Jesse Rugge and William Skidmore, saw him. Hollywood and his friends were on their way to confront Nick's half-brother, Ben, who owed Hollywood money. When they saw Nick, they changed their plans.

    Hollywood, Rugge, and Skidmore pulled over and lunged at Nick. They put Nick in their van, tied him up with duct tape, and took off. At least one neighbor witnessed the abduction and called 911, but authorities were unable to find the van. 

     

     

  • Nick Was Shot Nine Times And Buried In A Shallow Grave

    After taking Nick to a party at a motel, Ryan Hoyt, Jesse Rugge, and Graham Pressley drove him out to Lizard's Mouth Trail near Santa Barbara in the early morning hours on August 9. Pressley was allegedly ordered to go dig a grave. Rugge and Hoyt then duct-taped Nick's mouth and hands before marching him through the woods to the grave.

    Hoyt hit Nick in the back of the head with a shovel and then shot him nine times with a TEC-DC9 that Hollywood had given him the day before. They tried to bury him with the TEC-DC9, but the grave was only a foot or two deep. The covered him with as much dirt as they could, then finished things off by piling branches on top of him.

  • Dozens Of People Saw Nick While He Was Kidnapped, But They Didn't Do Anything About It

    After Jesse James Hollywood and his associates abducted Nick Markowitz, they held him for almost three days. During that time, many people that came in and out of his orbit - including parents - and most of them never realized something was wrong. Many did, however - for example, one associate, Brian Affronti, testified he got a ride from Hollywood on the day of the abduction and saw Nick duct-taped in the back of their van. He spent some time with the crew later that day and saw Nick unbound and sitting on the couch with his captors.

    Natasha Adams-Young saw Nick on August 7 when she and a friend visited Jesse Rugge's place with another member of Hollywood's outfit, Graham Pressley. Nick seemed like just another member of the crew, but later in the day, he explained the situation to her. She gave Nick a ride later and could have taken him to the police or safety, but he was content to stay a prisoner for the time being. She told Los Angeles magazine, “He told me that it was okay because he was doing it for his brother, and that as long as his brother was okay, he was okay. He was going along with it.”

  • Nick Got A Ride From An Illicit-Substance Dealer's Mom

    Graham Pressley was another illicit-substance dealer in Jesse James Hollywood's crew. On August 8, two days after the abduction, the crew decided to throw a pool party at a local motel. They believed Hollywood was about to release Nick and wanted to celebrate. Pressley was with Nick on that day and needed a ride to the motel, so he called his mom.

    Pressley's mother drove him, Nick, and some other friends to the motel. She had no idea the 15-year-old in her backseat was a kidnapped victim who would be slain later that night.

  • While Kidnapped, Nick Partied And Played Video Games With His Captors

    After Hollywood and his friends kidnapped Nick, they drove him 70 miles away to Santa Barbara, CA, to figure out what to do next. The controlled-substance dealers assured him they were only holding him for ransom until they could get the money his half-brother Ben owed them. Jesse Rugge, one of the captors, told Nick repeatedly, "I'm going to take you home. I'll put you on a Greyhound. I'm going to get you home."

    Nick was kept bound for a while, but his abductors eventually cut him loose, letting him play video games and smoke weed with them. Nick spent most of his time as a captive staying at Rugge's father's house in Santa Barbara. 

  • Hollywood Had Ryan Hoyt Slay Nick To Erase His Debts

    Ryan Hoyt was a member in poor standing with Jesse James Hollywood's crew. Hoyt was a dealer who repeatedly came up short on payments, so until he paid off his debts, he was basically a servant for the crew. For example, he was tasked with picking up after Hollywood's dog and cleaning up after parties. On August 9, Hollywood called Hoyt and told him to get to Santa Barbara.

    Hoyt believed he was going to return Nick to his parents but, when he arrived, Hollywood allegedly said to Hoyt, "We got a little situation. You’re gonna take care of it for me. And that’s how you’re gonna clear your debt.” He then gave Hoyt a bag with a TEC-DC9 inside. After executing Nick, Hoyt received an additional $400 from Hollywood the next day.