California · Graves

Nicholas Markowitz’s murder, the inspiration for Alpha Dogs

August 9, 2000
Santa Ynez mountains, Goleta, California
Nicholas Markowitz is murdered over an alleged $1,200 debt his half-brother owed to a drug dealer

Markowitz was kidnapped while walking along a street, originally to be held as ransom to settle a debt owed by Markowitz’s brother Ben to Jesse James Hollywood. Markowitz, while held hostage, was brought to parties and seemed safe and to be enjoying himself, so witnesses were unaware of his situation.

After learning what penalties a kidnapping charge would entail, Hollywood instructed Ryan Hoyt to murder Markowitz in exchange for clearing Hoyt’s monetary debt to Hollywood. Markowitz was brought to the mountains by Jesse Rugge, Graham Pressley, and Hoyt, where he was bound and gagged with duct tape, hit over the head with a shovel, and shot nine times with a semi-automatic pistol. The group buried Markowitz in an attempt to conceal the murder, but the grave was shallow and located near a popular trail. His body was discovered August 12.

Due to the large number of witnesses, authorities received several tips leading to the arrest of Hoyt, Hollywood, Rugge, Pressley, and Walter Skidmore (who had assisted in the abduction). Hoyt was sentenced to death in 2001 and currently awaits his sentence in San Quentin’s death row. Hollywood, because he was not present during the murder, was given a life sentence without parole. The others associated with the abduction and murder were given shorter sentences, all of which have been served.

The movie Alpha Dog is based on the events leading to and including Markowitz’s death, though some details have been changed including Markowitz’s name.

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