Natasha Vargas-Cooper is following the murder trial of Jesse James Hollywood, whose alleged murder of San Fernando teen Nick Markowitz nine years ago was the basis for Nick Cassavetes’ film “Alpha Dog.” Vargas-Cooper is covering the proceedings with a unique perspective:
I grew up with Nick Markowitz. We had a three-day hand-holding affair the summer of 7th grade. He was a part of my tight circle of goofy theater kid friends who were transformed into a traumatized fraternity after his murder.
In the summer of 2000, Nick’s older brother Ben owed a $1,200 drug debt to Hollywood. Ben and Jesse- who had played in Little League together- were now feuding.
In a haphazard plan to exact revenge and ransom, Hollywood and his friends kidnapped Nick, who was 15. The boys took Nick to Santa Barbara, where they partied, hung out with girls. Hollywood consulted a retired attorney about the circumstances. Instead of possibly facing a life-sentence for aggravated kidnapping, it was decided that they would kill Nick and make it look as though he disappeared. Ryan Hoyt, also in debt to Hollywood, and now on death row, volunteered to fire the gun.
This is the first article in a short series Vargas-Cooper is writing for The Awl, with the next installment coming in about 10 days time.