Skateboarder Said to Have Slain Woman for Revenge

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A San Diego County prosecutor Thursday described international skateboard champion Mark (Gator) Rogowski as a jilted lover who raped, tortured and murdered his ex-girlfriend's best friend in a twisted act of revenge.

At Rogowski's arraignment on murder charges in Superior Court in Vista, Deputy Dist. Atty. Gregory Walden drew upon the 24-year-old's confession earlier this week to paint a brutal scenario of the March 20 killing of Jessica Bergsten, a 21-year-old Arizona woman who had recently moved to San Diego.

About a week before the killing, Rogowski--who competed under the name Mark Anthony--visited the home of his ex-girlfriend, Brandi McLain. Walden said that Rogowski had "contemplated" killing McLain that day, but she wasn't home.

Later, the prosecutor said, Rogowski turned on Bergsten, McLain's best friend. The young woman had made a friendly phone call to the skateboard champ, asking him to show her around the area. He allegedly took her to his Carlsbad condominium and beat her partially unconscious with a steering wheel lock bar, Walden said.

Rogowski allegedly took Bergsten to his bedroom, cuffed her hands and feet and sexually assaulted her for three hours. When she called out for help, Walden said, Rogowski became concerned that neighbors might hear. He allegedly placed her inside a surfboard bag and strangled her.

"It apparently was out of anger over the breakup of the defendant with his girlfriend. He somehow blamed Jessica for the breakup," Walden said. He noted that Bergsten and McLain, both blonde, petite models, had been friends in Arizona. Rogowski, he said, viewed Bergsten "as being the same type of girl as Brandi was. He'd been dumped."

Judge William B. Draper Jr. set bail at $1.5 million but said that if Rogowski gives up his passport, bail may be reduced. Walden said that if Rogowski is able to make bail, he will ask for it to be set higher.

Bergsten, a native of Tucson, Ariz., moved to San Diego not long before she was killed, Walden said. Her father reported her missing on March 29, said Ralph Smith, a coroner's investigator.

Late Thursday, the San Diego County medical examiner's office was still studying dental records to confirm the identity of remains found by campers April 10 in a remote patch of Imperial County desert. But Walden said Rogowski's confession, during which he led investigators to the spot where the discovery was made, had persuaded that him the remains are Bergsten's.

Rogowski, who is listed as one of the top 10 skateboarders in the world, has no previous criminal record. He has lived in the San Diego area for 21 years.

A preliminary hearing has been set for May 22.

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