House Linked to Slaying Is Searched

Investigators searched a Santa Barbara house where they believe a 15-year-old West Hills boy, who was kidnapped and later killed, was kept for six hours after his disappearance, authorities said Wednesday.

Santa Barbara County sheriff’s detectives learned that 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz was first taken to the house in the 2100 block of Modoc Road on Aug. 6, after he vanished from his West Hills home. Authorities said the two men who own the house are friends of 20-year-old Jesse Taylor Rugge of Santa Barbara. Rugge was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and murder in connection with Markowitz’s death.

Also charged were Ryan James Hoyt, 21, of West Hills; William R. Skidmore, 20, of Simi Valley; and Graham Pressley, 17, of Goleta. Authorities are still searching for 20-year-old Jesse James Hollywood of West Hills, who was last seen Sunday in Colorado.


Authorities said Rugge eventually took the boy to Rugge’s parents’ home, where the teen stayed for two days before his death. Markowitz’s body was found Aug. 12 buried near a hiking trail in the mountains north of Santa Barbara.

Investigators served a search warrant Tuesday at the Modoc Road house but said no evidence was recovered and no arrests were made.

The manhunt continues for Hollywood, who fled Los Angeles last week and has left a trail across three states, authorities said. Sheriff’s investigators suspect Hollywood orchestrated the kidnapping because the victim’s older brother allegedly owed him $36,000 for marijuana.