In an unusual move, the FBI offered a $20,000 reward Monday for information leading to the capture of Jesse James Hollywood, a fugitive suspected in the kidnapping and killing of a 15-year-old West Hills boy.
Hollywood, 21, an alleged marijuana dealer with a taste for flashy cars, has been on the run for almost a year, authorities said. He fled his West Hills home in early August, just before the bullet-riddled body of Nicholas Markowitz was found in the mountains north of Santa Barbara. Four other young men have been charged in his abduction and killing.
Richard Garcia, special agent in charge of the FBI's violent crimes division in Los Angeles, said the brutal nature of the execution-style slaying justified a reward.
"We have somebody who's a menace to society because he's somebody who ordered the killing of a 15-year-old boy," Garcia said.
Nicholas' parents also have offered a reward in the case--with a twist. Susan and Jeff Markowitz put up $10,000 with the stipulation that if Hollywood turns himself in, they will put the money into a trust fund to help pay for college for Hollywood's 12-year-old brother. Otherwise, the cash will go to the informant.
"His younger brother doesn't have to follow in the path he took," Jeff Markowitz said. "I'm not trying to be a nice guy here. I want him caught. And the easy way is for him to turn himself in."
Rewards are typically offered when investigators hit a dead end, or when they think the promise of cash will help loosen lips. Investigators said Hollywood's trail is cold, and they suspect associates may be in contact with him.
"Somebody's obviously helping him," said Lt. Jeff Klapakis of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department.
Investigators tracked Hollywood through mid-August as he fled to Colorado and back to Los Angeles. The last confirmed sighting of Hollywood was Aug. 23 in West Hills. In the months since, taped segments on "America's Most Wanted" and other publicity have generated reports of look-alikes from Mexico to Canada.
Authorities believe Hollywood and his friends abducted Nicholas near his family's home on Aug. 6 because his older half-brother owed Hollywood $36,000 for drugs. The group allegedly took the boy to Santa Barbara, where authorities say he was held for two days before being shot nine times at close range and buried in the mountains.
Hollywood, who also goes by the alias Sean Michaels, is described as white, with blue eyes, 5 feet, 5 inches tall and 140 pounds. Anyone with information about him is asked to call the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department at (805) 681-4150.