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LAT: Fugitive Kept Low Profile in Quiet Brazilian Beach Town

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Old March 11th, 2005, 08:46 AM
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Default LAT: Fugitive Kept Low Profile in Quiet Brazilian Beach Town

Los Angeles Times

Fugitive Kept Low Profile in Quiet Brazilian Beach Town
Murder suspect Jesse James Hollywood is returned to Santa Barbara after his

By Henry Chu and Solomon Moore
Times Staff Writers

March 11, 2005

SAQUAREMA, Brazil ‹ People in this placid surfing town knew him as Miguel,
the young gringo who lived with his Brazilian girlfriend and jogged on the
beach with his two pit bulls.

He seemed to drink a lot, kept to himself and spoke hardly a word in his
American-accented Portuguese.

When he did, neighbors said, it was often in a domestic quarrel or, once, in
a drunken spat with customers in the bar across the street from the small
beach house he shared with his girlfriend.

"He always had his head downŠ. He never said anything," said Walma Lindberg
da Silva, who lived next door. "I told my husband I thought there was
something wrong about him."

But that vague unease did not prepare Da Silva for the news on her
television Thursday: "Miguel" was actually Jesse James Hollywood, a fugitive
and alleged drug dealer from the United States accused of kidnapping and
killing 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz in a crime that made headlines five
years ago.

Despite being one of California's most wanted men, Hollywood was able to
elude an international manhunt in this town near Rio de Janeiro. He told
people that he worked as an English tutor, but Brazilian authorities said he
actually received $1,200 monthly checks from his parents in California ‹
enough to live a comfortable life.

Using an Interpol warrant, Brazilian authorities arrested Hollywood, 25, on
Tuesday at a shopping center just after he and his girlfriend sat down at an
outdoor table. As he was led away in handcuffs, witnesses said his
girlfriend cried: "My son! My son! I have a son with him!"

Reached by a reporter Thursday at their home, the woman declined to comment.

"I'm not feeling well. I'm pregnant," she said, only the top of her face
visible from behind the locked wooden gates of the house on Avenida

Brazilian officials said American investigators had warned them of
Hollywood's presence in the country in 2002, after monitoring phone calls
from his parents.

After the arrest, the Brazilian officials determined that Hollywood's
identification papers were fakes and turned him over to United States
authorities. No formal extradition was necessary, because Hollywood was
deemed an immigration violator, investigators said. Although he has refused
to cooperate with authorities and has denied his identity, FBI Agent Richard
Garcia said U.S. officials had used fingerprints to establish that he was

He landed at Los Angeles International Airport early Thursday morning and
was being held in Santa Barbara County Jail on charges of kidnapping,
conspiracy and murder.

Not-Guilty Plea Seen

Hollywood's attorney, James E. Blatt of Encino, said his client would plead
not guilty to all the charges today in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.

The fugitive's capture comes five years after he and four friends, who
police described as a band of drug dealers operating in the western San
Fernando Valley, allegedly kidnapped and later killed Nicholas because the
boy's half brother hadn't repaid a drug debt.

Though the accomplices were quickly captured, Hollywood remained on the run
despite a $50,000 reward and segments about him on TV's "America's Most
Wanted." Detectives followed up leads in Colorado, Canada and Mexico, but
were unable to find him. Authorities now believe that he had been hiding in
various parts of South America for four years.

Authorities said he first entered that country with a fake Canadian
passport, landing in Rio, where he stayed for a time, making pocket money by
passing out fliers for a local bar. Brazilian authorities said Hollywood
used forged identity papers with the name of Michael Costa Giroux.

In mid-2002, the FBI sent photographs and video footage of Hollywood,
according to Wanderley Martins, an agent in the Brazilian federal police.
Acting on a tip, officers tried to nab Hollywood at Rio's Sao Bento
Monastery, but the lead turned out to be false.

The FBI monitored phone conversations with Hollywood's parents. Those calls
indicated that he had moved to an area outside Rio called the Region of the
Lakes, a string of lake- and seaside resort towns popular with vacationing
Brazilians, investigators said.

Eventually, he settled in Saquarema's Itauna Beach neighborhood and
maintained a low profile. About the biggest events there are surfing
tournaments on the sparkling blue Atlantic Ocean, waters so well-known for
exciting waves that real-time surf conditions are posted online.

Perhaps because of its resemblance to the Southern California coast, perhaps
because of the anonymity it afforded ‹ or both ‹ Hollywood had lived in
Saquarema about a year, in a slightly rundown, one-story house 20 paces from
the beach.

He was "more than quiet," said a neighbor, who declined to give his name.
"He'd sit there [in a bar] with a beer, alone, not saying anything." At
most, he would exchange a curt "Bom dia" or "Boa tarde."

His life in Saquarema, however, was not completely solitary. Da Silva said
the couple occasionally hosted raucous barbecues that were attended by
out-of-town guests who would stay for a while, then leave. Another regular
caller was the overnight-mail courier, who brought a package to Hollywood
every two weeks.

About noon Tuesday, Hollywood was at the Lakes Shopping Center, a two-story
outdoor mall across from a state police station. Shopkeepers and witnesses
said he and his girlfriend bought a pastry from a snack shop, then sat at a
table outside the Chopp em Pe bar. Almost immediately, officers swooped
down, handcuffed him and led him away.

Authorities said they had only recently become aware of his specific
whereabouts. But they did not say why they chose to arrest him Tuesday.

Under Brazilian law, extradition is extremely difficult to secure for the
parent of a child with Brazilian nationality. Fathering a Brazilian child
helped spare Ronald Biggs, a member of the gang that carried out Britain's
notorious Great Train Robbery in 1963, from being returned to his native
land for decades.

"Many criminals use this ploy in order not to be extradited," Martins said.

Neither the FBI nor Brazilian authorities provided details about Hollywood's
relationship with his family during his years as a fugitive. Nor did local
authorities say whether they planned to charge the parents for sending
checks to him. But the same day he was taken into custody, Santa Barbara
County authorities arrested his father, John Michael "Jack" Hollywood, 50,
at his Sherman Oaks home on suspicion of manufacturing GHB, a date-rape
drug. Los Angeles County prosecutors rejected the case Thursday, saying that
John Hollywood had the ingredients for GHB and a recipe, but that there was
no evidence he had made it. But he remains in custody on a 2002 arrest
warrant from Pima County, Ariz., in a marijuana case.

Associates described Jesse Hollywood as a capable and popular athlete at El
Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills and Calabasas High School, despite
his 5-foot, 4-inch frame. But after an injury, he turned to dealing
marijuana and became a charismatic leader of a network of disaffected high
school students and young gangsters, authorities said.

By the time he was 19, he had purchased a West Hills home for $205,000,
paying a $41,000 deposit in cash. Neighbors recalled Hollywood's two pit
bulls in the backyard, his black Mercedes in the driveway, his tank-topped
buddies in the frontyard and a constant caravan of expensive cars carrying
visitors to the three-bedroom stucco house at all times of the night and

Drug Debt at Issue

Hollywood's confrontation with Nicholas in 2000 stemmed from a dispute with
the youth's older half brother, Benjamin, also a small-time drug dealer and
a rival of Hollywood's.

Hollywood allegedly insisted that the elder brother owed him $1,200 for
marijuana, and Benjamin smashed a window after a dispute with Hollywood.

Hollywood was on his way to retaliate when he saw Nicholas walking on
Ingomar Street in West Hills.

The group beat Nicholas, shoved him into a van and drove to Santa Barbara.
They held Nicholas there for two days, shuttling him around various friends'
homes, parties and marijuana-laced kickback sessions.

On Aug. 8, Hollywood's friends allegedly bound and gagged Nicholas, took him
to Lizards Mouth campground, shot him nine times and left him in a shallow
grave. A hiker found the boy's decomposing body a few days later.

Authorities have said they believe that Hollywood was the mastermind behind
the kidnapping and murder but did not pull the trigger. The four accomplices
are serving time in prison or the California Youth Authority. Ryan Hoyt, who
was convicted of firing the fatal shots, was sentenced to death.

At a news conference Thursday in Santa Barbara at which authorities
announced the arrest, Nicholas' parents said they hoped that Hollywood's
capture would help them deal with their loss.

"From the moment that Nick was taken from us, our lives have been totally
destroyed," Susan Markowitz said. "We have been in a state of constant shock
.. . . of constant questions. Today, those questions have been answered."

Chu reported from Saquarema and Moore from Santa Barbara. Times staff
writers Andrew Blankstein, Greg Krikorian and Jean Guccione in Los Angeles
contributed to this report.



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