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Jesse James Hollywood gets life sentence in Santa Barbara murder

July 15, 2009 |  2:18 pm

Convicted killer Jesse James Hollywood has been spared the death penalty by the Santa Barbara jury that found him guilty last week of first-degree murder and kidnapping. He will spend his life in prison.

The jury concluded that Hollywood, 29, ordered the execution of a 15-year-old West Hills boy after snatching him off the street near his home and driving him to Santa Barbara. A marijuana dealer at the time, Hollywood kidnapped Nicholas Markowitz to avenge a $1,200 drug debt owed by the boy's older half-brother, Ben. 

Defense attorneys contended that Ben Markowtiz had been threatening Hollywood's life for months and had poisoned his dog before Hollywood impusively picked the boy up. They claimed the killing was done independently by friends of Hollywood who wanted to earn his approval.

The trial, which started May 15, was attended every day by members of the Markowitz and Hollywood families. 

The crime was notorious when it was committed in 2000 and became the basis for the 2006 film "Alpha Dog.''  

The last of four men convicted in the case, Hollywood fled after the crime and was arrested in Brazil in 2005.

-- Steve Chawkins in Santa Barbara