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Mark Anthony Rogowski
August 10, 1966
|Criminal status||Denied parole in 2016, Incarcerated at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility. |
|Criminal charge||Assault, rape and murder of Jessica Bergsten on March 6, 1991|
|Penalty||31-year prison sentence: six years for forcible rape and 25 years to life for the first-degree murder charges to be served consecutively.|
Mark Anthony "Gator" Rogowski (born August 10, 1966) is an American former professional skateboarder who was convicted of murder. He was mainly prominent in the 1980s and early 1990s. Rogowski's career ended when he pled guilty for assaulting, raping and murdering Jessica Bergsten in 1991. His life was chronicled in a critically acclaimed 2003 documentary titled Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator by American filmmaker Helen Stickler.
Rogowski was born in Brooklyn, New York, but he moved to Escondido, California, at the age of three after his parents divorced. Rogowski was a gifted athlete, playing little league baseball in his youth. Rogowski started to skateboard at age seven and, while most of his friends were into surfing, he eventually started to hang out at skate parks several years later. After two years of skating local parks, Rogowski was picked up at 12 years of age by a local skate team in 1978.
Rise to prominence
Rogowski started his professional skateboarding career in 1980 at age 14. In 1982, he won his first major contest, the Canadian Amateur Skateboarding Championships in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. In 1984, he won a national championship. Rogowski received endorsement deals from Gullwing Trucks early in his career, Rogowski was being paid "between $4,000 and $8,000 a month" for clothing and skateboarding equipment endorsements. By 1987, Rogowski was earning two dollars per skate deck from Vision, which was selling 7000 decks on a monthly basis, resulting in royalties totaling US$14,000 for Rogowski (US$ 30,000 in 2021). Additionally, Vision was also selling T-shirts, berets, hip packs, and stickers using the "Gator" name.
Rogowski was one of a group of elite skaters who enjoyed significant fame in the 1980s, alongside Christian Hosoi, Tony Hawk, Lance Mountain and Steve Caballero. He was a charismatic, flamboyant personality who received fame and fortune during skateboarding's return to popularity following the success of vert skateboarding.
At a 1987 skate show in Scottsdale, Arizona, U.S., Rogowski was introduced to Brandi McClain and her good friend Jessica Bergsten, an aspiring model. Soon afterward, he began a tumultuous long-term relationship with McClain—they appeared together in numerous advertisements and promotional videos for Vision, which had become one of the top-selling skateboarding brands of the 1980s.
Rogowski's popularity declined as the 'vert skating' popular in the 1980s was supplanted by street skateboarding in the 1990s. Vision, the company he was with for the majority of his career, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. For re-invention, Rogowski changed his name to "Gator" Mark Anthony, explaining "Rogowski" was the name of the father he never knew.
After a severe accident in West Germany, where Rogowski either fell or was pushed from a hotel window and landed on a fence, Rogowski returned home to Carlsbad to recover. After befriending Augie Constantino, an ex-surfer turned born-again Christian who also became his "spiritual advisor", Rogowski converted to a strict Evangelical form of Christianity influencing Rogowski's attitude and skateboard deck designs. After four years of dating McClain, Rogowski suggested the couple marry, proclaiming they "can't have sex anymore unless we get married." The sudden lifestyle change contributed to the end of McClain's relationship with Rogowski, along with his occasional bouts of violence (which included his locking her in a closet) and unprovoked jealousy, and she returned to her parents' home in San Diego, California. Rogowski began a period of severe alcoholism following McClain's departure.
Murder of Jessica Bergsten
Following the end of his relationship with McClain, Rogowski was jealous: he entered her home to steal gifts he gave her; he made threatening telephone calls to McClain's new boyfriend; and he also threatened McClain directly. McClain informed Law Enforcement Officials about Rogowski's behavior. They filed a report, but the situation was not monitored continuously.
On March 20, 1991, Rogowski talked with 22-year-old Bergsten for the first time in years. Bergsten asked Rogowski to show her around San Diego. They spent a day together on March 21, 1991; shortly after, Bergsten was reported missing. According to Rogowski, he and Bergsten went back to his condo to watch movies, smoke weed and drink wine. He admitted to coming up behind her and hitting her in the head with a Club (a metal auto anti-theft device). After knocking her semi-unconscious by way of several strikes, he handcuffed her and dragged her to his bedroom on the second floor, and raped her while she was shackled to his bed. Afterward, he placed her in a surfboard bag because he was concerned about the neighbors hearing the noise. Rogowski placed his hand over Bergsten's mouth until she stopped breathing, then drove the body to the Shell Canyon desert, then disposed of the corpse in a shallow grave.
Bergsten's body was found by campers on April 10, 1991, but it was so decomposed, it could not be identified. Plagued by guilt, Rogowski informed Constantino: "Remember that girl from the poster? She was the one I killed." Constantino encouraged Rogowski to confess his crime to Law Enforcement Officials, which Rogowski did, thereby waiving his legal rights.
Rogowski turned himself in on April 11, 1991 and led Law Enforcement Officials to the grave of Bergsten's body. Law Enforcement Officials searched his home, and found evidence of blood soaked through the carpet padding and into the floorboards in two small spots, adjacent to where Bergsten's head allegedly rested. In his confession, Rogowski conveyed he killed Bergsten in a mis-placed act of revenge toward McClain, calling Bergsten the "mold Brandi was made out of." Entering prison, Rogowski was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Hearing, prison, and parole
Rogowski was charged with "special circumstances," committing a murder during rape. Under California law, this warrants the death penalty or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. His lawyer, John Jimenez, challenged the validity and content of the confession. Jimenez appealed the rape charge, insisting the decomposed body showed no signs of forcible rape, but the appeal was eventually dismissed.
Following the advice of his attorney, Rogowski pled guilty to first-degree murder and rape, thus avoiding the death penalty or life without the chance of parole. In January 1992, at the plea hearing, Gator submitted a four-page written statement. He accepted responsibility for his acts, accepted responsibility for sexual activities outside of marriage, for his promiscuity, and for not following the word of the Bible.
Rogowski was sentenced on March 6, 1992. Five uniformed bailiffs with metal detectors were at the hearing due to a rumor Stephen Bergsten (the father of the victim) would attempt to harm Rogowski. Bergsten lost two properties due to his involvement with a nationwide drug ring, and he allegedly had nothing to lose by harming Rogowski. With the bailiffs standing between Rogowski and Bergsten, Rogowski offered an apology while Bergsten shouted back he "was a coward" who would "die a thousand deaths".
Rogowski was denied parole on February 7, 2011. Deputy District Attorney Richard Sachs argued Rogowski remains an "unreasonable risk to society" and should remain imprisoned, while a family member of Bergsten also attended the hearing and requested Rogowski remain incarcerated. On February 6, 2015, another parole hearing was scheduled, but Rogowski waived his right to a hearing for one year. On March 9, 2016, he was again denied parole for seven years. Rogowski will not be eligible for parole again until March 2023, which marks the minimum of his sentence.
On December 10, 2019 multiple media reports indicate Rogowski's parole board recommended parole. The California Board of Parole Hearings will finalize the decision within 120 days. After that date, the case goes before the California governor's staff for review. On April 27, 2020, Rogowski's parole grant was reversed by Newsom, stating Rogowski needed to gain a "deeper understanding" of his crimes. 
|January 22, 2010||Parole Suitability Hearing||Inmate voluntarily waived the right to a hearing for 1 year|
|February 7, 2011||Parole Suitability Hearing||Inmate was denied parole for 7 years|
|November 21, 2014||Inmate Petition to Advance||The inmate’s petition to advance his or her next parole suitability hearing date was approved|
|February 6, 2015||Parole Suitability Hearing||Inmate voluntarily waived the right to a hearing for 1 year|
|March 9, 2016||Parole Suitability Hearing||Inmate was denied parole for 7 years|
|November 2018||Inmate Petition to Advance||Inmate filed a petition to advance his or her next parole suitability hearing date|
|March 2023||Parole Suitability Hearing||Tentative date for parole suitability hearing|
A documentary examining Mark Rogowski's trajectory, Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator, was released in 2002 by Palm Pictures. The film was written, directed, and produced by Helen Stickler, and features interviews with other professional skateboarders such as Tony Hawk, Kevin Staab, Lance Mountain, Ken Park, Steve Caballero, Jason Jessee, Craig Johnson, Stacy Peralta, and Rogowski. Since California law prohibits video interviews with prison inmates, Rogowski was interviewed over the recorded prison phone for the documentary, and gave details on his background, his downfall, and remorse for murdering Jessica Bergsten.
This story was featured on an episode of Shattered on the Investigation Discovery channel. It features interviews with the lead investigator, Brandy McClain, and the minister Auggie Costantino.
- Top 5 at the Vans/Offshore Amateur State Finals (California) for the boys 11-13 division, 1980
- 1st Place, Canadian Amateur Skate-boarding Championships, Vancouver, British Columbia, 1982
- 1st Place Del Mar NSA Contest, 1984
- 3rd Place in Vision Ramp N' Rage Down South, 1987
- 1st Place Vision Bluegrass Aggression Session, 1988
- "State of California Inmate Locator: CDCR Number H27508". California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
- Davis, Lyle E. (September 13, 2007). "Cover Story: Mark "Gator" Rogowski". The Paper - North County's Community Paper. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
- Miriam (February 9, 2011). "Mark "Gator" Rogowski, Skaterboarder: Jessica Bergsten's Killer". Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
- "Legendary 80s skateboarder Mark 'Gator' Rogowski raped and murdered Jessica Bergsten - Shattered". November 21, 2018.
- Dana Littlefield (February 8, 2011). "Skateboarding star convicted of 1991 murder denied parole". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
- Caroline Black (February 9, 2011). "Mark "Gator" Rogowski, Former Pro Skateboarder, Denied Parole for 1992 Calif. Murder-Rape". CBS News. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
- Ogunnaiake, Lola (August 21, 2003). "A Skateboard King Who Fell to Earth". New York Times. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
- "Parole Denied For Local Skateboarding Legend". KGTV. February 8, 2011. Archived from the original on September 15, 2018. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
- "Ex-Skateboard Champion Could Get Parole in Brutal 1991 Rape and Murder in San Diego County". KTLA. December 11, 2019. Retrieved December 29, 2019.
- "Parole grant reversed for 'Gator,' former skateboard superstar convicted for 1991 rape, murder". Los Angeles Times. April 27, 2020. Retrieved April 27, 2020.
- Johnson, Cory (December 8, 1992). "How skateboard king Mark "Gator" Anthony was born again as a rapist and a murderer". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on February 9, 2006.
- Brooke, Michael (2008). The Concrete Wave: The History of Skateboarding. Paw Prints. ISBN 978-1-4395-0422-2.