Who remembers the great year of Mark Rogowski aka The Gator? He was amazing, but his story doesn’t have a happy ending. He was convicted to 33 years to life in jail for raping and murdering his girlfriend’s friend Jessica Bergsten. Follow us to the life, success and terrible crime in the life of this former skateboarder from his biography in our story, videos provided below.
There once was a time where a guy from New York totally ripped it with his skateboard, his moves were extreme, radical and beyond words. Who can forget his famous “Gait Air” jump? He became an idol, the face any popular brand wanted to endorse but behind all this a terrible, shocking person was resting waiting to emerge and commit the most horrible, cold blooded crime that would end his career and fame in a second, this is the life of the Gator, Mark Rogowski.
Mark Anthony Rogowski was born on August 10, 1966 in Brooklyn, New York. He and his older brother Matt were raised by his mother after their parents divorced. When he was three years old they relocated to San Diego in Escondido, California where he started skating at a very young age, he found his first skateboard at age 10, but the locals wouldn’t let him skate at Fred Logan’s ramp so he would sneak up at night or when it was raining. Four years later that little kid was turning into a professional skateboarder and three years after that he was earning over $100,000 a year.
He quickly called the attention of the big guys and got himself endorsements from Gullwing Trucks and Vision Street Wear where he and his girlfriend Brandi McClain would be models, it was with her that he appeared in Tom Petty’s Free Falling video, but he would also be in hundreds of magazines everyday. He was one of the best extreme skateboarders of his time, his name was known among those like Tony Hawk, Stacy Peralta and Steve Caballero but it was his rare style and unique style that set him on a whole different level where he was idolized and adored by many fans who screamed his name, well actually his nickname, The Gator!!!
He even acted as a double in the 1989 film Gleaming the Glue with Christian Slater, portraying skateboarder Brian Kelly, the movie also featured Tony Hawk. But fame doesn’t last forever and took its toll. He grew arrogant and sarcastic and worst of all got depressed and angry when he couldn’t make the transition from ramp skateboarding to the streets skateboarding where his famous Vertical ramp skating techniques didn’t fit, add to that his girlfriend left him suddenly – a bomb was ready to explode. He once said:
“I’d probably have some suicidal tendencies. I’d feel low, cheap. I’d feel like nothing. I couldn’t exist no way, I’d kill myself. Lose my spirit, I’d float away and my carcass would get buried.”
When he was 20 years old he met his girlfriend, the year was 1987 while in a skate show in Arizona where she and her aspiring model friend, 17 year old Jessica Bergsten happened to be. He and McClain started dating and soon moved in together, they were a wild couple but the party ended when after an awful accident he turned to Christianity and told his girlfriend they would not sleep together until they were married, allegedly she wasn’t into that so she left him. What happened next wasn’t close to Christianity but the other way around, he allegedly went mad and dangerous, called her and left creepy voice messages. It got worse when he found out she was dating a fellow surfer, Rogowski would reportedly threaten them over the phone, she once filed a report with the Police after he broke into her mother and stepfather’s house who were at that time living in San Diego where she was living, but police pretty much did nothing. There was once when she even tried to reconnect with him by going to dinner together but he was not into forgive and forget. Brandi recalled.
“You know what? I should take you out to the desert right now. I should drive you out right in the middle of the night and beat the sh** out of you and leave you there. And I would get away with it, because everybody would know that you deserved it.”
She moved to New York without telling a soul, not even her best friend, where she was going or about the incident. The only ones who knew were her family, she never imagined her dear friend from Arizona would go to San Diego where she would call her ex and ask him to show her around the city.
One hot day on March 20, 1991 Mark and Jessica went out to a restaurant together in what appeared to be a fun day between friends that turned into the most horrible nightmare. Mark beat her on the head with a club, a metal device used to lock cars’ steering wheels, knocked her nearly unconscious and raped her for several hours, strangled her and placed her body in a surfboard bag. After that he drove to a desert outside San Diego in Shell Canyon where he buried her.
Jessica’s father, a lawyer, got worried and unsatisfied with the San Diego police investigation so he flew to SD and started looking for his daughter by himself, he even asked the Gator about her but he told him he didn’t know where she was.
Until one day the guilt was too much to carry and he confessed his crime to Augie Constantino, a former surfer, newborn Christian who talked him into confessing what he did. He turned himself in on May 5th, 1991 told the Police what happened and even drove with them to the place where he buried the body, although campers had discovered her a moth before, her body was so badly decomposed that there was no way to identify her.
He pleaded not guilty but said what happened was an act of lust that went terribly wrong but he also said it was a misplaced revenge against his girlfriend. On January 1992 he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and found guilty of raping and killing the 21 year old Arizona native, he was sentenced to 6 years for forceful rape and 25 for murder, he serves his time at a prison in San Luis Obispo, California.
On February 2011 Mark Rogowski, now 44 years old, has been denied parole, his next chance for parole will be in 7 years.
The amazing and terrible story about Mark Rogowski called the attention of American movie-maker Helen Stickler who made a documentary film about his life, STOKED: The Rise and Fall of Gator. The movie was premiered at Sundance in 2003 where it received a lot of good reviews. Leave your comments and additional information about the former skater you’d like to share.
Photos: www.wenn.com/ Joe Maher
**Note the Skaters in these pictures are not Mark Rogowski