Mark “Gator” Rowgoski: Skateboarder to Murderer

posted: 30 July 2021 | categories: Killer Men

image: LA Times

about the criminal

Mark Rogowski was born on 10 August 1966 in Brooklyn, NY. When he was only three, his parents divorced, and he moved to San Diego with his mother and older brother. Living in Escondido, a middle-class suburb of San Diego, was difficult for Rogowski, mainly because his family had far less money that most of his friends, which made him an outcast. So while his friends surfed, he turned to skateboarding. By the time he was twelve years old, local skate teams recruited him to compete in amateur tournaments. And because he began winning them, he started to get bigger sponsors. That led to endorsement deals, notoriety, and money. By fourteen, he was considered by some to be a pro skateboarder. He won his first major title in 1982, by winning the Canadian Amateur Skateboarding Championships. By that time, he was making between $4000 and $8000 a month from clothing and skate equipment deals.

Rogowski rose to fame in the 1980s, gaining fans who’d clamor to meet him. On tour in 1987, he met two seventeen-year-old girls in Scottsdale, Arizona. Brandi McClain and her best friend, Jessica Bergsten. This was the moment that changed the lives of all three people.[1]Ben-Halliday, Reginald. “The Rise And Fall Of Gator Rogowski.” Medium, 17 Dec. 2020,

the story

From the moment they met, Rogowski and Brandi McClain were in love. Just a few months after they met, Rogowski asked her to move in with him. She said yes, so he bought a ranch. And when she found the ranch boring, he sold it and moved them to a place by the beach in Carlsbad. She went everywhere with him, from competitions to photo and film shoots.

But despite the fairytale lifestyle the two were leading together, all was not perfect. Rogowski was well known to have anger issues as well as a drinking problem. Both were compounded during the late 1980s-early 1990s when popular skateboarding styles began to change. Street skating (think parkour on a board) was something he didn’t transition to successfully. Then a drunken night ended in an accident in which he fell purposely from a two-story hotel after climbing a construction crane. He landed on a wrought-iron fence, impaling his face, neck, and thumb. He was still drunk and belligerant when he was taken to the hospital.

Soon after, Rogowski tried to reinvent himself. He turned to an ex-surfer-turned-born-again-Christian Augie Constantino. He threw himself all into it, even trying to talk Brandi into converting with him. She balked, and soon the two broke up, which devastated Rogowski. When she began seeing a new guy, it flipped something in him. He became obsessively jealous, harrassing and stalking her. Eventually, someone broke into her house and stole everything Rogowski had ever given her, including her car. Both Brandi and the police suspected Rogowski, but it couldn’t be proven. The last thing he said to her was a threat: that he would take her, rape her in every conceivable way, and then dump her body in the desert. She became frightened enough to leave California and move to New York. She didn’t even tell her best friend, Jessica, who was about to move to San Diego.

Having no warning, when she moved, Jessica called Rogowski and asked him to show her around the city. On 21 March 1991, they met for lunch, picked up some movies and wine, and went back to his home. When it came time for her to leave, he excused himself for a moment. When he came back, he picked up a metal steering-wheel lock and clubbed her. After a few hits, she was semi-conscious. He cuffed her and dragged her upstairs to his bedroom where he shackled her to the bed. Then he proceeded to rape her in all the ways he’d threatened Brandi. When she screamed and begged him to stop, he stuffed her head into a bag. And when she said she couldn’t breathe, he strangled her to death.[2]Ben-Halliday, Reginald. “The Rise And Fall Of Gator Rogowski.” Medium, 17 Dec. 2020,

after the murder

After dumping Jessica’s body in the desert, Rogowski rented a carpet cleaner and cleaned away every sign of what had happened. A few weeks after Jessica “disappeared,” police questioned him but found nothing suspicious. When her father flew to San Diego to search for her, he met with Rogowski who told him he hadn’t seen Jessica. In truth, it is likely that he would have gotten away with it, if not for one thing. His own guilt. He confessed to his friend Augie Constantino, who convinced him to turn himself in. When he turned himself in, the police were surprised, not having deduced that Jessica even had been murdered. He took them to the desert where they found her body buried, decomposed, and hardly recognizable. During a subsequent search of his home, they also managed to find traces of blood he’d missed in his cleaning.[3]Ben-Halliday, Reginald. “The Rise And Fall Of Gator Rogowski.” Medium, 17 Dec. 2020,

the motivation

Rogowski told police he killed Jessica Bergsten out of a sense of revenge toward Brandi. He called Jessica the “mold Brandi was made out of.”[4]Ben-Halliday, Reginald. “The Rise And Fall Of Gator Rogowski.” Medium, 17 Dec. 2020,

the punishment

On 6 March 1992, Mark Rogowski pled guilty to first-degree murder and rape. This plea allowed him to avoid the death penalty or a life sentence without a chance of parole. He was sentenced to thirty-one years.[5] Ben-Halliday, Reginald. “The Rise And Fall Of Gator Rogowski.” Medium, 17 Dec. 2020,

Rogowski was eligible for his first parole suitability hearing on 22 January 2010, but voluntarily waived the hearing for one year. A year later, on 7 February 2011, he was denied parole for seven years. However, on 21 November 2014, he filed a petition for his next hearing to be earlier than 2018, and that petition was approved. Oddly, when that hearing came just three months later, 6 February 2015, he voluntarily waived it for a year. And the next year, on 9 March 2016, he was denied for another seven years. On 28 December 2018, he once again filed to have his next hearing held early, which was approved. On 10 December 2019, he was granted parole. But before he could be released, on 23 April 2020, the governor of California reversed his parole. Another hearing is scheduled for 9 December 2021.[6]“State of California Inmate Locator: CDCR Number H27508.” California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation,

interesting tidbits

As it turns out, actress Patricia Arquette once dated Mark Rogowski. Two dates. According to Arquette, there was something about the way he kissed that felt off to her, so she gave him a fake phone number at the end of the date. Years later, he killed Jessica Bergsten.[7]Marks, Brian. “Patricia Arquette Reveals Her ‘Worst Date’ Was with pro Skateboarder and Convicted RAPIST and MURDERER Mark Rogowski Years before His Crimes.” Daily Mail UK, 14 Apr. 2021, … Continue reading

Mark Rogowski and Brandi McClain appeared in the Free Fallin’ video by Tom Petty, right around the 2:21 mark and on.

works cited[+]

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