Former professional skateboarder Mark "Gator" Rogowski, who was convicted of raping and murdering a woman in Carlsbad more than 30 years ago, has been granted parole.
On March 10, 1992, Rogowski was sentenced to 31 years to life behind bars for the 1991 killing of 22-year-old Jessica Bergsten, who was struck over the head with a metal steering wheel lock, raped and suffocated.
"At the time of the murder, Rogowski’s girlfriend had broken up with him," stated the county district attorney's office in a news release issued on Wednesday. "In addition, skateboarding was changing from ramps to the street. Rogowski did not think he could do well on street skating and saw his lucrative career coming to an end. Rogowski was [also] upset that his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Brandi McClain, was also coming to an end. Bergsten was Brandi’s best friend."
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Bergsten's skeletal remains were found buried in a shallow grave in a remote part of the desert in Imperial County. Rogowski confessed to the killing weeks later.
The San Diego County District Attorney's Office said Bergsten's family members are "devastated" by the decision and that the office will appeal for Newsom to reverse the grant.
"The family and friends of Jessica Bergsten deserve the continued promise of justice in this case," District Attorney Summer Stephan said. "Our office argued strongly against releasing this violent defendant. We handle hundreds of parole hearings each year, fighting when it's appropriate to make sure dangerous criminals are not released and crime victims are given a voice."
Rogowski was granted parole on Tuesday by the State Board of Parole Hearings. While he was previously denied parole in 2011 and 2016, a 2019 finding by the state parole board that he was suitable for release was reversed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Once again, Newsom has that option available to him. Until that ruling is issued, Rogowski will remain incarcerated at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego.