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DA fighting parole granted to former skateboard star convicted of 1991 Carlsbad rape, murder

A former skateboarding superstar who raped and murdered a model in his Carlsbad condo in 1991 has been granted parole — a decision the region’s top prosecutor said Wednesday she wants to see reversed.

Mark “Gator” Anthony Rogowski in April 2019

(Courtesy California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

District Attorney Summer Stephan said she will ask Gov. Gavin Newsom to deny parole for Mark “Gator” Rogowski, 55. Earlier this week, a parole board panel found him suitable for release.

In a statement, Stephan said family and friends of 22-year-old Jessica Bergsten “deserve the continued promise of justice in this case.”

“Our office argued strongly against releasing this violent defendant,” she said.

This is the second grant of parole for Rogowski, who was found suitable for release in 2019. Newsom reversed that grant months later, saying the inmate needed to develop “a deeper understanding” of what led him to suddenly ambush Bergsten.

Rogowski’s attorney, Laura Sheppard, said in a statement that her client is remorseful and “devastated by the impact of his crime.”

“My position, of course, is that there is no current evidence that Mark remains dangerous,” Sheppard said. “In fact, I think the Governor should be proud of the success the California prison system has had in rehabilitating Mark.”

She added that the system “succeeded, and Mark’s good behavior in prison, sincere remorse, and track record of making amends are proof that it works.”

She also said the parole board’s “trained psychologist found him to be a low risk of danger to the public.”

No date has been set for the release of Rogowski, who is 30 years into a 31-years-to-life sentence for the attack on Bergsten.

The account of what happened comes from news stories after Rogowski’s arrest, and from what he told parole hearing officers in detail in 2016.

Jessica Bergsten

Jessica Bergsten, 22, moved from Arizona to Pacific Beach shortly before she disappeared in March 1991.

(Joel Zwink / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

In March 1991, Bergsten was a model who had just moved to San Diego. She was also best friends with Rogowski’s ex-girlfriend.

Rogowski was 24 years old at the time and an acclaimed champion in the skateboarding world who toured internationally. He shot a TV commercial just hours before Bergsten arrived at his condo.

They hung out for a while before he suddenly slammed a metal bat into her head then screamed Bible verses at the dazed woman. He handcuffed her, cut off her clothes and raped her repeatedly.

Rogowski stuffed her into a surfboard bag and suffocated her to stifle her screams.

He dumped her body in the desert off Interstate 8 near Ocotillo. Passersby found Bergsten’s body days later, but she remained unidentified until Rogowski came forward to confess.

This is the fourth attempt at parole for Rogowski, who is housed at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa. Previous bids for parole were denied in 2011 and 2016.



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