SAN DIEGO (AP) — A one-time champion skateboarder who has spent nearly three decades in prison for raping and killing a woman at his Southern California home has been recommended for parole, and the San Diego County district attorney vowed Wednesday to appeal.
Mark “Gator” Rogowski confessed to killing Jessica Bergsten, 22, in 1991 at his home in Carlsbad, a beach town north of San Diego. He beat her with a car lock, chained her to a bed, raped her, then placed her in a surfboard bag and strangled her before burying her in the desert, authorities said.
Bergsten was a friend of Rogowski’s former girlfriend and he said he attacked her out of “misplaced revenge” after he was dumped.
Rogowski pleaded guilty to rape and murder and was sentenced to 31 years in prison. He is being held at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego.
San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said in a statement that Bergsten's family was “devastated" by the California State Board of Parole Hearing's decision to recommend him for parole, and her office would seek to overturn the decision.
“The family and friends of Jessica Bergsten deserve the continued promise of justice in this case,” Stephan said. “Our office argued strongly against releasing this violent defendant.”
Rogowski was previously denied parole in 2011 and 2016, while a 2019 recommendation for his release was reversed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Rogowski has said he was remorseful.
“I’m disgusted with what I did. I think about it every day,” the 1980s skateboarding champion told the parole panel in 2019. “I took everything from that poor family. They have every right to be angry with me. I want to make it go away but I can’t.”
The most recent panel noted Rogowski’s remorse and good behavior during 27 years behind bars and determined he was suitable for release, despite objections from Bergsten’s father and the San Diego County district attorney’s office, according to the local ABC News affiliate, KGTV-TV.
“The pain never goes away,” Stephen Bergsten told the panel. “This inmate received a life sentence, but he imposed a death sentence upon Jessica and our family.”
The state Board of Parole Hearings has 120 days to finalize the panel’s recommendation. Newsom then reviews it and has 30 days to decide whether to let it stand or reverse it.