He was a regular fixture in Thrasher magazine. At age 17 in 1983, he was making $100,000 a year. He and his girlfriend appeared in the Tom Petty video Free Fallin'.
In the end, after a nasty breakup with his long-time live-in girlfriend, Southern California's skateboarding icon confessed to police that he murdered a young woman. First, he beat 21-year-old Jessica Bergsten with a car steering-wheel lock called "The Club". He confessed that he raped her, wrapped her in a surfboard bag, strangled her and managed to dump her naked body in the desert without being caught. He would have gotten away with it too if not for the conscience that goes with being a recently Born-Again Christian.
Jessica was a friend of his ex-girlfriend's so the motive for murder could have been revenge. Having confessed, Gator pleaded innocent and suggested the killing was a kinky sex game gone wrong. He was found guilty and sentenced to consecutive terms of six years for forcible rape, twenty-five years to life for first-degree murder. He is eligible for parole in 2010.