Student charged with Craigslist prostitute murder
Wednesday 22 April 2009
Philip Markoff seemed to have a good life: The handsome, clean-cut, 23-year-old medical student was planning a lavish beachfront wedding this summer to a beautiful woman.
But authorities say his computer and surveillance video paint a picture of a suspected serial criminal who targeted women offering erotic services through Craigslist. Now he's accused of killing one and suspected of robbing and tying up another. And police have said there could be more victims.
"This was a brutal, vicious crime - savage, and it shows Philip Markoff is a man who is willing to take advantage of women, to hurt them, to beat them, to rob them," District Attorney Daniel Conley said. "He probably thought he was going to get away with it. He thought he was too smart for us."
Authorities refused to comment on reports that Markoff might have been seeking money to pay gambling debts, but a Connecticut casino confirmed it was cooperating in the investigation.
Markoff, a second-year medical student at Boston University, appeared in court on Tuesday on charges including murder, kidnapping and armed robbery. Dressed in a wrinkled button-down shirt and khakis, he said nothing during the brief hearing and was jailed without bail.
Defence attorney John Salsberg said later that Markoff is not guilty of the charges and "has his family's support."
Markoff is accused in the death of Julissa Brisman of New York City, who was found dead April 14 in a Boston hotel after being struck in the head and shot three times.
Brisman, 26, was an aspiring model and actress who had advertised erotic massage on Craigslist. Authorities said she and Markoff communicated through email and cell phone to set up a meeting.
Investigators traced an email to Markoff, who created a new address the day before Brisman's body was discovered at the Marriott Copley Hotel. He was arrested Monday in Walpole, less than 20 miles southwest of Boston, as he drove with his fiancee to Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut.
Authorities say he was the man seen on surveillance video near where Brisman was found and where a woman was robbed in Rhode Island.
Boston police refused to comment on reports citing unidentified law enforcement sources that Markoff was a problem gambler. But the casino said it was helping investigators.
"We do not release information publicly concerning individual patrons; however, we are aware of this situation and are cooperating with the appropriate law enforcement authorities," the casino and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation said in a statement.
Markoff's grandfather, Jerome Markoff said he was shocked.
"This is not my grandson. I know my grandson," he told The Boston Globe. "I hate to see a rush to judgment ... He's a wonderful boy, just absolutely wonderful, and couldn't be better. I'm proud of him and proud of his abilities as a medical student. He always wanted to be a doctor."
Markoff's grandfather did not immediately respond to a call from The Associated Press. Police said his grandson has no prior criminal record.
Markoff is also suspected in the attempted robbery Thursday in Rhode Island, of a stripper who had posted an ad on Craigslist. She was held at gunpoint before her husband entered the room and her attacker fled.
Markoff's mother, Susan Haynes, declined to comment through a receptionist at her apartment complex in Sherrill, New York, where Markoff went to high school. In the 2004 Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High School yearbook, Markoff was listed as a member of the bowling and golf teams, the National Honor Society, history club and youth court.
He graduated in 2007 from the State University of New York at Albany. Later that year, he had a broad smile in a photograph taken as he put on a "white coat" at a ceremony for incoming BU medical school students.
The university has said Markoff was suspended immediately following his arrest.
Police say they found a semiautomatic weapon, duct tape and restraints - what prosecutors called "critical, powerful" evidence - in the upscale apartment he shared with his fiance in Quincy, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of Boston.
According to the couple's website, Markoff and his fiance met in 2005 while volunteering at a medical center near SUNY Albany, and they were engaged in May 2008. They had planned to marry Aug. 14 on a beach at sunset in Long Branch, New Jersey.
Conley, the district attorney, said he believes Markoff's original motive was robbery, but he wound up killing Brisman when she fought back.
Prosecutor Jennifer Hickman said in court that Brisman had been bashed in the head and shot three times at close range, including once through the heart.
"It's hard for me to get into his mind. The evidence that we have is Julissa put up a pretty tough struggle, and it's in the context of that struggle that she lost her life," Conley said.
The slain woman's father, Hector Brisman, appeared in court but left without commenting.
Hickman said Markoff also contacted the woman he allegedly robbed using Craigslist on April 10 and set up a meeting after midnight. The woman told investigators she met Markoff and then let him into her room at the Westin Copley in Boston. When she shut the door and turned around, he was pointing a gun at her stomach. He bound her hands and mouth.
He then stole more than $800 and personal items, Hickman said.
His fiance, Megan McAllister, insists police have the wrong man.
"He could not hurt a fly," McAllister said in an email to ABC's "Good Morning America. "All I have to say is Philip is a beautiful person, inside and out."
An email message sent to McAllister via her Facebook page was not immediately returned Tuesday. The McAllister family did not answer the door of their Little Silver, New Jersey, home Tuesday. Shortly after, a police officer emerged and said the family did not wish to speak with reporters.
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