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Slaying suspect found victim on Craigslist, authorities say

April 22, 2009|Associated Press

BOSTON — 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 videos 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. Police say 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," Suffolk County, Mass., Dist. Atty. Daniel Conley said Tuesday. "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 Tuesday on charges including murder, kidnapping and armed robbery. He said nothing during the brief hearing and was jailed without bail.

Defense attorney John Salsberg said later that Markoff is not guilty and "has his family's support."

Markoff is accused in the death of Julissa Brisman of New York, who was found dead April 14 in a Boston hotel after being bashed 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 by e-mail and cellphone to set up a meeting.

Investigators traced an e-mail to Markoff, who created a new address the day before Brisman's body was discovered at the Marriott Copley Place 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 videos 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, a lawyer from Arnold, Md., 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."

Markoff is also suspected in the attempted robbery Thursday in Warwick, R.I., 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.

Police say they found a semiautomatic weapon, duct tape and restraints in the apartment he shared with his fiancee in Quincy, about 10 miles south of Boston.

Conley, the district attorney, said that he believes Markoff's original motive was robbery, but that he killed Brisman when she fought back.

Markoff's fiancee, Megan McAllister, insisted that police have the wrong man.

"He could not hurt a fly," McAllister said in an e-mail to ABC's "Good Morning America. "All I have to say is Philip is a beautiful person, inside and out."

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