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Reports: Accused Craigslist Killer Suffocated Himself

Aug 16, 2010 – 11:13 AM
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Lisa Flam

Lisa Flam Contributor

(Aug. 16) -- The accused Craigslist killer apparently used his medical school training to end his life in his jail cell, puncturing at least one artery with a pen before wrapping a plastic bag over his head, according to news reports.

Philip Markoff, 24, was awaiting trial next year in the fatal shooting of a masseuse in an upscale Boston hotel on April 14, 2009. Prosecutors say Markoff met the woman, Julissa Brisman, 25, through the erotic services section of Craigslist.

Markoff, a clean-cut former Boston University medical student, suffered a cut to an artery and had a plastic bag over his head, The Boston Globe reported, citing unidentified law enforcement sources.

According to the Boston Herald, Markoff used a pen to stab himself and got the clear plastic bag from the jail's canteen. NBC's "Today" show, also citing unidentified law enforcement officials, said Markoff cut arteries in his neck and leg by stabbing himself with a pen.

Markoff was found unresponsive Sunday morning in his cell at Boston's Nashua Street Jail, and authorities said they are investigating his "apparent suicide." He was pronounced dead at 10:17 a.m. Authorities did not say whether he left a note.

"Markoff was alone in his cell, and all evidence collected thus far indicates that he took his own life," police and prosecutors said in a statement.

Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley, would not comment on Markoff's reported manner of suicide or describe what was found with him. "The investigation is open and ongoing," he told AOL News.

The medical examiner did a preliminary autopsy but withheld the cause of death while awaiting additional specialized tests, Wark said. "Investigators are still reviewing the ME's preliminary findings," he said.

Brisman's family was furious that there'll be no trial, which was set for March.

"Their grief for Julissa is as fresh today as the day over a year ago when Markoff took Julissa away from them,'' said a statement from the family's lawyer, Djuna Perkins, carried in several news reports. "The long-awaited criminal prosecution was their only opportunity to confront him, and now he has taken that away as well.''

Markoff's lawyer, John Salsberg, told the Globe: "I'm shocked and saddened by the news.''
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Craigslist Murder Case

Philip Markoff was engaged and in a top medical school. But in April 2009 he was charged with a series of crimes that shocked the nation -- allegedly attacking three women he met via adult ads on Craigslist, killing one. He was found dead in a Boston jail cell Sunday.

Craigslist Murder Case

Aspiring actress Julissa Brisman, 25, of New York City, was fatally shot in her room April 14, 2009, at the upscale Marriott Copley Place in Boston. She had advertised massage services on Craigslist. Police said they think the killer was trying to rob her.

Craigslist Murder Case

Before Markoff's arrest, authorities released this image of a person of interest captured on security camera footage at the Marriott. Police later identified the man as Markoff.

Craigslist Murder Case

The New York Times reported that ballistics tests linked a gun found in Markoff's home to bullets that killed Brisman. Markoff, a second-year medical student at Boston University at the time of his arrest, pleaded not guilty.

Craigslist Murder Case

In a second Boston case, Markoff was charged with attacking another masseuse on April 10, 2009, at the city's Westin hotel. Trisha Leffler said a man stole her debit card, $800 cash and $250 in gift cards. She said she was bound and gagged but broke free. Here, security video shows a person of interest, later identified as Markoff by police, leaving the Westin.

Craigslist Murder Case

According to ABC News, panties that belonged to the two Boston victims, as well as a handgun, were found hidden in a copy of the medical textbook 'Gray's Anatomy of the Human Body' in Markoff's apartment. The book was hollowed out. It's a common medical reference and runs more than 1,200 pages, depending on the edition. A collector's edition is pictured above.

Craigslist Murder Case

A police source said fingerprints link Markoff to a third attack, which took place April 16, 2009, at the Holiday Inn Express in Warwick, R.I. In that case, a stripper said she was held at gunpoint by a man she met through Craigslist. The attacker fled when her husband arrived. Authorities believe this surveillance video from the hotel shows Markoff, who has been accused in a separate Rhode Island warrant in that case.

Craigslist Murder Case

The accusations stunned many who knew Markoff. His onetime fiancee, Megan McAllister, initially stood by him, but later called off their wedding. Here, McAllister, with her attorney, Robert Honecker, visits Markoff at a Boston jail on April 29, 2009, when she told him of her decision.

Craigslist Murder Case

Hector Brisman, left, father of the slain woman, sits in court April 21, 2009, with victim advocate Paula Eckberg during Markoff's arraignment. Markoff pleaded not guilty and was ordered held without bail. (Sources: AP, CNN, The New York Times, The Boston Globe)

Craigslist Murder Case


The Globe reported last year that Markoff was put under special surveillance after marks on his neck suggested he tried to use shoelaces to kill himself. He had not been on a recent suicide watch, the Globe said, and a prison official said in May that he had adjusted well to prison life and played chess with other inmates.

Stephen Murphy, a Boston city councilor, told the Herald he wants an independent investigation into Markoff's death, saying the sheriff failed to provide "care and custody" to Markoff that now deprives the victim's family of justice.

After his arrest, authorities said, Markoff seemed to be living a double life. He was a medical student engaged to marry his college girlfriend, Megan McAllister. Authorities say he was also preying on women he met through Craigslist.

After Brisman's death at the Marriott Copley hotel, authorities said they found a handgun in Markoff's Quincy apartment that they believe was used to bash her skull before she was shot three times. Investigators also found women's underwear hidden in a box spring.

Markoff was also charged with attacking an exotic dancer at a hotel in Warwick, R.I., two days after Brisman's killing. He allegedly held her up at gunpoint but left when her husband came in the room, according to reports.

Police linked Markoff to the robbery of a prostitute in another Boston hotel, the Westin Copley Place, four days before Brisman's death.

After Markoff's arrest, his fiancee called off the wedding, which would have been one year ago Saturday. The anniversary may have played a role in his apparent suicide.

A friend from college at the State University of New York at Albany recalled a night when Markoff became physically aggressive with her, an incident she attributed to too much alcohol.

Morgan Houston told CBS' "The Early Show" today that Markoff walked her to the door one night, "like a lot of guy friends will do."

"At the entrance to the dorm, he shoved me up against the wall and tried kissing me," she said. "And I couldn't physically overpower him to get him off. It was really scary because I was fighting against him, and saying, 'No, Phil. What are you doing?'"

A friend came by and "had to pull him off me," Houston recalled.

Houston said she was surprised by Markoff's suicide and had mixed feelings, adding, "At one point, he was a friend."
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