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Philip Markoff: The Craigslist Killer

You must’ve surely heard the popular idiom, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The story about Philip Markoff, the Craigslist killer is an apt example. 

He was born on February 12, 1986, and belonged to an upper-middle-class household in a small New York town named Sherill. Enrolled at SUNY (State University of New York) Albany, Markoff appeared to have a promising future since he was a medical student and aspired to be a doctor. 

At 6 feet and 3 inches, he was quite good-looking and liked to play golf and bowl. He was described by his peers as “serious” and “well-behaved” and he seemed to be just like any other regular nice young guy. 

His teachers described him as being intelligent, though he wasn’t the most popular among his classmates. He was outgoing and liked volunteering in the emergency room at the local hospital.

Prince Charming?

While volunteering at the hospital, he met his fiancé Megan McAllister. She was older than him, and they dated for around three years before Markoff proposed to her. 

To everyone else, Markoff seemed like an ideal partner. But he had a dark side. He was broke and had accumulated a debt of $130,000 from student loans. He also had a gambling problem that made it even more difficult for him to manage his finances. 

Early on in the relationship, Philip Markoff began looking for sexual encounters outside his relationship with his current girlfriend. To remain anonymous, he used different usernames on Craigslist to connect with people seeking sexual activities including transvestites. 

On one occasion he also posted an advertisement on Craigslist pretending to be a female masseuse looking for male clients.

How Did He Become The ‘Craiglist Killer?’

Craigslist used to have a section called, “Erotic Services,” under which Markoff responded to an advertisement on April 13, 2009. (This section was then changed to “adult services” and eventually it was removed altogether in 2010.) 

The person who had posted the ad was Julissa Brisman. She was a masseuse and wanted to be a model. After a series of messages between Markoff and Brisman (using fake names) they agreed to meet on April 14, 2009.

Within minutes after the meeting, Markoff attacked Brisman with his pistol. Brisman tried to break free, but she was about a foot shorter than him and failed. Then, he shot her three times and fled. She was found by police at Marriott Copley Place, an upscale hotel in Boston. 

Though she was found alive, she succumbed to her injuries at Boston Medical Center; coincidentally it was the same institute where Markoff had trained to be a doctor.

He Strikes Again 

Julissa Brisman wasn’t the only one Markoff attacked. On April 10, four days earlier, he met with another person Trisha Leffler who also posted a Craigslist advertisement. She too advertised her masseuse services on the website. When they met, he pulled his gun, tied her up, and robbed her. 

Another victim was Cynthia Melton who he met on April 16, 2009, at the Holiday Inn Express at Rhode Island. She advertised lap dances on Craigslist. When Markoff met Melton, he pulled his gun, tied her up, and robbed her as he had before. 

After Brisman’s case, the police put out a nation-wide alert, and they released a statement about the crime and shared pictures of the Craiglist Killer. Which is how the Holiday Inn Express Hotel authorities immediately recognized Markoff. But before the police could arrive, Markoff fled to Foxwoods Casino which was in Ledyard, Connecticut.

What Happened Next?

The CCTV footage that was caught at the Holiday Inn Express and the IP addresses, emails, and messages on Craiglist was enough for police to confirm that it was Markoff, the Craiglist Killer. 

On April 20, 2009, police pulled over Markoff and McAllister while they were on their way to Foxwoods Casino. He was placed under arrest and while he was at the police station, other policemen searched his apartment. Here they found cash, bullets that matched the ones used on Brisman, women’s panties, and plastic ties. 

Added to this was a gun hidden in a medical book and duct tape that matched what was used on Leffler. They also found a hard drive that confirmed his messages with Brisman.

Not So Innocent 

Markoff refused to cooperate with authorities and provided answers to all their questions. McAllister kept insisting they had the wrong person, and she wanted to prove his innocence. She went to great lengths and even contacted the media. But she was silenced when police showed her what they found at her apartment. 

On April 21, 2009, Markoff was charged with murder and imprisoned at Nashua Street Jail where he tried to commit suicide in his cell with shoelaces, but failed. He also tried killing himself with a sharp metal spoon. He was given anti-anxiety pills and put on a suicide watch.

Suicide With a Mystery Message 

However, he finally succeeded in committing suicide on August 15, 2010. He spread out photos of McAllister and used his medical knowledge and a knife made from a pen and blade to slash arteries in his ankles and legs. He also damaged the carotid artery in his neck. Markoff wrote the words “Megan” and “pocket” with his blood above the doorway. While “Megan” was the name of his almost bride-to-be, no one knew what he meant by the word “pocket.” 

He also swallowed toilet paper to prevent resuscitation. Then, he covered his head with a plastic bag and used gauze to tighten it. He was found on his bed, with a blanket covered over him.

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