Philip Markoff was an unlikely murderer. The 23-year old was tall, blond, and excelled academically. He was also a bit of a nerd. That doesn’t matter though when you’re meeting women anonymously on Craigslist. Over a one week period in April 2009, Markoff used Craigslist to meet three escorts; he robbed and beat two prostitutes at gunpoint on two separate occasions, and murdered another.
All the while, he quietly went about his life as a Boston University medical student. Until he was arrested on April 20; then his life came crumbling down. On August 15, 2010, one year after he was supposed to be married, Markoff committed suicide in prison. This Philip Markoff wiki looks to unravel the double life he led and understand what it was that created the Craigslist killer.
Who Was Philip Markoff?
Philip Markoff was born on Wednesday, February 12, 1986, in the small town of Sherrill, New York. Sherrill had a population of around 3,150 and a welcome sign that boasts, “The Smallest City in New York State.”
When Philip was young, his parents divorced. He stayed with his mother Susan, while his brother Jonathan went with his father Richard, who was a dentist in Syracuse. Richard remarried, as did Susan. She married Gary Carroll, a banker, and they had a daughter together in 1991. They divorced years later.
Friends and acquaintances of the Markoffs said the family was very quiet and kept to themselves. They remember Philip as being well liked and a good student. In particular, Sonja Hluska, who lived right behind the family and taught Philip English at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High School, said he was “the nicest young man, polite, respectful, with a good sense of humor.”
Indeed, Markoff was well liked in high school, he was good looking, clean cut, 6’3”, and had broad shoulders. While most kids with his frame would try out for football, Markoff excelled at bowling and liked to play golf. In addition to being an honor student and a member of the National Honor Society, Markoff was also involved with the youth court and history club.
What he was not involved with were girls. He did not have a girlfriend and, according to Hluska, had his own friends who were more interested in computers and science, “like Trekkies.”
After graduating high school, Markoff went to SUNY Albany, where he was a pre-med student majoring in biology. But, because he took so many advanced-placement courses, he graduated in just three years.
While Markoff was active in a coed, pre-med fraternity, Phi Delta Epsilon, some classmates said he wasn’t really all that comfortable in his own skin. And what you saw on the outside wasn’t who he was on the inside.
Another friend, Tiffany Montgomery, who was Markoff’s lab partner at Boston University (where he was accepted for medical school) said, “You never knew with Phil what you were going to get. He wouldn’t look at you when he talked to you and often seemed tired and depressed.”
Montgomery remembered when the two were at a party together, Markoff had been drinking and kept flirting with women who were just not into him.
“They weren’t flirting back, but he would just keep it up. He had no real idea of himself—he couldn’t read body language.”
Philip Markoff met Megan McAllister at a hospital where he volunteered. She was a pretty, strawberry-blonde senior who was also pre-med. She asked him on a date and the nerdy Markoff accepted.
They ended up dating and, after graduating from SUNY Albany, moved to Boston; Markoff had been accepted to Boston University Medical School. McAllister, meanwhile, was accepted into a medical school in St. Kitts, in the Caribbean.
McAllister’s plans were put on hold though. On May 17, 2008, Markoff proposed to McAllister; she accepted. The date for their wedding was set for August 14, 2009.
The Double Life of Philip Markoff, the Craigslist Killer
In April 2009, while McAllister was at home nursing an injured back and planning for her wedding, Markoff was planning a string of violent crimes. It started on April 10, 2009.
On April 10, Markoff responded to an erotic ad Trish Leffler placed on Craigslist. Leffler was staying at Westin Copley Place, an upscale hotel in downtown Boston. She greeted the tall, blonde Markoff outside her room and invited him in.
He entered and quickly pointed a gun at her, ordered her to lie down on the floor on her stomach, and bound her with plastic ties. Markoff went through her suitcase and took $800 and credit cards. He also put on plastic gloves and removed his number from her cell phone.
He did not try to do anything to her sexually.
He then took off his gloves and gagged her with duct tape, cut the phone lines, and took a souvenir —a pair of her panties.
The whole ordeal lasted more than 15 minutes.
Markoff’s next hookup took place four days later, on April 14, with Julissa Brisman. He went by the name Andy and she went by Morgan. The two actually never spoke to each other before the meeting; they communicated by e-mail or text.
Markoff used a disposable Trac phone and her friend pretended to be Morgan (Julissa) when setting up appointments. Markoff discovered Julissa in the Craigslist Erotic Services section on April 13; she was listed as a masseuse.
She said she was just visiting Boston for three days and had a room on the 20th floor of the Boston Marriott Copley Place. Markoff, using the email address [email protected], answered the anonymous address provided by Craigslist. Her reply came back from [email protected]
At 4:37 p.m., Markoff wrote, “I myself am visiting Boston and was looking for a 10 pm or later appointment tonight or tomorrow. Unfortunately, I will not be free any earlier.”
Julissa, who also worked part-time at a tanning salon in New York replied, “My Wednesday appointment moved later. I could do it tomorrow night or we can do 10:30 or 11 tonight if you wanted to see me later tonight. Let me know what you prefer. Morgan.”
At 7:03 p.m. Markoff replied, “Hey, Morgan: 10pm tomorrow is best for me. Thank you, Andy.”
The next night, April 14, 2009, Markoff used the Trac phone to say that he arrived early—at 9:41 p.m. He received a text telling him not to come up until 10. He was prompt.
Shortly after entering her hotel room, she was found unconscious with multiple gunshot wounds. She later died from her injuries at Boston Medical Center.
Police say a confrontation erupted shortly after Markoff entered the room. It appeared there was an attempted robbery. The 105 pound, 5’5” Brisman tried to resist but was no match. Markoff bashed her skull in with the butt of a 9-mm semi-automatic pistol.
He then shot her three times at close range: once in the heart, chest, and abdomen. A woman in a nearby hotel room heard screams and went into the hallway; she found the fully clothed Brisman sprawled across the doorway of her room. A piece of plastic tie, the same kind used to bind Leffler, was hanging from one wrist.
Video surveillance caught a tall blonde man wearing a dark cap leaving the hotel calmly, texting on his phone.
Brisman was killed 10 days before her 26th birthday, and two weeks before completing a year’s course in addiction counseling at City College of New York. At her funeral, a young woman pushing a six-month-old baby in a stroller said Julissa saved hers and her baby’s life.
Two days later, on April 16, Markoff found Cynthia Melton, a stripper who advertised lap dances on the Erotic Services section Craigslist. Using his Trac phone, Markoff set up an 11 p.m. meeting at the Warwick Holiday Inn Express, in Warwick, Rhode Island.
Once inside the room, Markoff pulled a gun, and, just like Leffler, made her lie face down on the floor. He tied her up using the same kind of plastic ties used on Brisman and Leffler.
He tried to stick a ball gag in her mouth, but she resisted. He finally gave up and set to rifling through the room looking for money and credit cards, reassuring her, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to kill you. Just give me the money.”
At that point, Markoff was surprised to hear a knock on the door. It was Melton’s husband, Keith. He started to walk backward down the hall and tripped over. Markoff took off and ran down a stairwell.
During the week that Markoff committed these crimes, McAllister went home to New Jersey to plan the wedding. She said she spoke to Markoff every night. Before returning to Boston immediately after the crimes took place, her mother warned her to be careful, a guy there was hurting women.
Philip Markoff’s Wide and Varied Sex Life
The seemingly straight-laced Philip Markoff was into more than just women who worked as escorts, dancers, and masseurs. Markoff was also known to solicit transvestites in Boston.
Using Craigslist, in the free-of-charge Casual Encounters section, Markoff exchanged emails and photos with a transvestite. Police confirmed that a hard drive they seized from Markoff also contained messages to the transvestite.
The first message Markoff sent was dated May 2, 2008, at 12:29 a.m. —just two weeks before he got engaged to Megan McAllister. The subject line read “Hey sexy.” The name that came up with the email address, [email protected] was “Phil Markoff.”
“I just saw your cl add, message me on AIM: my1name1is1phil,” he wrote. Adding, “I am 6’3” a 22y/o grad student.”
Markoff also sent along a picture of himself in a blue and white striped shirt, smiling. He posted the same picture to his now deleted Facebook account.
At 12:33 a.m. he received a response, “Hot ass to Phil: You got any more pix stud?”
A few minutes later, Markoff sent two pictures: a picture of his naked torso with the head cropped out, and a picture of his hard penis with a ruler next to it, measuring eight inches.
“Hot ass” quickly replied with a picture of himself in short shorts, holding a camera: “Here’s one of me. I will message on AIM in a few.”
Markoff replied at 12:46, “Sorry babe, I’m going to sleep.”
Nine hours later Sexaddict sent another message, “Hey, I’m still interested. Do you have any more pics? What are you into and what are your stats? What are you doing tonight?”
The transvestite sent two more pictures, but Sexaddict never replied.
Fast forward to April 22, 2009, two days after Markoff was arrested, and it was discovered that Markoff’s Boston phone number was tied to an undated Craigslist posting for an “ebony erotic masseuse.”
The posting read, “Craigslist EBONY EROTIC MASSEUSE – TAKING MY LAST APPOINTMENT – 24Why get a massage if you’re going to be uncomfortable? I’m sure I will leave you satisfied. My donation is 150 Contact me at 617-481-XXXX.”
Mark Rasch, the former head of the computer-crime unit of the U.S. Department of Justice said there are a number of explanations for the posting:
- Markoff did it to lure men to come to him
- He did it so he could lure them to a hotel room and rob them.
- Someone else posted the listing and put in the wrong number.
The first two seem more likely. Police say Markoff’s sexual tastes were “Wide and varied.” According to another source, Markoff applied as a newcomer for sadomasochistic experiences.
Markoff was arrested on April 20, 2009 for the murder of Julissa Brisman. He was driving with McAllister on Interstate 95 in Walpole, Massachusetts; the couple were heading to Foxwoods Resort, a casino in Connecticut.
Police saw him leave his apartment with McAllister carrying a suitcase. Police, afraid he was going to leave the state, moved to arrest him. And, as Edward F. Davis said, “I realized we were dealing with someone who murdered without hesitation. We had the trappings of a serial murderer here about to take off.”
Police drew their guns and told Markoff he was under arrest for murder. They cuffed him and took him away. McAllister, who was away during his crimes, told police there had been a mistake.
They were questioned separately at the police station. Markoff didn’t give up any information, asked about his Miranda rights, and was evasive when answering questions.
“Well, what’s this about?’’ he asked the two detectives.
When detectives questioned him about news footage and pictures in the paper related to the Julissa Brisman murder, and images showing a man that looked an awful lot like him, he responded, “Like I don’t watch local news. I’m not from Boston.”
Megan McAllister Was Much More Forthcoming
McAllister, on the other hand, was a lot more chatty and forthcoming. She was described as being cooperative and open.
“He doesn’t have any great friends,’’ she said. “He has a couple of friends at BU that I don’t even know that well. We don’t hang out with people that much. We don’t have money to go out, so it’s like we’re at home most of the time.”
She told detectives that they would go to Foxwoods Resort Casino where Markoff like to play blackjack.
She said he was not a heavy gambler.
During his crime spree, she said he called her every night in New Jersey where she was planning their wedding. When detectives showed her surveillance photos of Markoff, she realized they thought Philip looked like the suspect. She defended him.
“He complains about money all the time, that, you know, we have no money, so he’s not going to rob somebody,” McAllister said. “He’ll go to the casino to try to win money. He’s not going to rob somebody.”
“Is there any reason for me to be like scared to go home with this person?” she asked.
A detective responded, “Do you have any reason to fear him?’’
“No, not at all,” McAllister said. “You’re worrying me. . . . I mean, are there other people that were at this hotel that could have done this?”
Police Find Treasure Trove of Evidence
Both of their interviews ended at around the same time. While they were in the interview room, investigators were combing through his apartment, which ended up containing a treasure trove of evidence.
- The gun police thought was used to kill Julissa Brisman was hidden in a hollowed-out copy of the medical textbook, Gray’s Anatomy.
- Bullets that matched those used to kill Brisman
- They found the same plastic ties used in all three crimes.
- Four pairs of women’s panties were stuffed into a pair of socks hidden in the box spring of the couple’s bed.
- Trac phones and a laptop computer with pieces of Andy’s response to Brisman’s Craigslist posting.
- And 45 $100 bills.
- At the time of his arrest, Markoff was wearing brown leather shoes splattered with the blood of Julissa Brisman
Later, police found Markoff’s fingerprints on the purchasing document for the gun he bought with a stolen driver’s license. His fingerprints were also lifted from the duct tape he used to bind Trisha Leffler’s mouth, and were found on the wall in the hotel room where he assaulted Cynthia Melton. On top of that, Trisah Leffler picked his picture out in a sequential photo-identifying procedure.
The evidence against Markoff was overwhelming.
Markoff Pleads Not Guilty, Put on Suicide Watch
Markoff, who had never been in trouble before and graduated summa cum laude from the State University of New York at Albany, was arraigned the following day. After the litany of his alleged crimes were read aloud, Markoff said loudly, “Not guilty.”
No one from his family was there during his arraignment.
Shortly after entering his plea on April 21, 2009, Markoff was moved to the Nashua Street Jail. There, he removed the leather strips from his boat shoes and tried to hang himself from the bars of his cell.
He was transferred to the infirmary and placed on a suicide watch. A psychiatrist who saw him decided against sending him to a state mental hospital.
Around this time, McAllister’s father told reporters outside his house in Little Silver, a borough in Monmouth County, New Jersey, that his daughter was not doing well and things were “very tense.”
Megan McAllister actually emailed People magazine to tell them she supported Philip Markoff.
“Philip is a beautiful man inside and out and did not commit this crime. Unfortunately somebody else did and needs to be penalized. Philip was set up.”
She sent a similar email to ABC News, “A police officer in Boston (or many) is trying to make big bucks by selling this false story to the TV stations. What else is new?? Philip is an intelligent man who is just trying to live his life so if you could leave us alone we would greatly appreciate it. We expect to marry in August and share a wonderful, meaningful life together.”
Not that long after, on April 29, McAllister went with her mother to visit Markoff in jail for 25 minutes. It was later confirmed that she broke up with him. He tried to commit suicide the following day by raking a serrated spoon over his wrist.
Markoff was last seen in public on June 22, 2009 in Suffolk County Superior Court, in downtown Boston, when he was arraigned for the grand jury’s indictment.
Philip Markoff’s Bizarre Suicide
Markoff was determined to commit suicide. He put his medical expertise to use and knew what he was doing. On August 15, 2010, one year and one day after his wedding was supposed to have taken place, Markoff was found dead in his cell.
He made a knife from a jail-issued pen and a piece of metal. He used it to slash major arteries in his ankles, legs, and neck. He used plastic bags to catch the flowing blood and swallowed toilet paper so he could not be resuscitated.
He then pulled a plastic bag over his head that he tightened with gauze and covered himself with a blanket on the bed.
After making a number of cell checks, a deputy officer noted that Markoff hadn’t moved and decided to make a “health and welfare check” on him.
“They pulled the cover back and it was a bloodbath,’” said one law enforcement source.
Markoff didn’t leave a suicide note, but he spread out photos of McAllister on the small table in his cell and, using his own blood, wrote “Megan” above his doorway, so he could see it. Corrections officers couldn’t.
He also wrote the word “pocket.” It was later learned that “pocket” was a term of endearment that Markoff and McAllister used for each other. Even after McAllister ended their engagement, she and Markoff still corresponded.
Because of Markoff’s suicide, prosecutors had to drop the murder charge against him. Markoff got what he wanted. He was dead and the charges against him were dropped.
The same cannot be said for Brisman’s family. Markoff’s death deprived the Brisman family of confronting him at the trial and hearing about Julissa’s final moments.
Djuna Perkins, an attorney for Brisman’s mother, Carmen Guzman, commented, “First, he took their daughter from them, then he denied that opportunity for them. Many people who deal with homicide never get over it, but the criminal trial allows them to confront the suspect, hear the evidence and reach some resolution in the case.”
Daniel Conley, Suffolk County District Attorney, said that Markoff’s death “should not obscure the brutality of his crimes.” His suicide was “the ultimate indication” of his guilt.