Profile of Philip Markoff Also Known as the Craigslist Killer

Smart, Good Looking and Deadly

Philip Markoff, The Craigslist Killer
Mark Garfinkel-Pool/Getty Images

Philip Markoff was in his second year of medical school when he was arrested for robbery and murder. He earned the moniker "Craigslist Killer" because it was believed that he found his victims through the exotic ads that they placed on Craigslist.

Early Life

Philip Markoff, born February 12, 1986, grew up in the small town (population 3,147) of Sherill, New York. Philip's parents divorced when he was in elementary school.

He stayed with his mother, and his older brother went with his father who was a dentist in Syracuse.

Those who remembered Philip Markoff as a child described him as being well behaved and a good student.

High School Years

Throughout high school, Markoff's behavior was exemplary. He was clean-cut, popular and involved in student activities including the youth court and history club.

Physically he was good looking and stood out from a lot of the boys his age. He was six-foot-three-inches tall with broad shoulders and a husky frame. Most boys his size would have been going out for the football team, but Markoff was a strong competitor on the bowling team and liked to play golf.

Academically, Markoff was very serious about his education and preparing for his future. His accomplishments included being an honor student and a member of the National Honor Society. Phillip Markoff's future looked bright.

College Years

After high school, Markoff went to the University of Albany where he showed an intense desire to excel. He took on extra courses and graduated in three years with a bachelor's degree in biology.

Socially, Markoff was reserved with friends and awkward around women. He studied a lot and worked as a volunteer at the emergency room of the local hospital.

The one thing he would do for fun was play in all-night poker games with his friends. He earned a reputation for being a good, but serious player -- sometimes too serious. He wasn't a very good loser.

Megan McAllister

Markoff met Megan McAllister at the hospital where he volunteered. Megan was attractive and sophisticated and two years older than Markoff. She asked him out on a date, and he accepted. They continued to date regularly and became college sweethearts.

After graduating from college, Markoff and McAllister moved to Boston. Markoff had been accepted to Boston University Medical School. McAllister also planned to go to medical school, but one of the only schools that would accept her was in the St. Kitts in the Caribbean.

On May 17, 2008, Markoff proposed to McAllister and she accepted. She put her medical school plans on hold and began to focus on their wedding plans. The date was set for August 14, 2009.

Everything about their wedding was going to be first class. The wedding registry listed mainly expensive name brands of china, silver, and crystal. It was as if she was planning everything for the successful future she knew the two would eventually share together.

The differences in their backgrounds became more apparent as the wedding date neared.

Markoff came from the world where a microwavable casserole dish would make a great wedding gift. Megan came from the world where a casserole dish would likely not even be listed on the registry.

The truth was, Markoff was in debt for $130,000 and living off of credit. Even the $1,400 a month that he paid in rent came from borrowed money.

The Craigslist Killer

In April 2009, the police were investigating two separate crimes that surveillance images linked to the same man.

On April 10, Trisha Leffler was robbed at gunpoint in the Westin Hotel by a man who responded to an exotic ad she had placed on Craigslist.

Four days later on April 14, Julissa Brisman was found murdered in the doorway of her hotel room at the upscale Marriott Copley Place hotel. She had an appointment with a man named "Andy" that contacted her through her Craigslist ad.

The two corresponded by phone and by email and the investigators had "Andy's" email address. This proved to be a major break in their investigation.

The news media jumped on the story of the murder and by the following day news stories about the "Craigslist Killer" were being circulated nationwide. The police released a statement about the crime and the hotel surveillance photos of the man that the police wanted to question.

On April 16, Cynthia Melton was attacked by a man at a Holiday Inn Express in Providence, Rhode Island. The man had contacted her through an ad she had placed on Craigslist. Authorities knew by the pictures caught on the hotel security camera that her attacker was the same man that the Boston authorities were looking for -- the one that they called the "Craigslist Killer."

Foxwoods Casino

On April 15, Philip Markoff left Boston and headed to Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut. This was a familiar place to him. He had been there 19 times in the last three months. This time he stayed for two days and managed to turn $700 into $5,300 in winnings.

Police Have a Suspect

On April 18, 2007, the investigators had the emails from "Andy" traced to a "Philip Markoff." They had an address that was an apartment building. What they couldn't find was a driver's license on this Markoff guy.

Then, a lucky break. They did a search on Facebook and located the couple's wedding page that Megan McAllister had enthusiastically put up. That is how investigators learned that Markoff was a medical student at Boston University. They got a copy of his student picture I.D. and compared it to the video images they had of the suspect.

A 24-hour surveillance team was set up, and they followed Markoff in BJ's supermarket. There they were able to pick up items Markoff touched, and they send them off for fingerprint analysis.

Better pictures of Markoff were sent to Melton and Leffler. They both identified him as their attacker.

Philip Markoff is Arrested

On April 20, 2007, Philip Markoff and Megan McAllister were in her car, headed to a Foxwoods Casino when the police pulled them over on I-95.

With guns drawn, they cuffed Markoff and told him he was under arrest for the murder of Julissa Brisman.

Megan McAllister was in shock and kept insisting that the police made a mistake.

Both Markoff and McAllister were questioned. Markoff proved to be difficult. He questioned specifics about his Miranda rights and would not give direct answers to the questions he was being asked.

McAllister was just the opposite. She answered all the questions that they asked without hesitation. There was nothing she felt she needed to hide.

McAllister, still convinced that the police had the wrong person, began contacting news sources with what she thought was the truth. There was no way the Philip Markoff that she knew could have murdered anyone.

She continued to believe in Markoff, up until the time the police divulged the evidence that was discovered in their apartment.

The Search

The evidence found in Markoff's apartment included:

  • A gun was found in a medical book that had been hollowed out. Markoff had purchased it in Mason, New Hampshire using a driver's license in the name of Andrew Miller. The same license was found on him at the time of his arrest. Markoff's prints had also been found in the purchasing document.
  • Bullets matching the kind used in the shooting death of Brisman.
  • Plastic zip-ties that were the same kind as used on the victims.
  • Duct tape that matched that used on Leffler.
  • Laptop computer with fragments of communication to Brisman.
  • Disposable TracFone cell phones that were unused and had been purchased in February 2009.

In the box springs of the couple's mattress, the police found rolled socks stuffed with 16 pairs of panties, two of which had been stolen from Leffler and another two that had been stolen from Melton. The owners of the other 14 were not identified.

The socks concerned investigators. Did it mean there were other victims? Was the reason that Markoff was so cool and collected when he robbed Trisha Leffler because he had done it before? The investigators continued to dig.

On April 21, 2007, Markoff was charged with the murder of Julissa Brisman and other burglary and weapons charges. He pleaded not guilty. Bail was denied, and he was sent to Nashua Street Jail.

Suicide Attempt

On April 23, Markoff tried to kill himself by hanging himself in his jail with his shoelaces. He was moved to the infirmary and placed on suicide watch.

On the same day, Megan McAllister took down the couple's wedding website.

"More Coming Out"

Markoff's parents, sister-in-law and his estranged brother Jonathan visited him in jail for the first time on April 24. This was also the first time Markoff and his brother had spoken in years. Dave Wedge of the Boston Herald reported that the meeting was allegedly overheard by guards and that Markoff told Jonathan, "Forget about me... there is more coming out."

Sexaddict5385

Markoff was right. More did come out about a side of him that nobody knew about, including his fiance.

NBC News Jeff Rossen reported on the "Today" show that Markoff may have been soliciting transvestites on Craigslist. Rossen interviewed the man (who remained anonymous) about his experience with the accused "Craigslist Killer."

Markoff had a Yahoo! Email address, "sexaddict5385," that he used in spring of 2008 to correspond with the anonymous source. The two exchanged erotic emails, and Markoff sent explicit pictures of himself to the man. They corresponded for the last time in January 2009.

Investigators also found evidence of the "sexaddict5385" Yahoo account on Markoff's computer. He had used the email account to register at a BDSM website, Alt.com. It is a website community specializing in alternative lifestyles.

Markoff set up his account in the "Transvestitism" category where he listed himself as a newcomer and his sexual preferences as "submissive." He posted, among other things, that he was interested in wearing a collar and leash and cross-dressing.

Plans of Marriage End

On April 29, McAllister and her mother visited Markoff in jail. Markoff was dressed in a prison suicide robe, called a "Ferguson Safety Blanket" which is given to inmates on suicide watch in exchange for their prison clothing. McAllister spent 25 minutes with him and broke off the engagement. She told Markoff that she would probably never see him again. Markoff had little to say but, "I'm sorry."

She never wrote to the press again in support of her (now) ex-fiancé.

Another Suicide Attempt

The next day Markoff attempted suicide again by using a sharp metal spoon to cut his wrist. He did little damage to himself. 

By June 2009 Markoff had been moved out of the infirmary and was placed in the general population. He became friendly with some of the inmates and set up poker games. By all accounts, he was adjusting to his life in prison.

McAllister visited Markoff one last time to tell him she was going ahead with her plans to go to medical school in the Caribbean. Soon after her visit, Markoff was caught with a stockpile of anti-anxiety pills that he had been prescribed by the prison shrink. He was placed back on suicide watch for a few days, but was again released into the general population.

Suicide

Philip Markoff, age 24, killed himself on Sunday, August 15, 2010, the anniversary of what would have been his wedding day. This time he was determined to die. Starting with what appeared to be a kind shrine, he spread out photos of McAllister on the table inside his cell. He wrote "Megan" and "pocket" in his blood above the doorway of his cell.

  • He slashed major arteries on his ankles, legs and the carotid artery in his neck.
  • He used plastic bags to catch the flowing blood.
  • He swallowed toilet paper so that he could not be resuscitated.
  • He pulled a plastic bag over his head that he tightened with gauze.
  • Then he laid on his bed and covered himself with a blanket.

Philip Markoff got what he wanted. He was dead.

Charges Dismissed

On September 16, 2010, prosecutors filed a nolle prosequi (a legal term meaning they would proceed no further) and dismissed the charges against Philip Markoff. The 120 pieces of evidence against Philip Markoff would someday be released to the public, but legally, Markoff again got what he wanted when his case was dismissed.

Update: Evidence Released

On March 31, 2011, the Massachusetts district attorney's office released the evidence that they had on Philip Markoff. Included in the thousands of pieces of evidence was a pair of brown leather shoes that he was wearing at the time of his arrest. The blood of murder victim Julissa Brisman was found on the shoes.

Along with the blood found on Markoff's shoes, police found a hollowed out medical book where he hid the gun, bullet casings, a knife, the victim’s underwear, incriminating emails, and disposable phones. Prosecutors said that the evidence proved their case against Philip Markoff beyond a reasonable doubt.

Also released was the interview that the detectives had with Markoff on the day of his arrest. In the interview, Markoff is heard denying that he has any knowledge about the crimes that the detectives are describing.

"I didn’t tie up and rob anybody," Markoff said. "I don’t really know what you’re talking about." He then asked for an attorney.

Suffolk County, Massachusetts District Attorney Dan Conley said, “There was apparently a dark and sinister side to Philip Markoff that he took to his grave.” 

Sources:

LaRussa, Paul, "Seven Days of Rage: The Deadly Crime Spree of the Craigslist Killer," New York. Pocket Star. 2010.

McPhee, Michele R., "A Date with Death: The Secret Life of the Accused "Craigslist Killer," New York. St. Martin's True Crime Library. 2010.