Philip Markoff | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers (2024)

Philip Haynes Markoff (February 12, 1986 – August 15, 2010) was an American medical student who was charged with the armed robbery and murder of Julissa Brisman in a Boston, Massachusetts hotel on April 14, 2009, and two other armed robberies.

Markoff maintained his innocence of all charges and pleaded not guilty at his arraignment. A grand jury indicted Markoff for first-degree murder, armed robbery, and other charges.

On August 15, 2010, Markoff committed suicide in Boston's Nashua Street Jail, where he was being held in custody awaiting trial.

The media have referred to this murder and other murders as "Craigslist killings" because the killer was alleged to have met his victims through ads placed on Craigslist, two of whom were offering erotic services. The events surrounding the killings were dramatized in a made-for TV movie; The Craigslist Killer aired January 3, 2011 on the Lifetime Network.


Markoff was the son of Susan Haynes and Richard Markoff, a dentist in Syracuse, New York. He had an older brother, Jon Markoff.

He graduated in 2004 from Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High School, where he was a member of the National Honor Society, the History Club, and the Youth Court, and the school bowling and golf teams. His former English teacher and neighbor described him as "a good student and just a really nice kid. Smart, wanting to succeed, nothing strange, nothing out of the ordinary".

After high school, Markoff attended SUNY Albany where he was a pre-med student and member of the Young Republicans. He graduated from SUNY Albany in 2007. He was a second-year medical student at Boston University School of Medicine at the time of the crimes. He was suspended from the school following the charges against him.

Markoff met Megan McAllister, a native of New Jersey, in 2005 while they were both volunteers at the Albany Medical Center Hospital emergency room. They were engaged to be married, with their wedding planned for August 14, 2009. McAllister was to have begun medical school in the fall of 2009.

Robberies and murder

Markoff was suspected in three robberies – one of which resulted in the murder of Julissa Brisman – that occurred in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Each robbery involved a woman victim, and the crimes were closely spaced in time and exhibited strong similarities.

1. Trisha Leffler (an escort) was bound, gagged, and robbed at gunpoint on Friday, April 10, 2009, at the Westin Copley Place Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts.

2. Julissa Brisman (who had posted an advertisem*nt online offering massage services) was found dead on Tuesday, April 14, 2009, at the Copley Marriott, also in Boston.

3. Corinne Stout (an exotic dancer offering lap dance services) was the victim of attempted robbery on Thursday, April 16, 2009, at a Holiday Inn Express in Warwick, Rhode Island.

Law enforcement officials suspect that all three were committed by the same individual.

Arrest and legal proceedings

On April 20, 2009, citing security camera footage, cell phone activity, and email accounts as evidence, police arrested Markoff, who was living in the High Point Apartments in Quincy, Massachusetts. Markoff was charged with armed robbery and kidnapping for the events of April 10, and murder in the death of Brisman on April 14. The arrest took place on Interstate 95 in Walpole, Massachusetts, while Markoff and McAllister were en route to Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.

On April 21, Markoff was arraigned on murder and gun charges brought by the Suffolk County DA in Brisman's slaying. The DA stated that physical evidence, including a semi-automatic handgun, wrist restraints, duct tape, and other materials were found in Markoff's apartment when the police executed a search warrant.

At his arraignment, where he was represented by Boston attorney John Salsberg, Markoff maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty to all charges. He was held without bail on a murder charge, although separate bonds were set on charges of armed robbery and kidnapping stemming from the incident involving a second woman.

On May 4, 2009, a warrant was issued in Warwick, Rhode Island, for Markoff's arrest, seeking to charge him with assault, attempted robbery, and weapon possession in the April 16 Holiday Inn Express case. However, the Rhode Island Attorney General said that their prosecution would not go forward until the Boston cases ended.

Originally, the trial against Markoff was expected to begin in July 2010. A judge subsequently delayed the start of the trial until March 2011. Markoff's lawyer had contended that Markoff had already been unfairly "convicted" in the media at the time of his arrest, thereby adversely prejudicing his right to a fair trial.

The Suffolk County District Attorney formally terminated prosecution as a result of Markoff's death.

Reaction of family and friends to allegations

Friends, neighbors, and former teachers expressed shock and disbelief at the charges. Some of his friends set up a Facebook group entitled "Philip Markoff Is Innocent Until Proven Guilty".

Markoff's fiancée Megan McAllister initially issued statements affirming her belief in his innocence. She described Markoff as "beautiful inside and out" and stated that he "couldn't hurt a fly". On April 29, McAllister's attorney Robert Honecker accompanied her to visit Markoff in jail and said that the couple's August 14 wedding plans were "dismantled". She visited Markoff again on June 11, 2009, and Honecker said McAllister told Markoff she was going to medical school and said it would be "a long period of time, if ever, before she would see him again".

Suicide attempts and death

Unsuccessful suicide attempts

Markoff made several apparent suicide attempts while at the Nashua Street Jail. In the first incident, jail officials found "shoelace marks" around Markoff's neck on April 23, 2009, three days after his arrest, and they placed him under suicide watch in the psychiatric unit of Nashua Street Jail, where he was monitored around the clock.

In a second incident, on the night his fiancee broke up with him, Markoff attempted to slice his wrists with a spoon he sharpened to a point using concrete in his cell. He was taken off suicide watch a few days later. In a third incident on August 14, 2009, the day his wedding had been scheduled to take place, Markoff was found to have stashed medication and was taken to a medical facility.


On August 15, 2010, one year and one day after the date his wedding was to have taken place Markoff was found dead in his cell at Boston's Nashua Street Jail. The cause of death was later confirmed as suicide by self-inflicted wounds and suffocation. Prior to taking his life, Markoff reportedly wrote "Megan", his former fiancee's name, and "Pocket" (their pet name for each other) in blood on the wall of his cell; he also placed her photographs around his cell.

Professionals disagree on the meaning of Markoff's final actions. Casey Jordan, a lawyer and criminologist, believes Markoff thought he was doing McAllister a favor by killing himself rather than putting her through an embarrassing trial at which she would have been required to testify: "He believed it was a kind thing he did. It makes sense that he wrote her name and put up her photographs because she was the last thing he was thinking of." However, Lynne Schwartz, a forensic psychologist practicing in New York State (who emphasized that she has had no direct contact with Markoff) said that the methods he employed show that he was thinking more about himself than Megan. "If you want to say goodbye to someone, you write a note and leave it in your cell," she said. "It all felt very hostile to me ... he feels like he's the one who's been betrayed. It's all about him. He didn't say, 'I'm sorry, you were the most important person in my life. I beg your forgiveness.' Think about it: who communicates in blood? Doing it this way is not about love to me."

Markoff's death while in custody raised concerns about the safety of inmates in Massachusetts prisons. The Chairman of the Boston City Council Public Safety Committee, Stephen Murphy, called for an independent investigation of Markoff's death and procedures at the Nashua Street Jail. Murphy asserted that jail officials had a duty of proper care and custody of all inmates and that Markoff should have been watched more closely given his prior suicide attempts.

Files tell more about ‘Craigslist killer’

Released documents illustrate a double life

By Maria Cramer and Shelley Murphy -

April 1, 2011

Less than eight hours after Philip Markoff robbed a woman at gunpoint in a Boston hotel, he jumped on a plane to Baltimore to visit his grandparents for Passover. Two days later, police said, he shot and killed another woman, Julissa Brisman, in a Back Bay hotel.

Around those two crimes and a third he committed in Rhode Island, Markoff went about his life as a Boston University medical student, studying, chatting on the phone with his fiancee, Megan McAllister, and gambling at nearby casinos.

The details were disclosed yesterday in files on the Markoff case released by the Suffolk district attorney’s office. The thousands of documents show the juxtaposition of an accused killer who found his victims through Craigslist and a seemingly average student struggling to pay bills and with few friends in the city where he had lived for two years.

Markoff was months away from his wedding to his college sweetheart when police arrested him in the April 14, 2009, slaying of Brisman, a 25-year-old New York woman Markoff met through an online posting she placed on Craigslist, advertising erotic massages.

He was arrested April 20, after a weeklong crime spree during which he also assaulted two prostitutes in separate hotels in an attempt to rob them. One of the assaults occurred two days after Brisman’s killing, frightening police and the public. At the time, Markoff, of Sherrill, N.Y., was 23 years old.

“I realized we were dealing with someone who murdered without hesitation,’’ Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said yesterday. “We had the trappings of a serial murderer here about to take off.’’

The man arrested, the son of a dentist, had no criminal record and a seemingly bright future.

Prosecutors were forced to drop the murder charges against Markoff when he committed suicide last August in the Nashua Street jail, where he was awaiting trial.

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said evidence against him was overwhelming.

The case files released yesterday include a transcript of a lengthy interview with Markoff after detectives took him in for questioning on April 20, 2009, plus new details of the fast-paced investigation and a 78-page transcript of a police interview with McAllister, who has not spoken publicly about her relationship with the man dubbed the “Craigslist killer.’’

During the 70-minute interview, McAllister said the couple was living off student loans because as a student Markoff could not work and she was unemployed.

“We’re living dollar to dollar,’’ McAllister said. “I mean, this is how everyone lives. Either, you know, you have rich parents who pay for your medical school or you take out loans.’’

She said she had searched Craigslist to look for nanny jobs, but Markoff never went on the site.

“Oh, no, no no, no, no. . . . He doesn’t go on Craigslist,’’ she said. “I mean . . . he’s not going to find work or anything, you know.’’

Detectives pressed her, asking how she could be so sure.

“He tells me everything,’’ she said.

McAllister, who was 25 at the time, was cooperative and open, describing a somewhat lonely life for the couple.

“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.’’

Once or twice a month, she said, they went to Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, where Markoff would play blackjack while McAllister watched.

She said he was not a heavy gambler.

“If he’s up, he’ll keep playing, but if he loses money, he’ll stop,’’ she said.

He seldom went to class, reading his professors’ lectures online instead.

“I mean, we’re in the apartment 24/7,’’ she said. “He doesn’t have a life because he’s in medical school.’’

The month of the crimes, however, McAllister said she had gone home to New Jersey to plan the wedding. She said she talked to Markoff every night.

When detectives showed her surveillance photos of Markoff taken on one of the nights of the crimes, she began to realize they believed that her fiance resembled the suspect.

But she immediately defended him.

“He complains about money all the time, that, you know, we have no money, so he’s not going to rob somebody,’’ she said. “He’ll go to the casino to try to win money. He’s not going to rob somebody.’’

After Markoff’s arrest, reports circulated that he robbed women to feed a gambling addiction, but yesterday Conley said there was no clear motive.

“There apparently was a very dark and sinister side to Philip Markoff that he took to the grave with him,’’ Conley said.

McAllister was interviewed after police stopped the couple on Interstate 95, as they headed to Foxwoods.

During her interview, Markoff was in another room at Boston police headquarters, telling two other detectives he had no idea why he was there. “Well, what’s this about?’’ he asked them.

The detective asked him repeatedly if he had seen any of the news footage and pictures in newspapers about the case showing a man who looked like him.

“Like I don’t watch local news,’’ he told detectives. “I’m not from Boston.’’

By then, police had tracked e-mails he had sent Brisman to his Quincy apartment, and one of his victims had identified him from a picture. When police took him in for questioning that day, he was wearing the shoes he wore the night of Brisman’s killing. Her blood was splattered on them.

But the transcripts show the detectives still wanted to obtain a confession.

They asked him if he had been at any downtown hotels in recent weeks, if perhaps he might have been meeting with women behind his fiancee’s back and was too ashamed to admit it. Maybe, one of the detectives said, feigning sympathy, something went wrong in one of those hotel rooms.

“Sometimes, Philip, when things happen, it’s a pretty ugly situation,’’ Detective Dennis Harris said. “We don’t mean them to happen, you know. . . . It only makes things worse if you lie about it.’’

After repeated questioning about where he was on the night of the crimes, Harris asked him if he was getting frustrated.

“Yeah, because you keep on asking me the same questions,’’ Markoff said.

He denied having anything to do with the crimes.

“I didn’t tie up and rob anybody,’’ Markoff said. “I told you I don’t know what you’re talking about, so can you get me an attorney?’’

The interview ended shortly after that. In the other room, the interview with McAllister was coming to a close, but the young woman had become alarmed.

“Is there any reason for me to be like scared to go home with this person?’’ she asked.

Robert Merner, then head of homicide, 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?’’

John R. Ellement and Matt Carroll of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

'Craigslist Killer' Philip Markoff Wrote Ex-Fiancee's Name in Blood as He Killed Himself

By Michele McPhee -

August 16, 2010

"Craigslist Killer" Philip Markoff wrote his ex-fiancee's name, "Megan," in blood on a wall as he killed himself in his jail cell on the anniversary of what was supposed to have been his wedding, ABC News has learned.

Markoff, a former medical student, also wrote a second word in blood -- what looked like "pocket" -- as part of his elaborate suicide, a source said.

The former medical student evidently used an object shaved into a razor to slash major arteries in his ankles, legs and neck, and wrote the words in blood, sources told ABC News. He wrapped his wounds in plastic, covered his head with a plastic bag and stuffed toilet paper down his throat so jail authorities could not resuscitate him, then covered himself head-to-toe with a blanket, sources added.

After several cell checks, a deputy sheriff noted that Markoff's body hadn't moved and made a "health and welfare check on him," said a source at the Nashua Street Jail.

"They pulled the cover back and it was a bloodbath,'' said another law enforcement source at the jail. "Her name was in a prominent place in the cell."

Amid Markoff's evidently elaborate suicide strategy, Boston City Councilor Steve Murphy has ordered an investigation into the circ*mstances surrounding the suicide.

"He clearly knew what he was doing,'' said a law enforcement source at the jail. "There were multiple cuts and he suffocated himself with a plastic bag and swallowed a wad of toilet paper."

Officials initially thought the blood-splattered instrument on Markoff was a razor. Later, an official told ABC News that Markoff managed to fashion "a razor out of a jail-issued pen," while another official said he made it from a "silver receptacle plate" that covered an old electrical outlet.

Markoff reportedly had attempted to kill himself two prior times at the facility after his arrest in April 2009.

On April 21, 2009, as Markoff was transported from Boston police headquarters to the Nashua Street Jail, he stuffed wads of toilet paper down his pants telling detectives, "I might need this later," ABC News reported.

Hours later, Markoff made his first suicide attempt. He pulled leather strips out of his boat shoes, tied them together, and tried to hang himself from the bars on his cell. He was transferred to a secure medical unit and put under 24-hour suicide watch.

On April 30, 2009, a day after his fiancee, Megan McAllister, broke up with him in jail, he attempted to rake a serrated spoon over his wrist.

Family of Julissa Brisman Reacts to Phillip Markoff Suicide

Murphy, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, suggested that Markoff may have met with foul play. But that theory was dismissed by Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis and Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley.

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

Officials at the 654-bed maximum security jail did not say how long he may have been dead.

ABC News reported he severed his femoral artery and wrapped his leg in a clear plastic garbage bag. He also pulled another bag over his head.

Markoff was awaiting trial for the murder of Julissa Brisman, a woman he found on Craigslist offering sensual massage. Markoff was charged with robbing two other women offering similar services on Craigslist.

Markoff's death denies Brisman's family a long-awaited opportunity to confront him and hear the details of their loved one's final moments, said Djuna Perkins, an attorney for Brisman's mother, Carmen Guzman.

"First, he took their daughter from them, then he denied that opportunity for them," Perkins said. "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."

Perkins said Markoff was determined to commit suicide.

"He was somebody who had an anatomical knowledge. He was a smart guy. I'm sure he could find plenty of time to think," Perkins said.

ABC News' Michael S. James and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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