Files tell more about ‘Craigslist killer’

Released documents illustrate a double life

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By Maria Cramer and Shelley Murphy
Globe Staff / April 1, 2011

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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. Maria Cramer can be reached at Shelley Murphy can be reached at


Listen to excerpts from a police interview with Philip Markoff
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Listen to excerpts from a police interview with Megan McAllister, Markoff's ex-fiancee
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The Craigslist killer case