Craigslist is a free online classifieds website where members can advertise and respond to advertisements on a variety of subjects - from furniture, housing, job search and internships to even peddling and purchasing erotic services. Founded in 1995 by Craig Newmark, the website works because it gives people 'a sense of community trust and intimacy'. Time has also proved it to be the perfect haunt for prospective murderers, like Boston University Medical student, Philip Markoff.
Philip Markoff, 23, came across as an easy-going, smart young man to all those who knew him. However, his darker side surfaced last Monday when he was taken into custody and charged with armed robbery and kidnapping of a woman who advertised as a stripper through Craigslist. He is also being held without bail for the fatal shooting of Julissa Brisman, 26, at the Marriott Copley Place hotel, Boston. She was an 'erotic masseuse' whom he contacted through the same online channel.
As police try to demystify the murky details surrounding this case and look for a possible motive, it has emerged that Markoff may be facing a gambling problem. He was a "frequent visitor" to Foxwoods casino, Connecticut. In fact, the day of the arrest, Markoff and his fiancée, Megan McAllister were headed to the same casino and police found close to $1000 on him. This has led law enforcement officials to believe that Brisman's murder was not premeditated, taking into consideration the fact that she was not sexually assaulted before being killed. It was a robbery that went terribly wrong, both for the unsuspicious Brisman and for killer-to-be Markoff.
Even though the procedural not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf, police are gathering mounting incriminating evidence against the med student. They have found the underwear and other 'souvenirs' that he took from his victims, stowed away in his flat. Additionally, ballistics tests have made a preliminary match between the bullets that killed Brisman, an aspiring model, and a gun found in Markoff's home. On Thursday, a law enforcement official in Rhode Island said that a fingerprint found at the hotel where an exotic dancer was held at gunpoint last week matched that of the accused. Held without bail on charges of murder, Markoff is also on suicide watch as guards recently found some (possibly self-inflicted) marks around his neck.
However, all those who know Markoff are still in shock, particularly his fiancée. She insists that police have the wrong man In an email by Megan McAllister to ABC's Good Morning America on Tuesday, she said, "He could not hurt a fly...All I have to say is Philip is a beautiful person, inside and out." His family, who visited him in jail for the first time yesterday, has declined to comment.
It might seem a little morbid, but following up on the recent Craigslist-related killing is almost like watching TV re-runs of old soap episodes. This is not the first time that 'Craigslist Crimes' have happened, and the Markoff murder is not going to be the last either, what with the website's owners still stubbornly refusing to plug prostitution classifieds.
Unmonitored use of Craigslist has resulted in bloody ends even before. In November 2007, 19-year-old John Michael Anderson posted an ad for a babysitter on the popular website. The unsuspecting young woman who replied to the phony ad, Katherine Ann Olson, was shot dead by the crazed teenager at his home. Anderson is now serving a life sentence without parole for the gruesome killing. In another similar incident, Donna Jou, a 19-year-old college student has been missing since June 2007 after a convicted sex offender she met on Craigslist lured her into going to a party with him. Earlier this year, New York radio reporter, George Weber's ad on Craigslist offering $60 for "rough sex" was his shortcut to the grave. The 16-year-old who answered Weber's ad stabbed him 50 times in his Brooklyn apartment.