updated 8/15/2010 8:06:52 PM ET 2010-08-16T00:06:52

A former medical student accused of killing a masseuse he met through Craigslist committed suicide in the Boston jail where he was awaiting trial, authorities said Sunday.

Philip Markoff, 24, was found unresponsive in his cell Sunday morning in the Nashua Street Jail, the Suffolk County district attorney's office said in an e-mailed statement, and he was pronounced dead at about 10:15 a.m.

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

Authorities will investigate to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding his death, the district attorney said.

Saturday would have been Markoff's first wedding anniversary, but his nuptials were canceled after his arrest.

Markoff, a former Boston University student, pleaded not guilty in the fatal shooting of Julissa Brisman, of New York City, and the armed robbery of a Las Vegas woman. Both crimes happened at Boston hotels within the span of four days in April 2009. Rhode Island prosecutors also accused him of attacking a stripper that week.

His trial in the Massachusetts cases was expected in March.

Markoff's lawyer, John Salsberg, said he was shocked and saddened about his client's death. He would not comment further.

Markoff had met the women through advertisements for erotic services posted on Craigslist, a classified advertising Web site, prosecutors said.

The Boston Police Department crime lab identified two blood stains taken from swabs on a handgun that was seized during a search of Markoff's apartment in Quincy, Mass., said prosecutors, who alleged Markoff used the weapon to bludgeon Brisman before she was shot three times at close range.

Investigators also found several other items in the apartment, including four pairs of women's underwear wrapped inside socks and hidden in a box spring, authorities said.

A lawyer said Brisman's family was "shocked and dismayed" to hear of Markoff's death.

"Their grief for Jullissa is as fresh today as the day over a year ago when Markoff took Julissa away from them," Boston attorney Djuna Perkins said in an e-mail. "The long-awaited criminal prosecution was their only opportunity to confront him, and now he has taken that away as well."

Still, she said, the family will pursue other "avenues to seek justice" and to help ensure others do not fall victim to violence. She said the family has asked a federal prosecutor in New Hampshire to investigate the gun shop used in the crime.

Markoff was engaged at the time of his arrest. His fiancee, Megan McAllister, ended the relationship with Markoff after visiting him in jail, and their wedding, scheduled for Aug. 14, 2009, was canceled.

In April 2009, Markoff, who had been arrested during a traffic stop as he drove to a Connecticut casino, was placed on suicide watch at the jail where he was being held. Newspaper reports said authorities had found shoelace marks on his neck.

Markoff's parents, Susan Haynes and Richard Markoff, didn't speak to reporters about their son at the time but said through his attorney they loved him very much and supported him. The attorney said then the parents were "very concerned about him," but he wouldn't discuss his client's condition.

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Video: Probe launched in death of alleged Craigslist killer

  1. Transcript of: Probe launched in death of alleged Craigslist killer

    ANN CURRY, co-host: Now more on that accused Craigslist killer found dead in his jail cell on Sunday. NBC 's Jeff Rossen is in Boston this morning with the latest on this story. Jeff , good morning.

    JEFF ROSSEN reporting: Ann , good morning to you. This really came out of nowhere and shocked everyone from prosecutors to Markoff 's own lawyer to Markoff 's own parents, who we spoke to by phone late last night and said they're devastated. Sources say Markoff used his background, his training as a medical student , to commit suicide. He apparently, according to sources, used a pen inside of his cell to stab himself and then suffocate himself, all inside his own jail cell . Prison guards found Philip Markoff 's lifeless body in his cell Sunday morning. He was reportedly dead for hours before anyone noticed. Law enforcement sources say Markoff , the accused Craigslist killer, cut his own arteries in the leg and neck before putting a plastic bag over his head. They believe he killed himself late Saturday night, what would have been his one-year wedding anniversary to Megan McAllister , the fiancee who dumped him shortly after his arrest.

    Ms. PAT BROWN (Criminal Profiler): When the anniversary came up, I think he realized he was never going to have anything like that again and his lawyers weren't going to get him off, he was going to spend the -- spend his life in prison, and that was something he couldn't face.

    ROSSEN: This clean-cut medical student was accused of leading a secret double life. By day, the all- American boy , engaged to a beautiful woman, planning a wedding that would never happen. By night, the Craigslist killer, attacking women he found on the Web site 's erotic services section. Prosecutors say he killed one of them in a Boston hotel room, Julissa Brisman , a massage therapist.

    Mr. MARK PINES (Julissa Brisman's Friend): And the family was getting ready, preparing for the trial, I mean, getting psychologically set to actually look this man in the eye. Now, all of a sudden , we find out the guy's gone.

    ROSSEN: The evidence was piling up against him. Inside Markoff 's home, investigators found plastic ties and duct tape used in the attacks. Sources say he took the victims' panties and kept them as souvenirs under his bed. They say he even hollowed out his own "Gray's_Anatomy" medical textbook and hid a semi-automatic handgun inside.

    Mr. DANIEL CONLEY (Suffolk County, Massachusetts District Attorney): The defendant is a predator. He preys on young women who are vulnerable, who are unlikely to resist, unlikely to fight back.

    ROSSEN: Markoff tried to hurt himself once before when he first got to jail last year. Just after his then fiancee visited him behind bars and told him, ' It's over ,' he cut himself. Markoff was put on suicide watch . Recently, we're told, he kept to himself, alone in his cell, reading a lot.

    Ms. BROWN: This suicide was not a bid for attention that we sometimes see. A prisoner will do that to get people feeling sorry for him. Markoff had medical training, he knew how to kill himself , and he made sure he was very successful at it.

    ROSSEN: A devastating blow for Julissa Brisman 's family, who was looking forward to confronting him in court.

    Mr. PINES: The idea of a trial would have produced closure on any number of levels, and that's where the truth comes out. You know, but that won't happen now.

    ROSSEN: The family of Julissa Brisman is said to be furious by all of this. And we spoke with Philip Markoff 's parents by phone last night, as I mentioned. They told us they're absolutely devastated by this. Now, Ann , the focus shifts here to the prison in the middle of the city of Boston . The question is how the prison officials let this happen, a high-profile inmate left alone for so long where he's able to kill himself in such a slow and agonizing way without being detected for hours. Ann :

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