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 :

NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 8/16/2010 10:58:45 AM ET 2010-08-16T14:58:45

A former medical student accused of killing a masseuse he met through Craigslist used his medical training to kill himself at the Boston jail where he was awaiting trial, NBC News reported.

Philip Markoff, 24, 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.

Law enforcement sources told NBC News that Markoff used his medical training to take his own life, stabbing himself in major arteries in the leg and neck with a pen before putting a plastic bag over his head.

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

His trial in the Massachusetts cases was expected in March.

Criminal profiler Pat Brown said on the TODAY show that the apparent suicide went well beyond a bid for attention sometimes seen among inmates.

“Markoff had medical training, he knew how to kill himself and he made sure he was very successful at it,” she said.

The murder suspect recently kept to himself, spending time reading in his cell, NBC News reported.

The statement released by the district attorney's office noted that Markoff was alone in his cell when found, and that "all evidence collected thus far indicates that he took his own life."

Lawmaker calls for death probe
Boston City Councilor Stephen J. Murphy on Monday called for a probe into Markoff's death, telling the Boston Herald that Sheriff Andrea Cabral “failed in her duty to provide care and custody to an inmate awaiting trial, and because of this failure, the Brisman family will never see justice served."

Murphy, who also serves as the chairman of the council's Committee on Public Safety, told the newspaper he wants Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley to investigate how such a high-profile suspect could take his own life in such an agonizing manner and still stay under the radar of jail staff.

A spokesman for Conley's office said the investigation's first priority is determining Markoff's cause of death.

'Something he couldn't face'
Markoff was engaged at the time of his arrest. His fiancee, Megan McAllister, ended the relationship after visiting him in jail.  Had the wedding plans not derailed, Saturday would have been the couple's first anniversary.

“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," Brown said on the TODAY Show. 

"He was going to spend his life in prison, and that was something he couldn’t face,” she speculated.

Markoff's parents, Susan Haynes and Richard Markoff, told NBC News by phone that they were devastated.  Markoff's lawyer, John Salsberg, said he was shocked and saddened about his client's death. He would not comment further.

'Craigslist killer' investigation
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.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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