- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

BOSTON (AP) - A medical student facing charges of murdering a masseuse he had lured to a hotel through Craigslist was linked to the slaying in part by surveillance video and computer evidence, authorities said.

Philip Markoff, 22, was due in court in Boston on Tuesday in connection with the shooting death of a New York woman at a luxury hotel in Boston on April 14 and the kidnapping and armed robbery of another masseuse April 10 who was tied up at another hotel.

Police say Markoff was the man seen on video surveillance using a hand-held texting device at hotels where the women were attacked.

But the stunned fiancee of the Boston University medical school student insists police have the wrong man and there is no way he could have done it.

“He could not hurt a fly,” Megan McAllister said in an email to ABC’s “Good Morning America. “All I have to say is Philip is a beautiful person, inside and out,” she said in the email read on Tuesday’s program.

Authorities say there could be more victims.

“Our top priority is holding Philip Markoff accountable. He’s a predator,” Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley said Monday night in announcing Markoff’s arrest earlier in the day during a traffic stop south of Boston.

Conley said evidence from computer forensic experts and “old-fashioned shoe leather” linked Markoff to the two crimes. Conley’s office refused any further comment Tuesday until after the arraignment, scheduled for noon.

Markoff’s attorney, John Salsberg, did not immediately return a message left at his office on Tuesday morning.

An e-mail message sent to McAllister via her Facebook page was not immediately returned Tuesday. The McAllister family did not respond to knocks of the door of their Little Silver, N.J. home Tuesday. Shortly after, a police officer emerged from home and said the family did not wish to speak with reporters, and asked the media respect their privacy.

Michael Bernard, who lives in Markoff’s building in Quincy, was shocked to recognize his neighbor on television reports of the killing.

“He was smart, he carried himself well, he was clean, a good looking guy,” said Bernard, a retired electric company worker. “He seemed like the type that would have it all. It doesn’t make sense.”

Two of Markoff’s neighbors told “Good Morning America” on Tuesday they were stunned by the accusations.

“I can’t even put it into words, the disbelief I’m feeling right now,” neighbor Jonathan Uva said. “This is a great guy … Just a total disconnect from what we’re hearing in the news.”

Another neighbor, Mike Dye, told the show he had Markoff over to his apartment complex for parties including a Super Bowl party.

Dye said he seemed outgoing, but also rarely talked about himself.

Uva described “Just a nice, normal couple. I lived right next door to him, and I would never have expected this,” Uva said. “We thought they were just regular guys … just our neighbors, like anyone else.”

Police on Monday arrested Markoff, of Quincy, during a traffic stop in Walpole, south of Boston, on charges of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm in the death of Julissa Brisman, 26, who was found dead at the Boston Marriott Copley Place. The New York City woman advertised massage services on Craigslist and had a massage table set up in the room where she was shot, police said.

In addition, Markoff is charged with kidnapping and armed robbery days earlier at the Westin Copley Hotel in Boston involving another woman who also advertised massage services on Craigslist.

Police said they had long suspected that Brisman’s killer was connected to a robbery at the Westin.

Authorities believe Markoff also may be connected to the attempted robbery Thursday in Warwick, R.I., of a stripper who had posted an ad on Craigslist. She was held at gunpoint before her husband entered the room and her attacker fled.

Warwick Police Chief Stephen McCartney said investigators in Rhode Island are working with Massachusetts authorities.

“It is still believed that there is a strong connection between the Holiday Inn Express incident and the crimes that have been committed in the Boston jurisdiction,” he said.

Authorities said Markoff is originally from upstate New York. A Facebook profile matching Markoff’s identity, including his photograph, lists him as a 2007 graduate of State University of New York-Albany and in the 2011 class at BU.

A Boston University spokeswoman said Markoff was suspended from the medical school after his arrest.

___

AP reporters Mark Pratt and Russell Contreras in Boston; Eric Tucker and Hilary Russ in Providence, R.I.; and Wayne Parry in Little Silver, N.J., also contributed to this report.

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