What would you do if your fiancé were arrested for murder?
Imagine you’re engaged to the man of your dreams — planning a beach wedding with a Vera Wang dress for this August. He’s an intelligent, handsome, 22-year-old med student. You met while you were both volunteering at a Boston medical center. You’re ready to “share a wonderful, meaningful life” with him. Then you wake up to discover your fiancé has been arrested and charged with the murder of a masseuse he met on Craigslist.
What do you do? Be honest. Would you believe his side of the story? Would you dump him immediately? Would you go into hiding?
If you’re Megan McAllister, you stand by your man. Despite the fact that police say her fiancé, Phil Markoff, left an electronic fingerprint linking him to the murder and investigators say they found plastic ties, duct tape and a semi-automatic gun in his apartment.
McAllister defended her fiancé to ABC News Tuesday morning, emailing Good Morning America:
“Unfortunately, you were given wrong information as was the public,” she wrote. “All I have to say to you is Philip is a beautiful person inside and out and could not hurt a fly! A police officer in Boston (or many) is trying to make big bucks by selling this false story to the TV stations. What else is new?? Philip is an intelligent man who is just trying to live his life so if you could leave us alone we would greatly appreciate it. We expect to marry in August and share and wonderful, meaningful life together.”
But police paint a very different picture of Markoff, who pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, armed robbery and kidnapping. Authorities charged Markoff not only with the murder of Julissa Brisman, a masseuse and aspiring model who advertised her services on Craigslist, but with the robbery of another masseuse on April 10. Trisha Leffler, who says she was bound and robbed at the Westin Hotel identified Markoff as the man who robbed and beat her after seeing surveillance photos of Markoff released by police.
“I hope he will be behind bars for the rest of his life,” said Leffler.
Police think Markoff is also be connected with an attempted gun-point robbery of a Craigslist stripper last week in Rhode Island.
Authorities have suggested the murder and robberies may be related to gambling debts. According to the New York Times, Markoff was arrested while driving to Foxwoods casino with his fiancée, McAllister, and $1,000 in cash. He’d been a cash-flush regular at the casino in recent weeks, according to reports.
This whole story is incredibly creepy and horrific on so many levels. Every family member and acquaintance of Markoff paints him as a smart, reliable, straight arrow kind of guy. (Which sounds like the beginning of every serial killer movie you’ve ever seen, right?) His fiancée certainly seems to have her head in the sand about the allegations, despite mounting evidence.
Would we all be so easily fooled if we were in her shoes? Is love that blind?
And what about Markoff? Was he just a kid with a nasty gambling problem that got out of hand? Did he make a horrible decision to rob women he met on Craigslist because he thought they were easy prey? Was the murder simply a botched robbery attempt that escalated to homicide?
Or is this the work of a more studied sociopath?
The evidence found in his apartment suggests the latter.
Finally, there’s the matter of Craigslist. Will thieves and murderers start turning to Craigslist to find easy victims? Should we all be terrified of posting used coffee tables and baseball tickets for fear of falling victim to homicidal maniacs?
I took an informal poll of friends to find out if anyone actually uses Craigslist to find dates … or other personal services.
The consensus is that many people do use Craigslist as a dating service because, unlike most sites, it’s totally free. One young woman told me that a friend of hers met his long-term girlfriend – a French doctor, ooh la la – via good old CL. Sounds like an urban myth to me, but she insisted it’s true.
Another told me that her former roommate used to pick up women from the Craigslist Casual Encounters section on a weekly basis. “He’d ask us to leave the apartment for a few hours because he had a ‘date.’ The women he found usually looked like men, but I guess that was his thing.”
A guy told me there’s no way he’d hire a masseuse, because “I just know somebody, somewhere would find out. But I did buy an awesome nightstand from a hot college sophomore once.”
I asked everyone if at the time they used Craigslist they felt nervous about their transactions. Surprisingly, everyone said no.
The truth is — if you stick to the safe girl rules, keep your exchanges to very public areas and use the buddy system — you’ll likely be fine. As disturbing as these robberies and murders are, the police can easily pinpoint the culprit via IP addresses and cell phone records. That’s obviously little consolation in hindsight, but it may be a deterrent to other potential predators.
I asked my sample group if they’d be nervous finding dates on CL now, after hearing about the so-called Craigslist Killer. Unsurprisingly, they all said yes.
What would you do if your fiancé were charged with murder? Have you ever found a date on Craigslist? Is it still safe?