Seven Days of Rage: The Deadly Crime Spree of the Craigslist Killer

Overview

The imminent murder trial of Philip Markoff will bring to light the many mysteries behind the secret life and unconscionable acts of the brilliant and well-liked Boston University medical student who came to be known as the Craigslist Killer: How did he conceal his dark side to all who knew him, even his sweet and trusting fiancée? If found guilty of a chain of violent crimes over the course of one week in 2009, including the murder of Manhattan model and masseuse Julissa Brisman in a Boston luxury hotel, what ...

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Seven Days of Rage: The Deadly Crime Spree of the Craigslist Killer

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Overview

The imminent murder trial of Philip Markoff will bring to light the many mysteries behind the secret life and unconscionable acts of the brilliant and well-liked Boston University medical student who came to be known as the Craigslist Killer: How did he conceal his dark side to all who knew him, even his sweet and trusting fiancée? If found guilty of a chain of violent crimes over the course of one week in 2009, including the murder of Manhattan model and masseuse Julissa Brisman in a Boston luxury hotel, what was his motivation? Why did he allegedly use Craigslist, the online bulletin board, to pick out his victims? And what were the clues—pieces of an astonishing puzzle—that led Boston police to arrest the clean-cut, all-American young man with no criminal record who was in reality an out-of-control thrill seeker hiding a lethal sexual life?

This “compelling, suspenseful” (Publishers Weekly) day-by-day account from a producer from 48 Hours Mystery and a Boston Globe reporter goes behind the scenes to reveal how Markoff, once described as “a beautiful person inside and out,” hid his deadly obsessions from the world—and how the Internet can make any one of us the next victim of the most unlikely killer.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Philip Markoff, an average 22-year-old med student with a devoted fiancé, stands accused of robbing a woman at gunpoint in a Boston hotel room on April 9, 2009, and killing another woman less than a week later. In this compelling, suspenseful narrative, author and TV producer LaRosa (Tacoma Confidential) and Boston Globe crime reporter Cramer lay out the chain of events surrounding the so-called Craiglist Killer and his victims--29-year-old Trisha Leffler (vulnerable, agreeable, quick to laugh) and 25-year-old Julissa Brisman (happy to flaunt her come-hither looks)--both of whom Markoff found on the internet classified ads site Craigslist. Among the sordid details, forensics and digital crime-fighting techniques combine to give police the evidence they need, and its emergence proves a particularly interesting aspect of the case. To their credit, LaRosa and Cramer don't let Craigslist off easy; critics blame the site for failing to monitor effectively its adult and erotic advertisements. Because Markoff remains in jail awaiting trial, readers will be left wondering over Markoff's true motives and ultimate fate.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439172391
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • Publication date: 9/15/2009
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Larosa is an Emmy Award-winning producer for the CBS newsmagazine 48 Hours. He won a Primetime Emmy for the acclaimed CBS documentary 9/11, and has also won a Peabody Award, a Christopher Award, and an Edward R. Murrow Award. For sixteen years he was reporter for the New York Daily News, where he was the co-winner with Anna Quindlen of the Meyer Berger Award given by Columbia University's School of Journalism. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and their two children.

Maria Cramer is a reporter for the Boston Globe who covers crime and has been covering this story since the April 14th killing of Julissa Brisman. She covers Boston police for the Globe and has been the lead reporter on numerous crime stories, including the case of Clark Rockefeller, who gained international attention in 2008 when he kidnapped his daughter from a Boston Park and was later connected to the 1984 disappearance of a California couple. She lives in Jamaica Plain, Mass.

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Read an Excerpt

1

A Sweet Blonde

It was Trisha Leffler's first visit to Boston.

Her flight from Las Vegas landed at around 6 p.m. on April 9, and she caught a cab to the hotel she'd booked on Hotwire.com — the Westin Copley Place in Boston's upscale Back Bay, a mecca of shopping for locals and tourists alike. But Trisha wasn't in Boston to shop, see the Red Sox, or walk the Freedom Trail. She was there to work, and after settling into her room — taking a shower and throwing her dirty clothes on the floor — she logged onto her new computer and placed an ad on Craigslist.

For the uninitiated, Craigslist.org is an online bulletin board and the go-to site for just about anything you might desire. For anyone under thirty, it's a way of life, a permanent way station on the Internet to be checked whenever you're looking for an apartment, a job, a coffee table, a book club, a nanny, or a hookup. It's a friend when you're bored, a counselor when you're blue, a release when you're sexually frustrated. It is its own universe. Craigslist is not only the dominant online bulletin board — it's the only one most people can name. More so than even Google or Microsoft, Craigslist is master of its domain.

The ad Trisha posted that evening was simple but not direct. It meandered around the main point but, if you came across it, listed in the board's erotic services section, you knew what was being offered. "It basically said, if you'd like to come spend some time with a sweet blonde, give me a call so we can spend some time together," Trisha recalled. "That's basically the ins and outs of it."

Trisha, a twenty-nine-year-old resident of Las Vegas with a criminal record for soliciting prostitution, put her cell phone number in the ad, then sat back and waited. She'd come a long way from her Mormon roots. Trisha, a bleached blonde, was raised a Mormon in Utah, but by the time she was in her early twenties, she was living full-time in Las Vegas. She began to sell her body, but it wasn't always easy, not when the next batch of younger and more enticing hookers arrived almost daily. So she branched out, and sometimes hit the open road. When she got some money together, she would travel to a different city based on two criteria: it had to be new and interesting, and it had to provide some work.

That's how she found herself in Boston on the evening of April 9. It was now late on Thursday night, bleeding into Friday morning, but it was a drinking night, and for certain guys — alone, or bored with their wives and girlfriends — it was the perfect night to spend some time alone in a hotel room with a "sweet blonde" who made no demands. And Trisha is a nice person, if a little lost in the world. Her best friend seems to be her tiny Pomeranian named Pixie. She's put on a few extra pounds over the years, but her calling card is her easygoing nature, and it's not hard to understand why men enjoy spending time with her. She's vulnerable, agreeable, and quick to laugh.

She waited for the call that was sure to come, because if Trisha knew one thing, it was this: men in Boston were no different from men everywhere else. Sure enough, her cell phone rang. A few guys were interested but there was nothing definite. And then a man called who sounded more serious. Trisha could tell from his questions.

What part of town are you in?
Copley Square.
In a hotel?
Yes, the Westin.
Okay.
What kind of work do you do?
I'm a student.
Okay, so you wanna come by?
Yes.

Trisha had noted in her ad that she had different rates. You could spend a half hour or an hour with her, your choice. "He asked me how much it was for the half hour and the hour and I told him it was two hundred dollars for the hour," she said.

Okay, an hour sounds fine.
Okay, so call when you get to the hotel and I'll tell you what floor I'm on.

Trisha maintains that there was no talk of sex, and no explicit promises were exchanged. "He was just gonna pay me for my time," she said. "And about a half hour or twenty minutes later, he called me when he got to the Westin."

Hey, I'm the guy who called.
Are you here?
Yes, what floor are you on?
Thirteen.
Ah, thirteen, my lucky number.

Trisha employed the routine she always uses when meeting a client for the first time; giving the man her floor number but that's all. She meets the client at the elevator and sizes him up. "If I don't feel comfortable, then I'll just walk away from the person. That way, they don't know exactly what room number I'm in," she said. "If I'm not comfortable, I just tell 'em, 'No thanks.' "

Trisha was done up in a short black, jersey-knit dress that showed off her curves. She walked down the hall to the elevator bank, and the moment the doors opened, she liked what she saw. "He was tall, a good-looking guy," she said. "When I first laid eyes on him, I was comfortable because, you know, he was a regular-looking guy. It didn't look like he had any other tendencies other than just spend a little time and leave. I just said, 'Hi,' and he said, 'Hi,' and I motioned for him to follow me. I didn't really wanna talk out in the hallway."

The man was dressed in a black leather coat, dark jeans, and a tan shirt. He had blond hair and light-colored eyes, and Trisha estimated that he was in his late twenties.

"So we went into the room, and as soon as I closed the door and I had turned around, he was standing there just inside the door. That's when he pulled out the gun. I immediately started shaking. My heart started beating real fast."

Trisha later said that the gun was black and "definitely not a revolver. It was a semiautomatic and it looked to be a pretty big caliber." Remaining as polite as ever, the man ordered Trisha to lie down on the floor. She knew one thing — it was best to remain calm. She did what he asked. The guy was well over six feet and towered over Trisha, who is five foot two and weighs about 135 pounds. "He put the gun back in his pocket and stepped behind me, and he kneeled on the ground with one knee in between my legs and told me to put my hands behind my back, which I did. And then he tied me up, one hand at a time."

You don't have to do all this. You don't have to tie me up. I'll give you whatever you want. You don't have to tie me up.
If you just be quiet, no harm's gonna come to you.

At that point, the good-looking stranger pulled on a pair of black leather gloves. "In the back of my mind, I'm thinking, it's a toy and it's not loaded," she said of the gun. She was reassured by the guy's gentlemanly manner. "He was very calm. He didn't tell me to shut up, he told me to be quiet. I guess you could call him polite. He didn't call me names or swear at me."

Where's your money?
In my purse.

He mistakenly picked up Trisha's makeup case from the desk.

In here?
No, my purse is in the top drawer of the entertainment center.

She had $800 in cash. "He immediately went for the money, took it out, and put it in his pocket. Then he knelt down on the floor and rifled through my purse. He took out my wallet, taking each credit card out, and asking me what kind of credit cards they were."

It was Trisha's habit to carry gift cards. Some had money on them, some did not, but she liked to carry them so that if she was ever in a bind, she could call a friend to put extra cash on the cards. For her, it was easier than carrying regular credit cards. She did have one bank debit card, which caught the man's eye.

What's your pin number?

"My adrenaline was rushing so much, I couldn't think of a lie, so I gave him the pin number."

That better be the pin number or there's gonna be a problem later.

This tall guy, who had remained calm throughout the robbery, put all the cards and Trisha's wallet in his pocket. Suddenly, she was worried, not so much about getting killed but about getting home. Without her ID, getting back to Vegas — getting anywhere — was going to be a major hassle. It's funny the things that go through one's mind at a time like this. Without thinking, Trisha blurted out:

Can you please leave me my ID so I can get home?

"And he took it out and studied it for a good minute like he was memorizing my address and then threw it down with all the rest of the stuff."

So far, so good, thought Trisha. She decided to push her luck.

Can you please leave me at least one credit card?
I thought you said there wasn't any money on them.
There's not but I can have people put money on it so I can get home.
Which one do you want?
The one ending in 7649.

The stranger cleverly slipped that one into his pocket and threw down a different one. Then he picked up a camera — a Sony Cyber-shot — lying with her stuff and asked Trisha if it was hers. It was. She didn't see him take it right then and there, but later she realized it was gone. Now that the guy had all her money, her two American Express gift cards, and her debit card with her pin number, Trisha wondered what was next, and thinking of the possibilities made her very nervous. "I'm still shaking but his demeanor was actually pretty calm, like he had done this before. He seemed to know what to look for."

Whatever was coming, Trisha wanted to face it head-on. She was uncomfortable lying on the hotel carpet.

Is it okay if I sit up?
Okay.

He helped her sit up, but her hands remained tied behind her back.

Where's your phone?
On the table.

He took her cell phone and began going through the numbers, but he was fumbling with it.

What are you doing?
I'm erasing my number.
Can I do it for you?
No, I'll take care of it. I got it.

He still had his gloves on, and after erasing the number, he took the battery out and threw it behind the entertainment center. "He didn't want me to get to it right away," she said. "He started looking around my room a little bit but I didn't say anything to him, and then he picked up a pair of my underwear from the floor and put them in his pocket. He didn't smell them or anything. I thought it was weird but I didn't ask him what he was doing. I didn't care to know. I wanted him out."

The thong panties, left in a pile of dirty clothes, were white and cream colored and had been purchased at Victoria's Secret. "If he looked over at me then, he would have seen the smirk on my face," she said. "I was like, 'What the hell did you do that for?' "

The stranger did not see the smirk but he wasn't ready to leave. He continued to walk around the room, as if looking for something else. He examined her brand-new computer.

Is this yours?
Yes, but it's three years old. You don't want that.
He left it where it was and continued to look around.
Is there a safe in here?
Yes, but there's nothing in it.

He opened it anyway, and then kept circling the room. "I was getting antsy and I wanted him to leave. He was moving furniture around."

What are you doing?
I'm looking for something to tie you to. I need time to get out of here. Or should I just cut you loose?
Yeah, cut me loose. I won't call anyone. I'll give you time to get away.
I don't believe you.

He was playing a game of cat and mouse, and Trisha wanted out. "I started suggesting things he could tie me to, so he would leave. I said, 'What about this, what about that?' but he thought I could move those things. Finally he tied me to the bathroom door and moved away from me."

Trisha couldn't see what he was doing. "I heard him rustling in his pocket for something. I heard the zipper on my suitcase, and then he ended up putting three pieces of tape over my mouth. I noticed at that point he was not wearing gloves and I let him put the tape on me."

Days later she would realize that he had taken a second pair of her underwear, a V€‘shaped pink thong with black bows. It was a new pair she had bought for an upcoming photo shoot.

But at that moment, with the stranger still in her room, Trisha was not thinking about underwear. Her eyes were focused on the huge silver knife with a black handle that the stranger now had in his hand. She suspected the worst, but instead of coming in her direction, the man used the knife to cut the phone lines. "I guess he didn't want me to have a direct outlet," she said. She waited for his next move. Even after everything that had happened, she could not help noticing how tall and good-looking, how normal this stranger seemed. She never would have guessed that he'd be one of the problem ones. He took a long, slow look around the room.

Just stay where you are. In fifteen minutes I'll call security and tell them I heard something in the room. They'll come up and set you free.

And then the man left.

Trisha waited, tied to the bathroom door, her mouth ducttaped shut, her hands tied behind her back. He had, she said, used plastic zip ties for both hands. She did not move. She had to be sure he wasn't outside the door, waiting for her to do something. She didn't want to give him a reason to come back and kill her.

But then, after hearing nothing, "I twisted out of the ties in ten or twenty seconds. I took the tape off my mouth and crumpled it up and waited one more minute."

"I wasn't going to call the cops, but then I thought he might still be in the hotel," she said. If there was any chance of the cops or security catching him, this was it. She stepped into the hallway and looked both ways. Nothing. She grabbed her room key, ran to the nearest door, and pounded. After a moment, a man opened the door.

Trisha was still shaking. The man, a Tennessee doctor in town on business, was hesitant to open the door all the way, but Trisha begged him, "Please, I need to call security. I've just been robbed."

The man opened the door and let her in. It was 12:45 a.m. on April 10. Copyright © 2009 by CBS Broadcasting Inc.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2010

    Epilogue: There will be no trial because...

    ...the defendant made his quietus with a bare bodkin in jail, severing his carotid artery and several veins, suffocating himself with a plastic bag, and hiding under the blankets. He wasn't observed from 1:59 A.M. on August 15, 2010 until 9:59 A.M. -- eight hours! When found, he was beyond revivability, quite dead: closure of a sort. His trial, which had been postponed from June 1, 2010 to March 14, 2011, can never take place as a consequence, and in the eyes of the law he is forever innocent. To paraphrase the Lord Chancellor's boast in Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe:
    The law is the true embodiment
    Of everything that's excellent.
    It has no kind of fault or flaw,
    But Markoff, lords, eluded the law.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    This work invites speculation about motives

    Virtually everyone familiar with this case wonders why a Yale University medical student with a beautiful, loving fiancee would engage in such risky, subcultural, and apparently self-destructive behaviors. Like Neil Entwistle, the Brit convicted of fatally shooting his American wife and baby daughter (see Neil Entwistle's Day In Court), Philip Markoff reportedly surfed "adult" websites. Like Thomas E. Toolan III, the New York investment banker convicted of fatally wounding his artistic female companion with multiple stabs from a four-inch knife(see The Trial Of Thomas E. Toolan III), Markoff has a background that includes at least one reported incident of forcibly restraining a girlfriend. Like Raymond Clark, the Yale University cleaner of mouse cages accused of asphyxiating graduate student Annie Le, Markoff is described as being a "control freak." Did all four of these men harbor hostile feelings toward their mothers that engendered contempt and violence toward women? Were they brought up without moral or religious constraints? The authors suggest that Markoff may have been blackmailed by someone who saw him cruising a gay bar. They also report that prosecutors are confident they possess enough forensic evidence to convict this defendant without proving a motive. Thus these troubling questions may never be answered.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2012

    Disappointed!

    A great read until the ending. The author does not tell what happened to the killer. Disappointed with this ending, left hanging.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 12, 2010

    Wish I hadn't spent the money!

    The first two thirds of the book reads like it was written by a 10th grader, a novice reporter. Identification of the participants was confusing and relationships were not clear, moms, dads, friends, schoolmates, etc. I felt I could have researched the crime on the internet news and gotten just as much information. I enjoy reading the true crime books (Ann Rule #1) but this wasn't a compelling one. I wish I had downloaded the sample of this book and I would have saved my money.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Too Soon

    This was a good book; however, it was written too soon. Before the trial. I like to see the outcome of all cases mixed with the reasons, etc.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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