The Disturbing Truth Of Craigslist Killer Philip Markoff

Meeting up with internet strangers is common practice these days. Dating apps and sites, once a shameful secret of the past, have become one of the most popular ways to meet prospective partners and one-time good nights. With the COVID-19 pandemic messing up in-person encounters, it's become even more so. Many have social horror stories from meetings like these, while others have met their true loves. But before dating apps were around, there was the Craigslist personals section, and at least one alleged killer, named Philip Markoff, used it to prove that meeting strangers from the internet isn't always the best idea, and he did so in deadly fashion.

This killer's crime spree was active for a short time during 2009, and honestly, he didn't have the most prolific career where serial killers are concerned. He didn't even start out as a murderer, and he may have never thought he'd walk down that road until he'd pulled the trigger. Purportedly, Markoff was some sort of sadistic robber in the bulk of his crimes, which ATI hints may have stemmed from a gambling problem. Though, he was believed to have enjoyed exercising his dominance over the victims he met through sex work postings, or so the prosecution in his trial argued anyway (via The Boston Globe). Markoff was off the streets within days of his supposed crimes beginning. It's a quick story, but an exciting one with disturbing details that might make you think twice before meeting up with strangers from the internet.

On a path to be a doctor

Once upon a time, the Craigslist Killer known as Philip Markoff was believed to be an upstanding citizen with a bright future ahead. When he was arrested for the murder of Julissa Brisman, according to Boston University's publication BU Today, he was only 22 years old while attending the university's medical program. That's quite a feat, having finished a bachelors and entered into the rank of med students before having his insurance premium discounted at the age of 25. Beyond that, Markoff was engaged, one step away from starting the family life.

ATI says that Markoff's teachers believed him to be brilliant. As with many serial killers, many good things were said about him — the masses were in awe — but this isn't one of those pieces that asks where everything went wrong. Markoff was supposed to be on a path meant to heal the sick and wounded and to save the dying, but this medical student decided to take life rather than nurture it. He was a killer, regardless of how it may have looked from to outsiders before he was caught. And who knows what kind of slasher film monster Markoff would've become with an M.D. attached to his name if he hadn't been caught.

He thought sex workers would be easy prey

The Craigslist Killer had an M.O. like every other alleged serial. In fact, his reportedly choice in victims was one echoed by serial killers throughout time. He purportedly murdered sex workers just like Robert Hansen did, like the "Green River Killer" did, like the infamous Jack the Ripper did. According to A&E, Philip Markoff wasn't near as prolific as the aforementioned killers, having only allegedly taken a single life before his crime spree came to an end. It may only be one murder, but he supposedly committed far more than one crime. He was known to have contacted at least three women via sex work ads on Craigslist, met up with them in fancy hotels, then reportedly shoved a gun in their faces before tying them up and robbing them.

The Suffolk district attorney in Markoff's case said he didn't choose his victims because the robberies filled his pockets (via The Boston Globe). Markoff picked sex workers because he wanted someone he could hurt and dominate, without consequences. Since illegal sex workers live on the edges of societal protections, it's not as easy for them to contact authorities for these types of issues and even harder to convince authorities to take their concerns seriously. The American Sociological Association confirmed Markoff's apparent motives by categorizing his proposed reasoning for choosing his targets as one of two reasons why killers go after sex workers. The other being sexual fantasies Markoff wasn't known to have.

Killed himself in his jail cell

It's hard to say whether Philip Markoff was repentant for his reported crimes at the time of his death, especially since he took his own life in his jail cell in 2010, but it's easy to assume the guy had some serious untreated mental health issues. What's the final factor that pushed him toward suicide? It's hard to say, but the evidence of his questionable mental health was literally painted on the walls. 

According to ABC, the reported Craigslist Killer's death came at what can be presumed as a deeply emotional time for the previously captured alleged murderer. That death day fell directly on what would've been the one-year anniversary of his wedding if his ex-fiancée hadn't ended things with Markoff while he was locked up. Markoff reportedly took it personally, as was clear with his bloody artwork on the walls of his cell, where he wrote the ex-fiancée's name before fading from this world.

This wasn't the first time the alleged Craigslist Killer had tried to kill himself after having been placed under arrest. He'd tried two other times but was stopped before he could go through with it and was placed under suicide watch. Markoff died before standing trial for Julissa Brisman's murder, potentially robbing her family of closure.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health websiteIf you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Not the only Craigslist Killer

Philip Markoff may allegedly be the "Craigslist Killer," but he's definitely not the only one. According to Craigslist Killings, a blog dedicated to keeping track of the known murders to originate from the popular classifieds site and how to keep oneself safe from falling victim to this type of murder, there have been 132 Craigslist murders to date. Now, this blog's numbers could be off, but it's safe to say there are more killings originating from the site than any casual user would feel comfortable with.

As A&E points out, Michael John Anderson murdered a babysitter after luring her to meet up by pretending to be a woman looking for a sitter to watch her 5-year-old son. Similarly, Richard Beasley lured in multiple victims with an ad claiming he'd pay people to live on and keep an eye on his property. Little did the victims know the offer of money and living quarters was nothing more than a ruse to bring the bodies, along with their cash and belongings, straight to him. Then there's Jade Douglas Harris, who, according to the Press-Telegram, was sentenced to death earlier this year for killing three people after responding to a car ad on the site.

The list of Craigslist killers is too long to fit into this article, but it's safe to say that as long as the site remains active, the murders connected to it are likely to do the same. So, stay safe in the classifieds.