The Most Notable Craigslist Murders Explained

The classifieds of Craigslist can be a life-changing convenience. You can find nearly anything within its digital pages. From cars to homes to jobs and even romance, though the platform officially removed those types of personal ads in 2018, according to NPR. But why? Because along with all of the goodies that can be found on the world's most popular online classifieds, there's been quite a bit of crime to be tied to the platform, too. In the case of the personals, Craigslist removed the section to help fight against sex trafficking, but that certainly isn't the only crime to have connections to the website. Obviously, as with any second-hand market, theft, scams, and the sale of stolen goods will always find a way, but the worst crime to be connected to Craigslist is undoubtedly murder, and there's been more than enough of these life-ending atrocities to make you think twice before meeting up with someone you've only met on the internet.

The number of murders that began as innocent-seeming Craigslist posts is astonishing. With over 100 of these crimes in the books, according to The Washington Post, there's no way we'd have the space to touch on all of them in this article. Instead, we'll give you the most interesting and the darkest of the Craigslist murders, and hopefully you won't fall for the same traps.

Philip Markoff

From the outside, Philip Markoff looked like he was a model young adult. According to ATI, this killer was pursuing a career as a medical doctor, attending Boston University's medical school. On top of that, he was engaged. It really looked like Markoff had a bright future ahead of him, and he probably would have if he hadn't turned into "The Craigslist Killer." 

There was a darker truth to Markoff that couldn't easily be seen behind the white coat. He was riddled with debt. It's the unfortunate price many have to pay for attending college in the United States, and Markoff was in the negative by around $130,000. The future killer also had a bad habit of reaching out in Craigslist personals, searching for a little "strange" on the side, even though he was in a committed relationship. It's these two things that likely led to Markoff meeting up with sex workers he'd contacted through Craigslist in order to dominate them and tie them up so he could rob them.

The Craigslist Killer went a step further in one of these encounters when he shot Julissa Brisman three times. Brisman died in the hospital following the attack, and Markoff was eventually captured with the Craigslist staff's help. There's a good chance Markoff's crimes would've continued had he not been caught, since he attempted to rob another woman only days after he murdered Brisman.

Korena Roberts

The cold-blooded ending of another human's life is one of the darkest crimes a person can commit, and it's horrid to think that even that can be made more twisted, but Korena Roberts proved it so. This murderer, as CBS notes, was so driven by the obsession to have a baby of her own that she committed one of the most gruesome Craigslist murders to have ever happened.

Roberts met her victim through the site while looking for baby clothes in 2009. The killer wasn't pregnant, but the victim was, and she wasn't the first that Roberts had contacted. Just the first one willing to meet her, which was a deadly mistake. Roberts attacked the victim with a collapsible baton and bludgeoned her until there was no life left in her seven-month-pregnant body. But the killer wasn't done. She was driven by a deranged need for a child — it was the entire purpose of their encounter — so she cut the fetus from the dead mother's womb. Roberts then hid the body in a crawlspace.

Had the fetus been born at that point in a hospital setting, it may have survived, but given the conditions by which it was removed from the mother's womb, it didn't have a shot. Roberts' boyfriend discovered her with the deceased infant in the bathtub, and Roberts went to prison.

Latoya Jordan

Once upon a time, long before Tinder and Bumble and all those other apps that replaced actually having to go out and meet people, one place where you could find love was the Craigslist classifieds. There were probably marriages, life-long partnerships, and one night hoorays stemming from steamy personals on the webpage, but lurking amongst them was Latoya Jordan, whose motives would prove less romantic.

According to News4Jax, Jordan met a man in 2011 through posts advertising their desires for a relationship and moved into his home. Apparently, he wasn't the kind of man she really wanted to be with long-term, and if he was, she had an odd way of expressing it. Since, you know, she did so by stabbing him to death. You'd expect a murderer to try to flee or at least give a solid shot at disposing of the body, but Jordan did neither of those things. She had nowhere else to go, so she lived in his home for weeks — next to the man's decomposing corpse — while she tried to score a new place to live through similar Craigslist posts.

Keeping the smell from overpowering her must've been a chore. She covered the body in blankets, adding more periodically, and doused it with cologne and laundry detergent. It wasn't the most efficient plan, that's for sure.

Richard Beasley and Brogan Rafferty

It seems as if newspaper classifieds have dwindled proportionately with the growth of Craigslist's popularity, and because of such, the website has all but replaced print job ads with a digital version. It's especially great if you're trying to find gig work or under-the-table jobs that don't require as much commitment. But with how little information the platform requires from those posting the job ad, it makes it easy for scammers and robbers to swindle job seekers with fake posts. Sometimes in the deadliest of ways.

Coincidentally, a deadly swindle was exactly what Richard Beasley and Brogan Rafferty pulled on their unsuspecting victims. As The Atlantic explains, the pair used a Craigslist ad promising a dream-come-true job to lure their victims in. They advertised for a ranch hand position on a farm of nearly 700 acres in southern Ohio. It came with a moderate paycheck and a free mobile home to live in on the grounds, but the conditions stated the employee would have to move onto the farm, which also meant they'd bring all of their stuff when they showed up. This made it easy for the two men to cash in on the money and belongings of their victims after they walked them into the woods and put them down like deer. As for the farm? It never existed.

According to the Akron Beacon Journal, the pair killed three men before one escaped and put their scheme to an end.

Kiyoshi Higashi, Joshua Reese, Amanda Knight, and Clabon Berniard

Most of Craigslist is filled with people buying or selling stuff, and some of the items up for sale can be worth a pretty penny, which makes their sellers prime targets for robbery. But there's a thing about robbery: Robbery can be botched quite easily. All it takes is a young boy forgotten at home in 1990 when you think the family is on vacation to throw you a curveball, or shaky nerves that lead to rash decisions, causing a different outcome than a robber may have expected going in. And robberies gone wrong can leave bodies on the floor.

After Kiyoshi Higashi, Joshua Reese, Amanda Knight, and Clabon Berniard came across a Craigslist ad for a ring worth slightly over $1000, they devised a plan to make the ring their own. It helped that the seller was meeting the buyers in his home. According to CNN, two of the robbers pretended to be looking for a ring to buy their mother-in-law but quickly pulled a gun on the seller and his family. The other two then entered and bound the family with plastic handcuffs. Things went sideways when one of the robbers pistol-whipped the teenage son, prompting the father to break out of his polymer restraints and charge the robber. Of course, the armed robber then put three bullets into the father, killing him in front of his wife and two kids. All four were found guilty (via King5).

Jade Harris

Some people are so into muscle cars that it becomes a key part of their personality, and there's no better place to find these beastly vehicles than Craigslist. Roaring American muscle can be expensive, though, and where most people would simply pass up the ad and daydream if they couldn't afford one, Jade Harris decided to go on an "Archer"-style rampage instead.

Harris responded to the Craigslist ad for a Chevy Camaro, as KTLA 5 notes, and showed up to meet with the seller. There were four people but no Camaro when the killer arrived. That's when he murdered the first two, tying their hands and putting them on their knees before executing them with shots to the head. But that wasn't enough. He came for the car, and he was determined to leave with it, so he forced the third victim to drive him, along with the victim's teenage son, to where the vehicle was being stored. Then he shot both of them, killing the mother and leaving the son wounded, and just like that, he had a new Camaro. To make matters worse, as LA Weekly explains, the family was selling the car because they'd hit some hard times and needed the extra cash.

It's difficult to picture a situation where killing three people would be necessary, and it's absolutely nauseating to think someone like Harris was capable of doing so just for a day's ride in the vehicle before he was caught.

Elytte and Miranda Barbour

These days, you'll find this more often on apps like Tinder, but back in the glory days of Craigslist personals, you could always find posts from adventurous couples looking to temporarily add a third member into their relationship — or at least their bedroom. Elytte and Miranda Barbour were looking to spice things up in much the same way, except their fetish had a murderous twist. One thing you'll notice as a common thread between many of the killings on this list is that the murderers had something to gain — money, a place to live, a car, etc. — but where this couple of newlyweds was concerned, the only motive was murder for murder's sake (via People).

The Barbours had only been married about three weeks when they picked up a man they'd met through a post on Craigslist. Elytte hid out in the back seat while his wife drove, waiting for his time to strike, and when it approached, he wrapped a cord around the victim's neck. Miranda then stabbed the man nearly 20 times before they dumped his body in some back alley. And why'd they kill this poor gentleman? Because they wanted to commit a murder as a pair.

Miranda claimed to have killed a score of victims over the years as part of her duties in some satanic cult, but the authorities couldn't prove her claims.

Grant Van Muren

Finding a roommate on the web can be a bit of a daunting task. You're never sure what type of person is going to answer your ad, and you'll constantly discover new things about your roommate as time goes on. It's a bit of a gamble, and sometimes you lose. The same goes for finding a lover. Grant Van Muren managed to pull a two-for-one when he scored himself both a place to live and a lover through Craigslist, and the move turned out less-than-well for the new roommate.

According to the Naperville Sun, Van Muren and his new roommate got intimate behind the roommate's girlfriend's back shortly after moving in. Then, things turned deadly. NCTV17 says the pair got into an argument, which turned into a fight, and Van Muren strangled the other man to death. The killer tried to cover his tracks, but he wasn't very good at it. His plan was too elaborate and counted on luck that he apparently didn't have. Van Muren filled the apartment with gas from the stove and shoved papers into the toaster, hoping the heat was enough to catch the paper on fire, then fled.

Real life rarely plays out like the movies, and instead of the apartment bursting into flames and destroying the clues to Van Muren's crime, it simply filled the residence with gas that could be smelled by the deceased roommate's girlfriend. Van Muren was arrested and sentenced to 20 years for second-degree murder.

Chad Johnson

One of the pitfalls of obtaining goods or services from Craigslist is that you're not guaranteed a refund. There are no managers for the Karens of the world to complain to in the world of online classifieds and no 30-day return policy if you're unhappy about your purchase. But that doesn't mean people don't get upset about it, and Chad Johnson got mad enough to kill.

As NBC explains, Johnson picked up a sex worker from Craigslist for a good time, but she didn't finish her — um — professional services, and Johnson wasn't happy about it. He'd paid $80, and he wanted his money's worth. Now, sex workers aren't exactly known for giving refunds. It's like getting a massage and asking the masseuse for store credit because you didn't end up as loose as you'd expected you would. You paid for the time, not the end results. Anyway, Johnson decided that if she wouldn't give him a return on his payment, he'd take her life instead, and he strangled her to death before burying her body in a shallow grave in the woods close to his home.

His defense in court tried to claim that the unfortunate victim had died from an accidental drug overdose, but drugs don't typically leave ligature marks, and Johnson was found guilty of second-degree murder.

Dr. Ali Salim

Craigslist presents a level of anonymity to transactions, social and fiscal, that criminals have a tendency to take advantage of, and the types of people that do this can be quite unexpected. Take, for example, former medical doctor Ali Salim. Doctors take an oath to save lives and do no harm. Their duty is to take the lives of others into their hands and make them better, but Salim decided to end one instead. And the way in which he did so was the twisted, polar opposite of what his vocation was sworn to accomplish.

Salim posted an ad in 2012 offering $200 for a "girl in need," according to Courthouse News Service, and one unfortunate soul answered. She was recently separated from her husband and was nine months pregnant. She needed the cash, but she couldn't know that this attempt to do anything to make it through would actually be her end. Salim sexually assaulted the woman and videotaped himself doing so. The next day, the woman was discovered, overdosed on heroin. It hasn't been confirmed whether or not Salim overdosed the victim intentionally or if he simply provided the heroin that did it, but the courts didn't care one way or the other. He was the cause of this woman's death, and, as such, he was convicted and stripped of his medical license accordingly (via 10 WBNS). Among the charges were abusing a corpse and tampering with evidence.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Vehicle ads led to several murders

The "for sale" vehicles section of Craigslist is filled with scams and the like. Buyers and sellers have to be extra cautious to prevent being taken advantage of, but it also seems like one of the most dangerous areas of the website. Along with killer Jade Harris, there have been several other murders that started with a vehicle sale post on Craigslist.

Jacob Lyn Marshall shot two men with a rifle in Idaho in 2015, killing one and wounding the other, after responding to a post for a Mitsubishi 3000, which he then stole (via Idaho News). According to The Commercial Appeal, in mid-2010s Tennessee, there were at least two people killed in separate incidents having to do with Craigslist vehicle sales within the space of a year. Pix11 tells the story of an elderly couple who was killed while trying to buy a classic Mustang from an ad on the site at around the same time. The list goes on and on.

One thing you'll notice when you come across murders that began as Craigslist vehicle ads is that the majority of them seem to have started out as robberies. Either the faux buyer wanted to steal the car, or the faux seller was baiting in victims to rob. So while these types of murders don't seem to be killing for killing's sake, they should serve as cautionary tales for anyone trying to do business through the platform.