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BUPD’s Role in the Markoff Investigation

“Small but instrumental,” says prosecuting DA’s office

| By Edward A. Brown

Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

As the case against Philip Markoff, the Boston University School of Medicine student accused of being the “Craigslist Killer,” slowly wends through the judicial system, new details about the role played by the BU Police Department in his arrest have emerged.

“Small, but instrumental” is how Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley, describes BUPD’s participation.

Boston police contacted their University counterparts after identifying Markoff, 23, as a suspect in the murder of 25-year-old masseuse Julissa Brisman. BUPD promptly provided a photograph of Markoff, later used in a “photo array” presented to witnesses.

According to Wark, the suspect identification process has improved substantially in recent years. Rather than relying on traditional lineups or mug shots, witnesses are now shown images of individuals who share general attributes with the suspect. Photos are presented in a sequence, instead of all at once.

The photo supplied by BUPD was shown to a woman police believed was another Markoff victim, Trisha Leffler. She positively identified Markoff as the man who robbed her on April 10. Based on this and other evidence and information, police arrested Markoff on April 20.

The case is now slowly moving towards trial. On July 16, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Frank Gaziano denied a motion by Markoff’s lawyer, John Salsberg, in which Salsberg demanded an inquiry to determine whether the grand jury’s indictment was tainted by media coverage.

Gaziano wrote that he saw no facts “suggesting that grand jurors were influenced by feelings of bias or prejudice. Moreover, the defendant has not demonstrated that the indictments were improperly based on feelings of ‘hatred or malice,’ as opposed to indictments properly returned after the grand jury considered evidence that the defendant committed the charged crimes.”

Since his arrest, Markoff has pled not guilty to seven charges pertaining to Brisman’s death, including first-degree murder, kidnapping, and armed robbery. He is also accused of robbing Leffler, 29, who says Markoff took her debit card, a $250 gift card, and $800 in cash.

Markoff allegedly attacked both victims in hotel rooms in Boston, after he responded to advertisements the women reportedly posted on the Web site Craigslist, a detail that catapulted the case to national prominence and prompted Craigslist to suspend and restructure its “erotic services” section.

Markoff’s fiancé, Megan McAllister, has released two statements since his arrest, both asserting his innocence. His immediate family has appeared supportive but has not spoken with the press, though his grandfather expressed shock soon after the arrest was made.

Markoff will return to Suffolk Superior Court for another pre-trial hearing on August 11. His trial has tentatively been set to June 1, 2010.

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