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BUPD’s Role in the Markoff Investigation

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

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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.

Edward A. Brown can be reached at ebrown@bu.edu.

5 Comments

5 Comments on BUPD’s Role in the Markoff Investigation

  • Paul2009 on 07.27.2009 at 5:25 am

    "teaching moment"

    What pro-active steps are the BU Police or any other department concentrating on to possibly avoid repeats of acts as those of Markoff ? Though its likely a irresolvable conundrum the collective wisdom of the school may focus on prevention of gambling, sex, and substance addiction, etc.

  • Anonymous on 07.27.2009 at 7:44 am

    I wonder if the angle for this was the make BU look good. LOL.

  • Anonymous on 07.27.2009 at 11:13 am

    Finest law enforcement agency in the country

  • Anonymous on 07.29.2009 at 1:59 pm

    Good lord. So all BUPD did was hand over a photo to authorities, and BU Today manages to squeeze an almost 500-word story out of it. The way this was positioned on the front page of BU Today, you would think BUPD caught Philip Markoff all by themselves, when in fact they hardly anything. Way to toot your own horn and show your true “public relations disguised as journalism” colors, BU Today.

  • Anonymous on 07.29.2009 at 3:41 pm

    BU should probably try to treat their students well to avoid further cases like this. the way the administration goes about things is maddening.

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