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Authorities are investigating the apparent jail cell suicide of the so-called "Craigslist Killer."
Former Boston University medical student Philip Markoff was found dead in his cell at the Suffolk County Jail on Sunday — seven months before he was scheduled to go on trial for murdering a masseuse in a Boston hotel more than a year ago.
As of Monday morning, few details on the death had been released by the Suffolk County sheriff's office. As this was such a high-profile case, it's unlikely this Suffolk sheriff's department will say anything before they're 100 percent sure of what happened.
The Details So Far
Reports indicate that Markoff was found in his cell on Sunday morning with a bag tied over his head.
Markoff went on suicide watch immediately after he was arrested for murdering a masseuse in a Boston hotel in April 2009. Before the arrest, it seemed he had everything going for him. He was going to be a doctor and engaged.
After the arrest, he was also charged with robbing two other women at hotels in Rhode Island and Boston. Prosecutors say Markoff arranged to meet these women on Craigslist, and then robbed them to pay his gambling debts.
We know that he was eventually removed from suicide watch and integrated into the rest of the inmate population, but we don't know what happened after that.
Reacting To Markoff's Death
Markoff's attorney, John Salsburg, said he is "shocked and saddened," but wouldn't say any more than that.
Attorney Djuna Perkins released a statement on behalf of the murder victim's family.
"The family of Julissa Brisman is shocked and dismayed by the news of Philip Markoff's suicide. Their grief for Julissa is as fresh today as the day over a year ago when Markoff took Julissa away from them. The long-awaited criminal prosecution was their only opportunity to confront him, and now he has taken that away as well."
Perkins wrote that the family plans to "pursue other avenues to seek justice." They have asked a federal prosecutor in New Hampshire to investigate the gun shop where Markoff allegedly bought the gun he used in the crime.
The only person who doesn't seem surprised by Markoff's suicide is criminologist James Alan Fox, a professor at Northeastern University.
"It makes sense that a man like this, who by all accounts appeared to be narcissistic and sociopathic, would not want to go and face the music," Fox said. "He would not want to go into a court a few months down the road and be humiliated and degraded and have testimony about his idiosyncrasies in front of his family, in front of the family of his victims, in front of the world."
Another Prison Suicide?
There's increasing concern in Massachusetts about a recent spate of prison suicides.
Prisoner rights advocate Leslie Walker, who directs Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, calls Markoff's death a tragedy. She thinks several questions about the way Markoff was handled in jail need to be answered.
"Was he isolated in a way that would contribute to his anxiety level or depression?" asked Walker. "What kind of property was he allowed to have?"
Walker is calling for a thorough investigation conducted by an independent body. And she's not alone — Boston City Councilor Stephen Murphy says city Sheriff Andrea Cabral has failed in her responsibility to provide "care and custody" to Markoff.
"We have certainly failed on the care part of it, because somehow he was able apparently to be alone for enough time and have enough tools available to take his own life," Walker said.
Recalling The Past
Sunday's events bring to mind another high-profile prison suicide some 14 years ago. John Salvi was convicted of murdering two receptions at an abortion clinic. He was serving a life sentence in prison, at Cedar Junction, in Walpole, when he committed suicide. Officials said he used a plastic bag, too.
Afterward, prison watchdogs called for greater oversight of inmate's mental health in Massachusetts jails and prisons.
This program aired on August 16, 2010.
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