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Jail probe sought in Craigslist suspect’s death

Former Boston University medical student Philip Markoff stands

Former Boston University medical student Philip Markoff stands during his arraignment in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston. (June 22, 2009) Credit: AP

BOSTON - A Boston city councilor called Monday for an independent investigation of the apparent suicide of a former medical student awaiting trial in the death of a masseuse he met through Craigslist.

City Councilor Stephen Murphy said Philip Markoff should not have been able to kill himself while in custody of the Suffolk County sheriff. Markoff was discovered dead, alone in his cell, on Sunday morning.

An autopsy was scheduled for Monday, but the Boston Herald,  quoting anonymous sources, said the 24-year-old used a pen to cut arteries and covered his head with a plastic bag. The newspaper also reported that he had not been checked all night.

“Regardless of my personal feelings about Philip Markoff, he technically was an inmate awaiting trial, and he was in the care and custody of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office. He had shown a penchant for doing harm to himself before. You would have thought he would have been under the closest of attention,” said Murphy, chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee.

 Murphy said the Boston Police Department and Suffolk County district attorney should expand their investigation of Markoff’s death to examine procedures at the Nashua Street jail and other facilities under the jurisdiction of Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral.

An attorney for the family of victim Julissa Brisman says Markoff’s death denies a long-awaited opportunity to confront him and hear the details of Brisman’s final moments.

“First he took their daughter from them, then he denied that opportunity for them,” said Djuna Perkins, an attorney for Brisman’s mother, Carmen Guzman.

Brisman, a 26-year-old masseuse, was beaten with a gun and shot three times in a Boston hotel in April 2009. Authorities allege Markoff killed Brisman after meeting her on the Craigslist classified-ads website, luring her to the Marriott Copley Hotel and botching a robbery to support his gambling habit.

He also was suspected in two similar attacks.

“Many people who deal with homicide never get over it, but the criminal trial allows them to confront the suspect, hear the evidence and reach some resolution in the case,” Perkins said.

Perkins did not fault the sheriff’s office in the death. Markoff had been placed under suicide watch just three days after his arrest after a correction officer noticed marks on his neck indicating he may have attempted to hang himself.

“I think that if you really want to commit suicide, you’re going to do it,” Perkins said.

“He was somebody who had an anatomical knowledge. He was a smart guy. I’m sure he could find plenty of time to think.”

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