BOSTON – A Boston medical student accused of targeting women who advertised exotic services on Craigslist was ordered held without bail Tuesday on charges that he sought to rob a masseuse, but bashed her in the head and shot her through the heart when she fought back.
Philip Markoff, 23, a second-year medical student at Boston University, said nothing during a brief appearance Tuesday in Boston Municipal Court where he was ordered held on charges including murder, armed robbery and kidnapping.
"Philip Markoff is not guilty of the charges. He has his family's support," defense attorney John Salsberg said.
Prosecutors say they traced an e-mail address used to set up an appointment with masseuse Julissa Brisman of New York City to Markoff, who was on his way to Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut with his fiancee when he was arrested Monday afternoon.
Brisman was found dead April 14 in a Boston luxury hotel. Markoff is also charged with robbing and tying up another woman who advertised massages on Craigslist on April 10.
The slain woman's father, Hector Brisman, was in court but left without commenting.
Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley says authorities searching Markoff's home in Quincy — about 10 miles south of Boston — found a semiautomatic weapon, restraints and duct tape, evidence he called "critical, powerful."
"This was a brutal, vicious crime — savage, and it shows Philip Markoff is a man who is willing to take advantage of women, to hurt them, to beat them, to rob them," Conley said. "He probably thought he was going to get away with it. He thought he was too smart for us."
Prosecutor Jennifer Hickman said in court that Brisman had been bashed in the head and shot three times at close range, including once through the heart. She said Markoff and Brisman had been in contact by cell phone and on the Internet to set up an appointment.
Conley said he believes Markoff's original motive was robbery.
"It's hard for me to get into his mind. The evidence that we have is Julissa put up a pretty tough struggle and it's in the context of that struggle that she lost her life," he said.
Hickman said Markoff and the woman he allegedly robbed on April 10 also initiated contact on Craigslist and set up a meeting after midnight. The woman told investigators she met Markoff and then let him into her room at the Westin. When she shut the door and turned around, he was pointing a gun at her stomach. He bound her hands and mouth.
Hickman said Markoff went through Brisman's wallet and purse and took more than $800 and other personal items.
Markoff's fiance, Megan McAllister, says police have the wrong man.
"He could not hurt a fly," McAllister said in an e-mail to ABC's "Good Morning America. "All I have to say is Philip is a beautiful person, inside and out."
Authorities have said there could be more victims.
An e-mail message sent to McAllister via her Facebook page was not immediately returned Tuesday. The McAllister family did not respond to knocks of the door of their Little Silver, N.J., home Tuesday. Shortly after, a police officer emerged from the home and said the family did not wish to speak with reporters, and asked the media respect their privacy.
Michael Bernard, who lives in Markoff's building in Quincy, was shocked to recognize his neighbor on television reports of the killing.
"He was smart, he carried himself well, he was clean, a good looking guy," said Bernard, a retired electric company worker. "He seemed like the type that would have it all. It doesn't make sense."
Authorities believe Markoff also may be connected to the attempted robbery Thursday in Warwick, R.I., of a stripper who had posted an ad on Craigslist. She was held at gunpoint before her husband entered the room and her attacker fled.
Markoff is originally from Sherrill, N.Y. A Facebook profile matching Markoff's identity, including his photograph, lists him as a 2007 graduate of State University of New York-Albany and in the 2011 class at BU.
A Boston University spokeswoman said Markoff was suspended from the medical school after his arrest.