He was a great guy, highly intelligent and personable, fun to be around, a top student — hardly the kind of person anyone who knew him would expect to be a predator and murderer. That is how accused Craigslist killer Philip Markoff was described Tuesday by one of his best friends in college and by his fiancee.
Markoff, 22, of the Boston suburb of Quincy, had been taken into police custody less than a day earlier and named as the person who killed one woman in a swanky Boston hotel and robbed another in a different hotel after setting up appointments for massages through the Internet classified site Craigslist. He has no previous criminal record.
“A great guy,” is how James Kehoe, one of Markoff’s best friends during his first two years as an undergrad at the State University of New York at Albany, described the suspect to TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Tuesday. “He was one of my best friends in my dorm, in a dorm with a lot of people I didn’t connect with that much. He was one of the people that I felt I could really get along with. I felt like he was smart, an intellectual, nice, friendly guy.”
Couldn’t hurt a fly
As Kehoe was describing Markoff to Vieira, ABC’s “Good Morning America” was reporting that it had received an e-mail from Markoff’s fiancee, Megan McAllister, who said he “could not hurt a fly” and is “a beautiful person inside and out.”
Markoff and McAllister have a Web site for their wedding, which was scheduled for Aug. 14 on the Jersey Shore. The site says that they met when he was a sophomore at Albany and she was a senior and both were working as volunteers in the emergency room of a local hospital. Their first date was on Nov. 11, 2005.
Kehoe said that he spoke with perhaps five friends who had also known Markoff, and none ever suspected that he could be leading a double life.
Psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz has studied such people. She told TODAY’s Matt Lauer that it is not unusual for predators to appear to be ordinary people to their families and closest friends and to keep their criminal activities hidden. Serial killers Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy appeared to be ordinary people to those who knew them.
“There are people who do lead secret lives,” she said.
Relationships with women
Pat Brown, a professional profiler, also spoke with Lauer and suggested that police may discover that Markoff is a misogynist. “We might find out that there are some other elements of power-control against women, such as date rape,” she said.
Kehoe said that as he thought back on the two years during which he was close friends with Markoff, he realized that his friend did not pursue relationships with women as other college men do.
“One of the things that kind of struck me about him was that he was, for all intents and purposes, a guy’s guy. I rarely saw him out with women,” Kehoe said. “One of the normal things people do in college is find someone of the opposite sex to connect with. That was not something he wanted to do.”
Kehoe said when he saw images of the suspect in the attacks taken by hotel security cameras, there was no doubt in his mind that Markoff was the man pictured.
“I just saw one picture. It didn’t take more than that,” Kehoe told Vieira. “It was him.”
Kehoe kept going back to the total shock of learning that a person he thought he knew so well could be a suspect in the attacks.
“This is the kind of thing that you hear about that you think can never happen to you, that somebody you were this close friends with would do something so horrible,” he said. “You think at least if it was going to happen, there’d be some indication, but there was none.”
James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University who wrote a book, “The Will to Kill,” about serial killers, also appeared on TODAY and told Vieira that he is not surprised that Markoff, if he is the perpetrator, could fool everyone.
“I’ve studied serial killers who were more extreme than this. You have cases like Bundy and Gacy and Ken Bianchi who were extraordinarily ordinary, whose friends would never expect it, and they were shocked,” Fox said.
Police said they are initially charging Markoff with the murder of Julissa Brisman on April 14 and the armed robbery and kidnapping of an additional victim on April 10 in separate Boston hotels. He is a suspect in the attempted robbery of another woman in a Warwick, R.I., hotel. That assault was interrupted when the woman’s husband returned to the room and chased the assailant off.
District Attorney Daniel Conley said police hope more possible victims who advertised on Craigslist come forward so authorities can build a stronger case against Markoff. “If you are” a victim, said Conley, “we want to help you."
Fox said he’s convinced that other victims will come forward now that a suspect has been arrested and named.