Software // Social
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4/21/2009
02:31 PM
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Tech Played Role In Hunt For Craigslist Killer

Police investigation relied on e-mail accounts, text messages, and IP addresses.


Craigslist_Killer

Surveillance photo released by Boston Police.
(click for larger image)

Technology allows women to reach perfect strangers and market sex, massages, lap dances, and other "erotic services." It allowed a killer to lure women to hotel rooms, rob them, and shoot one dead. It also helped police and the public to track down and arrest a suspect.

Just days after the debate over whether Craigslist essentially promotes prostitution by allowing users to post ads online, police said that the Internet helped them find Philip Markoff, a 22-year-old medical student arrested in connection with the shooting death of Julissa Brisman in a Boston hotel.

Police said that a 29-year-old woman reported being robbed at gunpoint less than two weeks ago after meeting a Craigslist user in a hotel room in an affluent section of Boston. Four days later, Brisman, a 26-year-old New York City model, was shot to death as she tried to flee a hotel room in Boston. She went to the hotel to meet someone who responded to her Craigslist ad for massages. Two days later, a 26-year-old woman reported that a man tried to rob her at gunpoint in a Rhode Island hotel. That victim also met the perpetrator through a Craigslist erotic services ad.

Police said all three victims were bound with the type of disposable plastic handcuffs officers use at large gatherings and protests where multiple arrests are common. Police released surveillance photos of the suspect in Rhode Island and Boston. In an image captured after Brisman's slaying, the man appeared to be texting on a PDA as though nothing had happened.

Markoff was arrested during a traffic stop and faces charges of murder, armed robbery, and kidnapping in connection with Brisman's death. He is being held without bail. Police are investigating possible motives and whether Markoff was involved in the two other robberies. The Boston University student's fiancee told reporters that he is innocent.

Law enforcement authorities said in court Tuesday that police used computer forensics to track Markoff down. They said he left trails on his own PDA, through an IP address, and through an e-mail account they said he created before answering the ads.

Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster said in interviews last week that the Web site is looking into possible steps to improve the site's safety.

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