Information on Philip Markoff was not easy to find. He was from New York, with no Massachusetts driver's license or police record. The Boston Research Intelligence Center found a police report from when Markoff's car was broken into outside an old apartment. The report gave them a former address and a phone number to work with. Markoff was just 23 and they also discovered that he was a Boston University medical student. Investigators took to Facebook and soon found a Web site detailing his upcoming wedding to Megan McAllister.
Turning up a medical student surprised most of the officers. But not Kenney. One of his first homicide cases had been the Daniel Mason murder case, another Boston University medical student who murdered his roommate two months before graduation — so for him, it was déjà vu.
Early the next morning, Merner briefed Sergeant Detective Brian Albert, the head of the Boston Police Department's Fugitive Unit. They wanted a full surveillance detail in place to track Markoff as soon as they could. Albert and the fugitive unit were quickly sold, though Duff still had some apprehensions about whether the pictures of Markoff matched the man they'd seen in surveillance footage.
Markoff's apartment building on Highpoint Circle is one of five apartment buildings in a high-end enclave that towers over a more working-class section of the Quincy area. Merner remembered that Albert called him that morning and said that, despite Duff's reservations, the kid he was watching walk across the parking lot was a match. He had a physique that he likened to all star Celtics power-forward Kevin McHale, with the same awkward gait and pointed shoulders they'd seen in the videos taken from the Marriott and the Westin.
Markoff worked on a Chevy Trailblazer outside a parking garage adjacent to his apartment building. He made a trip to wholesale supermarket BJ's with an unidentified woman, the only time he left the apartment site for the day. Members of the surveillance unit followed them through the supermarket, swiping anything that Markoff had picked up and put back down again to lift fingerprints from. One of them even went up to him and asked him for his shopping cart. "Sure, thank you for saving me the time," responded Markoff, unaware. The two exchanged pleasantries before the officer took the cart away for fingerprint analysis.
The surveillance unit employed a range of nondescript vehicles, switched up regularly, and monitored the apartment from close and long ranges. The team likely went entirely unnoticed among the large cast of residents at Highpoint Circle during its almost 36-hour stakeout.
Surveillance could be continued as long as was necessary. Merner was managing the team in Quincy, while Duff continued with his investigation. He was self-conscious to avoid developing tunnel vision on the wrong suspect. He also had concerns that, due to the proximity of residents to each other at Highpoint, someone might've been poaching Markoff's wireless. There remained much to do, with paperwork to complete for search warrants and a grand-jury investigation under way.
Police were in control, but still lacked a positive identification of Markoff from either surviving victim. Armed with a carefully considered photo array, Freeman left early on April 20 for Atlantic City, New Jersey, to meet the Meltons in a parking lot the couple had selected.
Shortly before 2 pm, the surveillance unit spotted Markoff getting into his car with his female companion. He was carrying a dress shirt and wheeling a suitcase. The news threw police headquarters into a panic.
"We didn't know if he was fleeing, or just doing some travel with the girl he was with," Duff said. Merner knew that it would be a lot easier to keep them inside the jurisdiction of Massachusetts. A split-second decision was required. The investigators were in the process of drawing up a search warrant for Markoff's vehicle and, pending an actual search warrant, are permitted to seize a car. Merner was thinking on his feet. Did they have probable cause? He felt they did. Was the car on a public way? It was. After no more than three or four minutes of discussion, Merner made the call to pull the car over, he said.
Following in an unmarked Dodge Durango, Albert put his lights on as he moved through a narrow three-lane strip of rural motorway near Walpole. Markoff's
vehicle accelerated when Albert's lights went on and he was driving at well over 80 miles an hour, according to police reports.
After six or seven minutes, Markoff pulled over. He was wearing a white-and-blue-striped shirt and aviator sunglasses. His companion, soon identified as his fiancée, Meghan McAllister, 25, from Little Silver, New Jersey, was in the passenger seat.
Albert asked him why he didn't stop.
"I didn't see you," Markoff replied. He went into the back of the Dodge Durango voluntarily, and only when he'd reached the rear of his own vehicle did he enquire what this all was about. For the entire trip to police headquarters, he didn't remove his sunglasses. Officers observed him staring straight ahead, his hands on his knees. A single scratch was observed on his hand. Markoff spoke once, explaining that he was off to Foxwoods casino that evening.
By this time news had arrived back in from Freeman in Atlantic City to police headquarters. The Meltons had not made a definitive identification of Markoff. There was still not enough evidence for an arrest. "Now we're under the gun," Merner said.
Markoff and McAllister were put into the two interview rooms at police headquarters. According to Kenney, each would have seen the other as they were put into their respective places. Merner and Duff were going to interrogate the fiancée, while Kenney was put in with a veteran interrogator, Dennis Harris, to speak with Markoff.
Kenney felt immediately that Markoff was playing the detectives. "It was one of the most disastrous interviews I've ever done," he said. Markoff struggled with his Miranda rights, initiating an awkward back and forth as he tripped up on whether police had to provide him with a lawyer, or whether he merely had the right to stop the interview and get an attorney himself.
Eventually, Markoff let the interview proceed. "I just want to hear what's going on from you, so we can start," he said. Kenney observed him as affectless, giving off no sign that any of this was out of the ordinary.
In the interview, Markoff provided little detail of what he'd been doing even three days beforehand. He hadn't been to the Marriott or the Westin that he could remember, but faced with the possibility that he'd been caught on camera didn't rule out having accidentally walked through the lobby.
"He played us," Kenney said.
Markoff grew tired of the questions, and the interview hit a rare moment of tension.
"You seem to be getting a little frustrated," Harris remarked as the conversation meandered through a succession of vague responses from Markoff.
"Yeah, because you seem to be asking me the same questions," Markoff snapped tersely. Soon after, he invoked his right to an attorney.
In the next room, Duff and Merner were having their expectations turned upside down. They went into the room convinced that McAllister must have some knowledge of her fiancé's actions. But doubts rose immediately. McAllister said that she was away a lot, receiving medical attention for a back ailment and planning the couple's wedding in New Jersey. She seemed genuinely clueless.
"Either she's the best liar in the world," Merner said, "or she doesn't know what time it is."
He made a decision to bring in one of the surveillance photos. "That looks like Philip," McAllister responded. A higher quality photo was put in front of her, and the detectives remembered that McAllister then backtracked, seeming to realize that she might be implicating Markoff in something nasty.
McAllister grew concerned as the interview drew to a close. "Is there any reason for me to be scared to go home with this person? You're worrying me," she told the two detectives. She had not quite realized yet that her Quincy days were over.
Kenney was furious. They had nothing from their interview with Markoff. Their suspect was sitting in an interview room, and if he demanded to be released or arrested at this point, the detectives would have to release him. Meanwhile, the police commissioner, the superintendent of the special investigation unit, the district attorney, and the deputy in charge of criminal investigation were eagerly awaiting details from the interview.
"I have a sea of brass I'm walking through," Kenney remembered. "But I had to excuse myself. I needed a moment to decompress."
Two hundred and thirty miles away in New York, Freeman had a bead on Trisha Leffler, in a room at the Radisson Hotel on 48th and Lexington. Freeman and Grant, from the Warwick Police Department, met with an NYPD officer to administer the photo array, and waited in the hallway while Leffler viewed the photos. When she turned to the photo of Markoff, according to the police reports, she immediately said that he was the man that had robbed her at gunpoint. Freeman entered the room to find a teary and visibly shaken Leffler, "one million percent sure" that Markoff was the guy.
As he took a quiet moment to gather himself in the homicide unit offices,
Kenney heard what he described as "something short of cheering" in the office.
Walking out to investigate the noise, an
officer came running up to him.
"Jimmy got a hit. She says Markoff,
100 percent, no questions asked," Kenney recalled the officer telling him.
They now had enough evidence for an arrest for armed robbery and kidnapping. A decision was made between Duff and Merner and the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office to also charge Markoff with Brisman's homicide. Duff disagreed, but the decision was made on the basis of the likeness of the surveillance footage from each of the two incidents.
At 4:13 pm, according to police reports, an officer informed Markoff that he was under arrest and not free to leave. He made no query as to what the charges were. Later that evening, Kenney informed Markoff that he was under arrest in the company of his attorney. He remained straight-faced.
"Markoff was just so even-keeled,"
Kenney said. "It seemed that nothing rocked his boat."