DESPITE A WALL of traditional evidence, the 10-digit IP address found through Markoff's e-mail might have been the one fingerprint that mattered most. | SLIDESHOW: Crime scene photos
Markoff though, had fallen further than his demeanor belied. He had grown up in Sherrill, a picturesque and affluent little bubble in upstate New York. It was an upscale town of 3100 with a local bowling alley and gymnasium that doubled as a town hall and community center. His parents divorced when he was young and his father moved closer to
Syracuse, 40 miles away.
Gambling was an early theme of the coverage of Markoff. His mother worked in the gift shop at the Turning Stone Indian Casino, a B-grade resort with an abundance of cheap slots that towered over an otherwise quiet and undeveloped rural landscape, and Markoff was gambling in the casino before he left school, friends said. He went to the nearby Verona-Vernon-Sherrill High School, and a joke about poker in his high-school yearbook was widely reported on. Added to this, he was heading to Foxwoods in Connecticut at the time of his arrest.
Markoff had graduated from the State University of New York in Albany with honors a year early, and was accepted to Boston University's medical school. As a sophomore in Albany, in September 2005, he'd met McAllister, who was older than him.
Friends, family, co-workers, and relative strangers expressed a predictable range of shock and surprise but could share little as to what drove Markoff to his current predicament. He was hardworking, and a little geeky, but still pretty sociable and liked to go out, friends said. His Facebook photos show him doing the standard amount of typical college behavior: drinking beer, laughing with friends, and hanging off the arms of girls. There was a darker tone to some of the stories told to reporters. He was hard to read, a friend said, and a classmate said that he was prone to extreme mood swings. Another former classmate said that Markoff had made an unwanted pass at her as an undergraduate, cornering her and only backing down when interrupted by another friend.
The enigma of Markoff's arrest was accentuated by a picture of him in the Boston Globe being welcomed into a white doctor's jacket at a university orientation event from 2007.
"We'd probably be calling him 'doctor' right now, and well, I don't know too many poor doctors," said Merner. "It was a different bent for us. We don't do a lot of cases like this."
Duff and Merner disagreed over whether to arrest Markoff on the murder charge right away. Merner wanted to move immediately, but Duff wanted to wait until after executing the search warrant.
"I said to him, 'Don't worry, you're going to go down there and find the ties, gun, duct tape, and everything,'" Merner said.
The search of Markoff's apartment began in the evening after the arrest. Initially, it seemed fruitless. But then Duff and Kenney took out the dryer unit and found a box of ammunition taped to the back of it. A sweep of the bookshelf turned up a gun inside a hollowed-out copy of Gray's Anatomy. The mattress was flipped over and woman's underwear and one of the disposable phones was found inside. In quick succession a holster, wire ties, and the black leather jacket spied on Markoff at all three crime scenes were located.
Merner woke to a waiting voicemail from Duff the next morning, recorded at 4:30 am. "We got everything: the gun, the ties, the duct tape," Duff said, before abruptly hanging up.
Merner still wasn't quite sure that this wasn't a joke. It was an unusually productive load, and given the disagreement between the two he wasn't sure that it wasn't sarcasm, he said. He called the district attorney's office. Duff was serious.
The paper that day saw the unusual sight of the young medical student, under arrest for murder, sharing half of the front page of the paper with the male and female winners of the Boston Marathon. It was one week after the murder.
Tests in the coming months put the
case well beyond doubt. Markoff had
Brisman's blood on his shoe, inside his jacket pocket, and on the barrel of his gun. Ballistics matched the gun taken from
Markoff's apartment to the spent shell cases at the Marriott. All of the telephones used to correspond with his victims were found in his house and car. His fingerprints matched those taken from all three of the crime scenes.
Markoff appeared only at his arraignment and indictment and pled not guilty. Sixteen months later he killed himself in his cell, suffocating himself with a plastic bag and simultaneously cutting his arteries. There was no indication of the origin of his dark impulses. He'd bought the gun two months earlier, at a rundown gun shop in an A-frame cabin just over the state border in rural New Hampshire. Bank records show he'd dipped into overdraft in April and had lost almost $1800 in an online gambling tear in mid February. He regularly sank more than a $1000 a time into the 18 trips to Foxwoods Casino he'd made in 2009 to date and had large student loans. Phone records from the disposable phones showed that he'd purchased them in late February and corresponded on them with several sex workers. Forensic analysis of the laptops from his apartment showed that Markoff had frequented sites for high-class escorts and bondage and discipline.
Regardless, in the final analysis it comes back to one e-mail.
Markoff had sealed his own fate
with the click of a send button, from the
account firstname.lastname@example.org. His own
identity was hidden in the seemingly
random five letters: A MD PM: A doctor Philip Markoff. He registered the address in his own apartment, which bore more than a passing resemblance in spirit to the hotels that were his hunting grounds of choice. The e-mail he sent to Brisman was dated a little after 1:30 pm on April 13. One week and a few hours later, he was under arrest.
At 23, without a police record, and with none of Markoff's friends or family matching his face to the man in the news, the 10-digit Internet protocol address this e-mail turned up was the one fingerprint that mattered.
James Robinson can be reached at email@example.com.