A former Boston University medical student accused of killing a masseuse he met through the popular online classifieds website Craigslist was found dead Sunday morning (Aug 15) after apparently committing suicide in his Boston, MA jail cell where he was awaiting trial.

Officials say 24-year-old Philip Markoff used his knowledge and training as a med student to take his own life by stabbing himself in major arteries in the leg and neck with a pen before placing a plastic bag over his head to suffocate himself.

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Philip Markoff, 24, a former Boston University student, pleaded not guilty in the fatal shooting of Julissa Brisman, of New York City, and the armed robbery of a Las Vegas woman. Both crimes happened at Boston hotels within the span of four days in April 2009. Rhode Island prosecutors also accused him of attacking a stripper that week.

Jail officials found Markoff unresponsive in his cell Sunday morning in the Nashua Street Jail, the Suffolk County district attorney’s office said in a statement Sunday, and he was pronounced dead at about 10:15 a.m. His trial in the Massachusetts cases was expected in March.

Criminal profiler Pat Brown said on the TODAY show that the apparent suicide went well beyond a bid for attention sometimes seen among inmates. “Markoff had medical training, he knew how to kill himself and he made sure he was very successful at it,” she said.

The murder suspect recently kept to himself, spending time reading in his cell, NBC News reported. The statement released by the district attorney’s office noted that Markoff was alone in his cell when found, and that “all evidence collected thus far indicates that he took his own life.”

Lawmaker calls for death probe

Boston City Councilor Stephen J. Murphy on Monday called for a probe into Markoff’s death, telling the Boston Herald that Sheriff Andrea Cabral “failed in her duty to provide care and custody to an inmate awaiting trial, and because of this failure, the Brisman family will never see justice served.” Murphy, who also serves as the chairman of the council’s Committee on Public Safety, told the newspaper he wants Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley to investigate how such a high-profile suspect could take his own life in such an agonizing manner and still stay under the radar of jail staff. A spokesman for Conley’s office said the investigation’s first priority is determining Markoff’s cause of death.

‘Something he couldn’t face’

Markoff was engaged at the time of his arrest. His fiancee, Megan McAllister, ended the relationship after visiting him in jail. Had the wedding plans not derailed, Saturday would have been the couple’s first anniversary. “When the anniversary came up, I think he realized he was never going to have anything like that again, and his lawyers weren’t going to get him off,” Brown said on the TODAY Show. “He was going to spend his life in prison, and that was something he couldn’t face,” she speculated. Markoff’s parents, Susan Haynes and Richard Markoff, told NBC News by phone that they were devastated. Markoff’s lawyer, John Salsberg, said he was shocked and saddened about his client’s death. He would not comment further.

Craigslist killer’ investigation

Markoff had met the women through advertisements for erotic services posted on Craigslist, a classified advertising Web site, prosecutors said. The Boston Police Department crime lab identified two blood stains taken from swabs on a handgun that was seized during a search of Markoff’s apartment in Quincy, Mass., said prosecutors, who alleged Markoff used the weapon to bludgeon Brisman before she was shot three times at close range. Investigators also found several other items in the apartment, including four pairs of women’s underwear wrapped inside socks and hidden in a box spring, authorities said.

In April 2009, Markoff, who had been arrested during a traffic stop as he drove to a Connecticut casino, was placed on suicide watch at the jail where he was being held. Newspaper reports said authorities had found shoelace marks on his neck.

Source: MSNBC