It was 2008 I believe when I met Julissa Brisman. She was a friend of a friend. I remember she was an aspiring actress who was also dipping her feet into modeling. She had a big smile and deep down eyes. Julissa was very pretty in person, so an acting career wouldn’t be a stretch. We laughed as I remember she told me she was a Taurus, determined and a fighter. She laughed when I said fighter. Looking back that was ironic in how her life ended. Julissa had coffee with a friend of mine and myself. She dressed nicely and seemed to have an awful lot of money on her for an aspiring actress. Down the line it was revealed she was giving massages on craigslist, a job that would lead to the end of her life.
I met Julissa two or three times after that. A young woman who had taken a wrong turn or two, she was desperately trying to get her life back on track. Julissa was attending AA and going to school to be a drug and alcohol counselor. Life wasn’t easy for her it seemed, everything was a struggle. Julissa never complained, took it in stride, and was always very sweet when you saw her. One woman on a message board said after her murder, “It’s not like she was some kid selling candy. She was a hooker.”
I wanted to stop this judgmental wench of a woman and inform her that while her six cats could keep her all the company in the world, he who is without sin may cast the first stone. Also, sometimes life isn’t as kind to everyone as it has been to you. Addiction and alcoholism are continual and progressive diseases. Recovery comes sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly and it takes time to shed the lifestyle. But more than anything, regardless of what she was doing to pay the bills she didn’t deserve to be murdered in cold blood. Julissa was someone who fought through life and could never seem to get a break. Things were starting to turn around for her when she died.
Fast forward to the spring of 2009 when she got murdered. I was looking at the paper and reading the reports and at first I didn’t recognize her because her hair was blonde. A minute later I got a call from the mutual friend who said, “April, you know Julissa was murdered, right?” I took a moment. I did a double take. She was the girl I had met a handful of times, the aspiring actress and drug counselor who was trying to get sober. The one with the sunbeam smile. The Taurus.
Days later details emerged. Her killer was a medical student named Philip Markoff. White and clean cut, there were photos of him getting his white coat in the paper. Like my brother and sister, he was on his way to helping people and saving lives. Somewhere on the course he deviated and decided his time and energy would be better spent taking them.
In this photos Philip Markoff appeared stoic and cold. They attributed the fact that he robbed two prostitutes and preyed on transgendered individuals selling sex services was that he was in debt between student loans and a gambling problem. Unlike the others he had robbed, Julissa fought back. She had been a fighter. She fought against drugs and alcohol to get sober. Now she was fighting this creep who pointed a gun at her. As I saw this I thought, “Jesus, why didn’t you just get robbed safely sweetheart?”
On the other hand, I think she knew he was a monster, a demon. He was going to kill her. Julissa was a Taurus and they never give up. I could only imagine how terrifying the last few moments of her life were. I read she scratched him on the neck leaving a long, bloody gash. I found myself hoping it would leave a scar, letting this predator know that he wasn’t God, he didn’t have the right to decide who lived and who died. To someone like Philip Markoff these women were easy prey. They were sex workers. They didn’t matter. He was going to be a doctor. So what was a dead hooker, right? Philip Markoff was going to be sipping champagne on the veranda, and in that equation Julissa Brisman didn’t count.
Of course Markoff had it all planned out. He had a fiancé at home, who was pleasantly ignorant as it can be seen in the police tapes. Sheltered and a tad spoiled, she probably unknowingly ignored some of the big red flags her man was putting up. While this psychotic charlatan was probably a master of disguise, on the other hand there is only so much one can hide. I can only imagine her horror and disgust as she realized the truth, she was about to marry a sexual sadist. Megan McAllister is now in medical school in St. Kits. She is probably unable to trust men. She is probably shaken forever. She probably has nightmares. And sometimes I bet she probably feels like she has Julissa’s blood on her hands.
Philip was set to go to trial. There were delays because as we know, in our great country’s judicial system victims have zero rights. As proceedings kept being delayed, my mutual friend began to have a meltdown. She claimed Julissa spoke to her in her dreams. Watching the news was hard for her. Eventually this friend took a job in Florida to clear her head. It seemed the only thing Mr. Markoff was ever capable of was destroying lives. Maybe he should have gone into practice with Jack Kevorkian.
However, Philip would never face trial. Being a coward, he took the coward’s way out and killed himself. Apparently on the one year anniversary of what would have been his wedding he suffocated himself with a bag. Before that he scrawled his name as well as his nickname for his fiancé on his cell wall. In a way this was actually a blessing. Massachusettes is quite liberal when it comes to criminals so Markoff would have gotten off easy. Not to mention he claimed he was indigent and the state was paying for his defense. Also, Julissa’s family would have had the pain of not just rehashing her last moments, but also some male defense lawyer dragging the poor thing through the mud. To top it off, the media would make it even worse as they kept highlighting that she was a sex worker. In the end it worked out for the best.
In his passing there was no justice for Markoff’s living victims, the two women attacked in the hotel room. Like Julissa, life had been unkind to them as well. No one wakes up, goes to first grade, and tells their classmates about how they dream of selling sex on craigslist. It happens because life hasn’t been kind to them and they have been pushed there. Same with the transgendered women he preyed on. Social outcasts who barely have rights, they had the pain of facing a sadistic bully like Markoff. Much like Julissa, he didn’t feel they counted either. Where is the justice for those victims?The answer, there is none. There are only horrible memories and nightmares.
I felt compelled to write this because I saw the Lifetime Movie The Craigslist Killer recently. About a year after his death, I caught wind of the making of it at the time through an actress friend. Just this past weekend, I came across it on youtube. The film portrayed Megan McAllister, his fiancé, as the nice girl, while Philip Markoff seemed like the perfect man trying to be the perfect fiancé with a dark secret. The movie gave him more of a sympathetic edge in an attempt to make him real and human. Bravo for making him human, but I found it as offensive as hell. Maybe it was because I had crossed paths with Julissa Brisman. Either way, in her character’s brief appearance on screen when I saw her get shot it made me ill. I remember reading the headlines and knowing that the young woman I had coffee with had been gunned down like she was an animal in the woods, simply erased because she was nothing. I remembered her smile, her laugh, and her nodding when I said Taurans were stubborn as hell and that they were fighters.
The fact she was a fighter was the reason that he killed her. Bullies don’t know what to do when someone fights back. She wasn’t going to let him rob her. Julissa was going to ID him and expose his secrets. Philip Markoff’s perfect life would be in shambles. His fiancé would leave. He had to kill her. Seeing that part of the movie upset me so badly that I actually got nauseous and almost lost my lunch.
When Philip Markoff died people were upset that there no answers into why he did what he did. Profilers had different explanations. They struggled to know, to understand. They want to know if it was something rooted in childhood, something so that they can make an excuse. There is only one answer and that is plain and simple, Philip Markoff was the closest thing to pure evil that many people will ever come into contact with. In Dante’s Inferno, there is a layer of hell where the physical body is still on Earth but the soul is in hell. My Humanities teacher, Mr. Tietz, explained that you could see it when you peered into a person’s eyes, like crime Godfather John Gotti, because there was nothing there but darkness. I remember seeing the pictures of Philip Markoff and he possessed the same sort of blank stare, the darkness behind his eyes. It was because there was nothing there. No soul. No regard for others. Robbing and killing were easy for him. Ironically, he was trying to help people by becoming a doctor, a job where one has to regard human life. By the Grace of God he never practiced medicine which is a miracle for all mankind.
I can say one thing for sure. I know there is a hell and Philip Markoff has finally come to join his physical spirit. He is burning and suffering in a place so terrible no one can imagine it. It’s indescribable. However, he deserves every horrific minute of his fate. God decides which of His creatures matters and which does not. Philip Markoff tried to play God and thought he could eliminate Julissa because how dare she fight back? How dare this hotel room masseuse stand up to the good doctor? As for those who will throw stones when I say this citing Julissa was not perfect, that is true. No one is. However, there was a difference. Julissa Brisman was an innocent struggler. Philip Markoff was nothing short of the devil.
I know Julissa is finally at peace. She is in a place where she doesn’t have to sell sexual services on craigslist. Since her death the erotic section of the site has been removed. Prostitution is legal in other places around the world and there are things done to protect those women in those countries, it was nice to see we were taking a step in that direction here. Just because they sell their bodies doesn’t mean that they are people who don’t count.
And to Philip Markoff, the afterlife is a bitch, isn’t it? Just like the word you probably commonly used to refer to women while you were alive. I hope you enjoy hell asshole. It is rumored the devil is a woman. You could kill yourself and escape jail and a trial that way. But eternity is forever, assweed. Satan is always on PMS. Hope you enjoy her, mutherfucker!
I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
To order go to www.buybooksontheweb.com