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Website murder suspect dies in jail

A former medical student accused of killing a masseuse he met through the online advertising site Craigslist has apparently committed suicide in the Boston jail where he was awaiting trial.

Philip Markoff, 24, was found unresponsive in his cell on Sunday morning in the Nashua Street Jail, the Suffolk County district attorney's office said, and he was pronounced dead at about 10.15am.

"Markoff was alone in his cell, and all evidence collected thus far indicates that he took his own life," the statement said.

Authorities will investigate to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding his death, the district attorney said.

Saturday would have been Markoff's first wedding anniversary, but his nuptials were cancelled after his arrest.

Markoff, a former Boston University student, pleaded not guilty to 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.

His trial in the Massachusetts cases was expected in March. Markoff's lawyer, John Salsberg, said he was shocked and saddened by his client's death.

Markoff met the women through advertisements for erotic services posted on Craigslist, a classified advertising website, 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, Massachusetts, said prosecutors, who alleged Markoff used the weapon to bludgeon Ms 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.

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