The spectacled teenager grins broadly in some of the photos. In others, he offers a blank expression. But in all of the yearbook images, Philip Markoff’s thick blond hair is neatly combed, not a single strand out of place. Now Markoff, 22, whom his former neighbors remember as a nice lad, is accused of murdering Julissa Brisman, a New York woman who had advertised her services on Craigslist.
The spectacled teenager grins broadly in some of the photos. In others, he offers a blank expression. But in all of the yearbook images, Philip Markoff’s thick blond hair is neatly combed, not a single strand out of place.
Now Markoff, 22, whom his former neighbors remember as a nice lad, is accused of murdering Julissa Brisman, a New York woman who had advertised her services on Craigslist.
Markoff grew up on Thurston Terrace in a two-story Colonial house with blue siding. He lived with his mother, Susan Haynes, step-father, Gary Carroll, his older brother John and younger half-sister Haley.
Haynes spent most of her childrens' early years at home with them.
The family moved into the neighborhood in the mid-1980s, and for the most part kept to themselves, neighbors said. Many said the family seemed normal, but a bit quiet. Some remember Markoff shooting a basketball in the driveway. No one could recall a raucous party on the block.
“They’re just terrific people,” said longtime neighbor Dorothy Guider, 53. “It’s just a shock.”
The family occasionally attended services together at St. Helena Roman Catholic Church in Sherrill, though Guider said, more often, Carroll and Haley would come without the rest of the family.
It was just a few weeks ago when Guider’s husband, Hugh, spotted Carroll in church. He mentioned that his former stepson had enrolled at a Boston medical school.
“They were very proud of him,” Guider said.
Markoff’s mother eventually took a job at a Turning Stone Resort and Casino gift shop, where she still works. She is a regular at meetings of the local quilting guild and enjoys making crafts. When Markoff was in first grade, she made the tissue boxes for his classroom.
Some neighbors also recall Haynes’ sorting through neighbors’ trash, once pulling out valuable postage stamps that she later sold.
Carroll, a banker, and Haines ended their marriage in 2004, about the time Markoff graduated from Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Senior High School, several neighbors said. Carroll moved to downtown Sherrill with Haley, a current student at VVS.
In his senior yearbook, Markoff lists Carroll and Haynes as his parents. There is no mention of his father, Richard Markoff, of LaFayette, which is located near Syracuse.
From early on, it was clear that Markoff was a bright child, former teachers and neighbors say. He excelled in math and science, and was able to read early.
Terry Law, who was his first-grade teacher at E.A. McAllister Elementary School, remembers Markoff’s white-blond hair and his quiet nature and sense of humor.
“I just remember him being a bright boy,” Law said.
He had an early fascination with money, coins and trading cards, and caused no trouble in the neighborhood, neighbors said.
Struggling to identify a grainy mug shot they saw on early-morning television shows, neighbors on Thurston Terrace said they were stunned to learned Markoff was the suspected Craigslist killer.
“I just don’t understand it,” Guider said. “I never in a thousand years would think it.”