Hunt For "Craigslist Killer" Intensifies

An exotic dancer who was bound and held at gunpoint at a suburban Providence hotel by a man who answered her Craigslist ad was the one who suggested her ordeal could be linked to a Boston hotel slaying, police say.

The 26-year-old Las Vegas woman, who police believe was offering sex for money through the Craigslist posting, was attacked at a Holiday Inn Express late Thursday night, Warwick Police Chief Stephen McCartney said.

The assailant fled when the victim's husband returned to the room.

Earlier this week, a woman who advertised massage services on Craigslist was shot and killed at a luxury hotel in Boston.

McCartney said that, after Thursday's attack in Warwick, "The victim apparently made a statement to police that, in her opinion, this situation mirror-imaged what happened up in Boston. I think, at the point in time our police responded, nobody was thinking about that."

The description of the suspect in Thursday's attack also matches that of a "person of interest" wanted for questioning in the fatal shooting of 26-year-old Julissa Brisman of New York City at the Marriott Copley Place in Boston on Tuesday night.

And the same person may have been involved in the robbery last week of another Las Vegas woman at the Westin Copley Hotel, Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis said.

The 29-year-old woman had also advertised massage services on Craigslist, the online classified service.

Police in Warwick, which is about 60 miles south of Boston, describe the suspect as a clean-cut white male, about 6 feet tall, 200 pounds, with blond hair, wearing a black coat and blue jeans.

McCartney said his department is working with Boston police, who have surveillance video of the suspect leaving the hotel. McCartney said his department also has surveillance video from the Warwick hotel, but will not release it at the request of the Boston police.

"There are strong similarities here based on the information that we have, particularly the fact that there is an individual who seems to fit the description of the individual in Boston," he said.

(AP Photo/Matthew Terhune)
(Julissa Brisman, 26, was an aspiring actress and model living in New York City who was found shot to death in a Boston hotel room Tuesday, April 14, 2009. She advertised massage services on Craigslist in order to pay the bills, friends said.)

In Thursday's attack, the victim's husband briefly chased the assailant out of the room, but then returned to check on his wife, McCartney said. The woman told police she worked as a dancer at The Cadillac Lounge, a Providence strip club.

The woman told investigators that she advertised lap dances online, but police believe sexual acts for money were also likely involved, McCartney said.

He noted that a loophole in Rhode Island law allows indoor prostitution and said it may be at least partly to blame for what happened.

But on The Early Show Saturday Edition, criminologist Jack Levin, co-director of the Brudnick Center on Violence at Northeastern University<.link> in Boston, said he thinks the crimes were for money, not sex.

"Whenever we hear a criminal tying up his victims, and dealing with people who give masseuse services or they're escorts or prostitutes, we think of a sexual assault," Levin observed to substitute co-anchor Jeff Glor.

"But I think he tied up his victims in order to control them so he could rob them. And I think he chose these particular women because they were so vulnerable. I mean, when you talk about escorts, you've got to think they are - they deal with lots of sleazy characters all the time. And they also are willing to be alone with an absolute stranger. And those kinds of characteristics make them very, very good (targets)."

McCartney described the woman as "shaken up" but not injured. The couple was interviewed again Friday afternoon, but police did not release their names for safety reasons.

McCartney said the couple told investigators they were staying at the hotel and that the husband went up to the room after she failed to meet him downstairs for a planned trip into Providence.

"She doesn't answer, so he then goes upstairs and interrupts the crime in progress," he said.

Boston Police in Boston have said that they believe the victim at the Westin was involved in prostitution but that they are uncertain about Brisman.

Brisman's friends said they didn't know she had advertised massage services online.

Matthew Terhune, 34, a photographer from New York City, said he photographed Brisman last year for head shots she needed for a tanning salon.

He said Brisman told him she had been paid $1,000 to fly out to private parties in Chicago and walk around in a bikini or topless. "But I don't think it went beyond that," Terhune said. "They were just parties where guys wanted to see hot girls."

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Boston Police homicide unit by calling (617) 343-4470, or the CRIMESTOPPERS tip line at (800) 494-TIPS, or texting TIP to CRIME (27463).