In an exclusive interview, the best friend of Julissa Brisman, the victim of alleged Craigslist Killer Philip Markoff, tells us about the day he learned about her murder -- and why he's not surprised by Markoff's clean-cut identity.
momlogic: How and when did you meet Julissa Brisman? Please describe your friendship with her.
Mark Pines: I met Julissa about six years ago. She came to an open audition for stills and video -- I was shooting some video scenes and stills. She had a great, bubbly personality. We got along great. I tested her on camera and boy, she looked great. When you look at a person in the room and then through the lens, it's totally different. She had it, her face was perfect. She had the angles, her chin, lips, and teeth -- she had it from every angle. She responded to direction and she knew I wanted to make her look beautiful for both of our sakes. Professionally, this is what made us click and be able to work together. Julissa loved to look at herself. She loved for people to see the way she looked -- she was the perfect candidate for a model. She understood we were working toward a goal. We both wanted to make beautiful pictures and we trusted each other. We became great workers professionally and good friends. She introduced me to her mother, Carmen Guzman, and her sister. Over the years, we built a great friendship -- we were different ages, had different tastes, but became real friends.
ML: What kind of person was Julissa?
Mark Pines: She was hyperactive, bubbly, strong-willed. She knew what she wanted and went after it. Whenever she went into a room, she made the room hers. Very much to her credit, as a person she was very industrious. She was a very hard worker. I have never known her to not have a job. She was an aspiring model and actress, and she was always working, and worked hard. She took care of her sister -- she always took care of her own.
ML: How did she get involved with the "Near Ear" organization and campaign?
Mark Pines: I had created a concept called "Near Ear" that I am implementing in NYC and other areas across the country. It's the seatbelt of cell phones, meaning if a person is walking in traffic and using a cell phone, this makes it a lot safer. The ear nearest to traffic is the "near ear," and the concept is to keep the near ear open. If you keep your phone on your ear away from traffic and keep your near ear facing traffic, you can hear the traffic and your eye can see the traffic because your hand is not blocking your view. When I realized Julissa could potentially act, I thought she'd be perfect because the roll in the PSA I was shooting called for a beautiful girl, breaking up with her boyfriend over her cell phone while on the street, and getting hit by a taxi cab because she was too busy talking on the phone and didn't hear the taxi. I thought Julissa would be perfect for this roll, and she was.
ML: When was the PSA filmed? And where will it be seen? Or where has it been seen?
Mark Pines: It was filmed on 27th Street in New York City in late 2007. I am shopping the PSA to many people right now, and I am particularly interested in public access government programming. I am trying for a wide audience.
ML: How and when did you find out something happened to Julissa?
Mark Pines: April 14th, I was on a shoot. At about 10 PM, a wave came over me and I was thinking of Julissa, but dismissed it. The next morning at 7:00 AM, my phone rang. I was still pretty groggy. Carmen, Julissa's mother, called me. She paused for a second and said, "Julissa died." I knew there was no going back after that statement. At that moment, it didn't matter how it happened, I just knew it happened. I started crying, she started crying, and we just cried over the phone together for 20 minutes. I couldn't even ask her what happened. She said she had to go to Boston and I didn't know what it meant. I hung up the phone and just cried. I went downstairs to make some coffee and started thinking, how did it happen? I figured it was a car accident ... I didn't know.
ML: What were you told? As a friend, what was your reaction?
Mark Pines: At 9 AM, my phone started ringing. The news agencies started calling me. I knew something happened and Googled her name. I realized what was going on. Julissa was on my "Near Ear" website and I was the only link to her, so everyone in the media was calling me for information about her. I shifted from the "crying mode" to "protect her legacy and protect her family mode."
At this point, the surveillance photos were turning up. The photos showed the alleged perpetrator texting on the way up and on the way down. She was not naive, and she knew how to screen people. She never made an appointment on the first call, and she had a good screening process. He got by her.
ML: What was your reaction when you found out Julissa's killer was allegedly Philip Markoff, the Craigslist Killer?
Mark Pines: At first, we didn't know who did this. When the press started talking to me, they didn't have a name for this guy yet. Within an hour, the police started calling him The Craigslist Killer. The media always loves to give a name to celebrities and serial killers.
When I found out the police caught him, I was at Julissa's mother's. We got the call right away within minutes of when they got him. I got to tell her mom that. We were happy, but how happy can you be? We were happy for a moment that they got the guy, but then you realize you're not getting her back. It was bittersweet.
ML: What was your reaction when you heard 22-year-old Philip Markoff was a college-educated, engaged man from a seemingly good family?
Mark Pines: My reaction was layered. First, I had to deal with the fact that Julissa was murdered. It was a real tragedy that didn't have to do with anything that she did herself, it was something somebody inflicted on her. It didn't surprise me that he was young and educated. A doctor or medical student doesn't mind the sight of blood, knows how to use a knife, and knows anatomy, and he seems to have no remorse. I was not shocked this scumbag was white and knew how to use a knife.
ML: Since Julissa's passing, what has been your message?
Mark Pines: You don't sit down and let this wash over you. It's the moment you have to work the hardest you ever worked in your life to make good and share who this person was. I want people to know Julissa's love will still live on. You can kill somebody, but you can't kill their love. It transcends and survives death.
ML: The nation has embraced Julissa in their hearts and prayers -- for those who didn't personally know Julissa, what do you want people to know about her?
Mark Pines: I want people to know her spirit was an outgoing spirit, and her spirit is still here. I hope people learn from this. I hope this negative, horrible tragedy becomes positive as time goes on.
ML: May 14th marked one month since Julissa's murder. What did you, her family, friends, and the community do to honor her?
Mark Pines: We had a beautiful memorial service at a church here in New York. I put together a slide show with photos nobody has seen before, I performed the song I wrote and recorded in her memory, and a number of her friends spoke about how great she was. She has touched the nation and people have responded. Many have been donating money to Julissa's family and we are creating a foundation in her honor.
ML: Will you be attending the trial if there is one against Philip Markoff?
Mark Pines: There will be a trial, and I would like to be there. I would like to sit down with him. I wouldn't yell or scream "What have you done?" I would show him what he's taken from us. I would show him the video I am producing from the memorial. I would do it on a level of forgiveness. I would say, "Don't be so influenced by the darkness of your needs that you don't realize what you've taken from us."