As soon as Warwick police arrived at the Holiday Inn on a report of a woman robbed last month they realized there was a connection to the "Craigslist Killer" cases in Boston -- along with her money, the thief stole a pair of the woman's panties, investigators told ABC News today.
Rhode Island Attorney General issued a warrant today for accused "Craigslist Killer" Philip Markoff for the April 16 robbery in Warwick.
Lynch said the warrant was issued for Markoff's arrest on four counts: assault with intent to rob, assault with a dangerous weapon, possession of a handgun and use of a firearm while committing a crime of violence.
Markoff already faces charges of robbing and killing masseuse Julissa Brisman, 25, in Boston April 14, and robbing another woman in a Boston hotel. All three women advertised on Craigslist.
The Warwick robbery is the third crime in Markoff's alleged spree, and Warwick Police Chief Stephen McCartney told the news conference that the first officers on the scene "got a clue from the complaining witness that there may be some connection" to the Craigslist cases.
A law enforcement source told ABC News that the clue was the fact that the thief snatched up a pair of the woman's panties before leaving. There were indications that the first two women who were robbed by the "Craigslist Killer" also had their underwear stolen.
Sources also told ABC News that Markoff allegedly committed the Warwick robbery on his way home from a day of gambling at Foxwoods Casino, a day when he won $5,300 playing blackjack with $100 chips.
Officials said Markoff, 23, could face 10 years in prison on the Rhode Island charges if convicted, and that prison term would have to be served after any other sentences imposed on him.
Markoff has not yet been served with the warrant.
Lynch said the allegations against Markoff are a "very stark, difficult, horrific reminder that there are predators out there."
Without naming Craigslist, Lynch said, "Corporate citizens have to step up and take a role" in keeping the Internet safe.
"It was also a stark reminder to us all that we have to be careful," Lynch continued. Besides the dangers of identity theft, he said more violent criminals troll the Web for victims.
The victim was allegedly restrained with plastic handcuffs and robbed at gunpoint.
ABC News has learned that police tied Markoff to the holdup through his fingerprints left at the hotel crime scene and by tracking phone calls and text messages Markoff allegedly made in the vicinity of the hotel around the time of the robbery.
Surveillance cameras also captured pictures of the suspect as he walked through the hotel lobby while staring at his cell phone.
While officials most likely won't prosecute him on the new charges until the more serious Boston cases are completed, the Rhode Island arrest warrant preserves Rhode Island's ability to try him at a later date.
Lynch said it could be "six months to a year" before Markoff could be brought to Rhode Island.
"He will be brought to justice, but it may take some time to bring him formally to Rhode Island," Lynch said.
The woman in the Rhode Island robbery has not been publicly identified, and police sources had told ABC News she was reluctant to cooperate with investigators. But Lynch said today, "The victim has been responsive."
Nevertheless, evidence piled higher against Markoff as he sat in an isolated cell in a Boston jail. Markoff is being held in the jail's psyche ward after two suicide attempts, sources have told ABC News. He isn't scheduled to appear in court until May 21.
In the meantime, the only thing Markoff, a second year medical student who was engaged to be married, appears to have said to family members was to forget him. Fiancee Megan McAllister has told Markoff their August wedding is off, and she has moved her belongings out of the Boston apartment the couple shared.
Investigators found a pistol under the couple's bed along with women's panties that police believe were taken from robbery victims. One of the alleged Craigslist victims, Trisha Leffler, said that after she was robbed, her assailant snatched a pair of her panties that were lying on the floor. A law enforcement source told ABC News that police found 16 pairs of women's panties in the apartment, fueling concern that there might be other victims who have not yet come forward.
The gun was hidden in a hollowed medical textbook, "Gray's Anatomy," sources said.
Also found in the couple's apartment were plastic handcuffs identical to the ones allegedly used in the Craigslist robberies.