Following up on my previous post, Prosecutors Zero In On Adelson Family After Plea Deal With Hit Man, Arrest Of Accomplice In Markel Murder: the Tallahassee Democrat has published an explosive 99-minute video of the prosecutors' interview of hit man Luis Rivera. Rivera states (beginning at 11:06:17 of the video) that he and hit man Sigfredo Garcia saw Wendi Adelson walking the children in front of Dan Markel's home the day before the murder and that Wendi was making sure that the hit men were there to kill Dan before he left on a flight the following day:
Wendi's walking this way with the two kids. ... What's up with this lady? Why is she looking so much? [Garcia says] that's the lady. That's Wendi. What's she doing up here? ...
[Garcia says] she came up to make sure everything's all right because he's leaving out of town tomorrow. So it's gotta get done tomorrow morning before he leaves. ...
Garcia asks Katie [Magbanua] what she's doing up here? ... I asked him what's she doing up here? He said she came up here to see if everything's is all right with the kids. You gotta know something beside that shit. What is she doing up here? She knows you're up here. She knows we're up here. So what's she doing up here?
He calls Katie. Hey what's going on? I seen this lady up here? ... She's making sure everything's fine ... He's leaving tomorrow on the flight or wherever the f* he was going. ... So we gotta do this tomorrow because he's leaving and she came up to see the kids. ... She's just making sure everything's all right with the kids.
She wants to make sure we was up here. She wants to make sure she wasn't paying him for nothing.
Tallahassee Democrat, Rivera: 'We Were Coming Up Here to Kill Somebody':
Rivera last week pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to a 7-year prison term in exchange for his cooperation with prosecutors. He is currently serving 12 years in federal prison on an unrelated charge.
In an interview with investigators obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat, Rivera laid out how he was connected to the plot and how the hit went down in broad daylight in July 2014. ...
There was $100,000 in cash waiting once the murder was done. Garcia, who would take $40,000, promised him $35,000. The rest, and then some, went to Garcia’s on-and-off girlfriend Katherine Magbanua, Rivera said.
He said he was hesitant to come along. He told police he didn't want to kill anybody. He asked why they were killing Markel. “Because the lady wants her two kids back,” Rivera said. “She wants full custody of the kids. That was the plan...We’re going to kill this guy for the kids. Are you serious?” ...
“Katie is the woman in the middle doing everything,” Rivera said in his interview. "It's all because of Katie, man. She had him crazy. She would go cheat on him and she would tell him if you want me back you have to go do this." ...
Garcia’s Miami attorney, Saam Zangeneh learned about Rivera’s statement through the Tallahassee Democrat. He said it was unfortunate prosecutors were relying so heavily on Rivera’s statement in moving forward. “The State Attorney’s Office has gone all in with Luis Rivera, and they’re either going to sink with him or swim with him,” Zangeneh said.
Update: Above the Law, The Dan Markel Case: Luis Rivera Points The Finger At Wendi Adelson:
Rivera said that he and Garcia, while driving around to survey the area near Markel’s house, passed Wendi walking down the street with her two children. Rivera felt that Wendi noticed them, and he didn’t like it; he asked Garcia, “What’s up with that lady?” Garcia responded, “That’s the lady — that’s Wendi.” Note that earlier in the interview, Rivera said he was told the motive for the murder was that “the lady wants her two kids back.”
Rivera and Garcia then drove back to the motel where they were staying, according to Rivera, and Garcia called Magbanua to ask what Wendi Adelson was doing in the neighborhood. Magbanua supposedly told Garcia that Wendi was in the area because “she just wants to make sure everything’s all right.” Garcia asked Magbanua, “Is everything all right with this lady?” Magbanua responded, “Yeah, everything’s straight, don’t worry about it — just make sure you get that s**t done.”
Now, Rivera wasn’t as clear as he could have been in this part of the interview. But if you watch and listen to the relevant part of the video, it’s fair to interpret “she [Wendi] just wants to make sure everything’s all right” as “she just wants to make sure everything’s on track with regard to the hit,” and Magbanua’s reference to “just make sure you get that s**t done” as “just make sure you complete the murder as planned” (especially since, according to Rivera, he and Garcia were told that Markel was leaving town later on Friday).
UPDATE (10:15 a.m.): For extended, direct transcription of the relevant discussion, see Paul Caron’s post at TaxProf Blog, Hit Man Implicates Wendi Adelson In Dan Markel’s Murder.
So does this mean, contrary to my previously expressed belief, that Wendi Adelson knew about the murder in advance or even played a role in planning it? It’s possible — but it’s also still possible that Wendi didn’t have advance knowledge. Rivera’s testimony on this rather important topic is muddled and confused — not surprising, given that these events took place more than two years ago — and one can see how Rivera might have jumped to some conclusions or made some incorrect assumptions.
Rivera said he was told that he and Garcia were being hired to murder a man (Dan Markel) because “this lady” wanted him gone so she could get full control over their kids. So perhaps Rivera assumed — not illogically — that the hit was ordered by “this lady,” because she had the most to gain from the murder. But Rivera failed to consider the possibility that the hit might have been ordered by the family of the lady — relatives who wanted to help her, who have always taken a protective attitude toward her, who did not want her to get into any trouble with law enforcement — without her knowledge.
Also note that Rivera — who knows only part of the story behind the murder, a la theblind men and the elephant — might have conflated two “ladies.” There was the “lady” who wanted full custody of her kids, and there was the “lady” who ordered the hit and gave Garcia (through Magbanua as conduit) some pocket money for the two trips to Tallahassee ($5,000 for the first, abortive trip, and $2,000 for the second trip). Rivera — again, perfectly logically — probably assumed that these two “ladies” were one and the same, when it’s possible that they were two different ladies: Wendi would be the first lady, and her mother Donna Adelson would be the second lady (a theory previously laid out by the police, who have alleged that Charlie and Donna Adelson played roles in Markel’s murder).
Is it possible I’m wrong about all this? Absolutely. There’s still so much that we don’t know. But if Sigfredo Garcia or Katherine Magbanua end up following Luis Rivera’s lead and telling the police what they know, then we will soon find out the real masterminds behind the murder of Dan Markel.
Of one thing I am certain: whoever ordered this cold-blooded killing is no lady.
Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:
- Man Arrested In Murder Of Dan Markel (May 26, 2016)
- Dan Markel Killing Investigated As Murder for Hire, 5-6 More Arrests Expected (May 26, 2016)
- Update On Murder-For-Hire Investigation Into Dan Markel's Death (May 31, 2016)
- Police: Dan Markel Was Killed In Murder-For-Hire Plot Orchestrated By Ex-Wife's Brother (June 2, 2016)
- Anatomy Of The Hit On Dan Markel (June 4, 2016)
- Update On Murder-For-Hire Investigation Into Dan Markel's Death (June 6, 2016)
- Wendi Adelson Discusses Her Ex-Husband Dan Markel's Murder: Transcript And Commentary (June 8, 2016)
- Dan Markel's Law Prof Colleagues Finger Ex-Wife's Family In Murder-For-Hire Killing (June 10, 2016)
- Update On Murder-For-Hire Investigation Into Dan Markel's Death (June 13, 2016)
- Grand Jury Indicts Two Hit Men In Dan Markel's Murder, State Attorney Expects More Indictments; Girlfriend Of Ex-Brother-in-Law Denies Ex-Wife's Family's Involvement (June 18, 2016)
- Update On Murder-For-Hire Investigation Into Dan Markel's Death: In Defense Of Charlie Adelson (June 21, 2016)
- Update On Murder-For-Hire Investigation Into Dan Markel's Death: Hit Men Thwarted In Previous Attempt To Kill FSU Law Prof (June 27, 2016)
- Update On Murder-For-Hire Investigation Into Dan Markel's Death: Charlie Adelson Denies 'Any Involvement' (July 3, 2016)
- Lawyer Denies Adelson Family's Involvement In Dan Markel's Murder, Fingers Florida State Law Students, PrawfsBlawg Readers As Possible Suspects (July 18, 2016)
- Today Marks Two Year Anniversary Of Dan Markel's Murder (July 18, 2016)
- The Adelson Family (Through Their Attorneys) Deny Any Involvement In Dan Markel's Murder (Aug. 3, 2016)
- Prosecutors Seek Records Showing Wendi Adelson's Brother Paid For Breast Enhancement Surgery For Mother Of Hit Man's Children After Dan Markel's Murder (Aug. 20, 2016)
- Judge In Dan Markel Murder Case Approves Subpoena To See If Wendi Adelson's Brother Paid For Breast Implants For Mother Of Hit Man's Children (Aug. 23, 2016)
- Police Video Released Of Wendi Adelson Being Told Of Dan Markel's Murder, Says Her Brother Joked About Hiring A Hit Man (Aug. 27, 2016)
- FBI Interview With Ex-Girlfriend Of Dan Markel's Ex-Brother-in-Law/Mother Of Hit Man's Children (Aug. 28, 2016)
- Adelson Family Will Not Be Charged In Dan Markel's Murder Despite Circumstantial Evidence Released By Police (Including $1 Million Offer To Allow Children To Move To Miami, Communication And Money Trail To Hit Men) (Sept. 9, 2016)
- Police Reach Out To Feds As Tensions Flare With Prosecutor Over Decision Not To Charge Adelson Family In Markel Murder; Ex-Brother-in-Law Discussed Killing Undercover Agent (Sept. 10, 2016)
- ABC News To Feature Dan Markel Murder Case On Friday's 20/20 Program (Sept. 14, 2016)
- Last Night's ABC News 20/20 Program On The Dan Markel Murder: In-Laws & Outlaws (Sept. 17, 2016)
- Judge Denies Change Of Venue In Trial Of Markel's Alleged Hit Man; Defense Seeks Testimony Of Other Possible Perpetrators (Sept. 29, 2016)
- Katherine Magbanua (Mother Of Hit Man's Children, Worker In Adelson Dental Practice, Girlfriend Of Charlie Adelson) Charged With Murder of Dan Markel (Oct. 2, 2016)
- More On Katherine Magbanua's Arrest In Dan Markel's Murder (Oct. 3, 2016)
- Plea Deal For Hit Man In Dan Markel Murder (Oct. 4, 2016)
- Prosecutors Zero In On Adelson Family After Plea Deal With Hit Man, Arrest Of Accomplice In Markel Murder (Oct. 5, 2016)