Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Hit Man Implicates Wendi Adelson In Dan Markel's Murder

Rivera WendiFollowing 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:

Legal Education | Permalink


This case smells like bad fish. The investigators seem overly eager to paint a conspiracy implicating Wendi Adelson. The facts simply don't add up. What I am questioning - I highly doubt she would waling with children to meet a hitman who is allegedly hired by her to murder her ex-husband.

Posted by: Shlomo | Oct 18, 2016 2:50:39 PM

Payment to KM for services rendered. Hell she asked for a raise to Charlie per the affidavit! The end is near. Thank God!!

Posted by: Andrew | Oct 12, 2016 8:41:05 PM

Magbanua & her relationship with Adelson dentistry. At first it was reported that she worked there. Then it was reported she never worked there. We know about the hand-written checks from Donna. Presumably, this is a reputable business and all the employees get payroll direct deposit. Are there any other checks Donna regularly wrote for the business? I'm guessing not, and that's meaningful.

I wonder what reason Donna would give for paying Magbanua her regular check. Maybe we'll get to find out!

Posted by: question | Oct 12, 2016 7:34:21 PM

Anon brings up a good point and a key issue.


The ONLY people who knew that could have called Katherine could be only a handful of people. The police? They knew. The paramedics? They knew. A few neighbors? They knew. A few store employees or apartment residents? They may have known.

When Katherine told Garcia ..."I know". Did he just presume 90 minutes out that Wendi had been notified ...and thus, called Katherine before he had a chance?

Posted by: John Smith | Oct 12, 2016 5:01:22 PM

Being honest and being correct are not always the same.

What lady w/ kids did Garcia and Rivera see walking about? In that neighborhood ...yes, someone would have stared at them if they are not well known. They were not.

Maybe a random woman looked ...and the cocaine made them paranoid.

Why would Garcia recognize Wendi? Had he ever seen her? Allegedly not? Had he ever seen a picture of her? Allegedly not.

Why would a LAWYER put herself in that place? If she wanted to make sure they were in town ..she would have contacted someone to make sure that they drove by a gas station or grocery store or McDonalds at a certain time and place. Her old neighborhood? Where people would recognize her car? Too Risky ...I would presume.

Posted by: John Smith | Oct 12, 2016 2:36:12 PM

Grant good observation ....

A "trait" that may have been used in similar events in Tallahassee. Luckily TPD saw that rental car and fired bullet holes all into it.

Posted by: John Smith | Oct 12, 2016 2:20:12 PM

Wendi's attorney says that Rivera is not a credible witness. I disagree. If the prosecutors catch him lying he loses his 7-year sentencing deal. He has no reason to lie and every reason to tell the full truth. Anyone who watches the interview video would conclude that Rivera is giving his actual recollections of the events he describes.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Oct 12, 2016 11:54:19 AM

Charlie will get as many toothbrushes as he wants curtesy of the State at Raiford!

Posted by: Andrew | Oct 12, 2016 11:51:45 AM

Cop: And you heard her [Katie's] voice say that

RIvera: Yes sir

Well, we have good reason to believe that KM, SG, and LR all thought she was in the loop. If she was, her performance at the police station was a fine piece of theatre and butter wouldn't melt in this woman's mouth.

Posted by: Art Deco | Oct 12, 2016 10:51:03 AM

Assembling $100k in cash is not easy. The police should be able to find some evidence of how it was done. I doubt that the family already had 100 $100 bills on hand as mad money just because you never know when you might want to have someone killed.

Katherine Magbanua was employed (or 'employed') by the Adelson practice. Some of the transfers were accomplished with business checks cut by Donna Adelson.

Posted by: Art Deco | Oct 12, 2016 10:48:18 AM

Wendi is still entitled to a presumption of innocence and I hope she is innocent for the sake of those children.

She personally may be innocent. Not everyone among the four Adelsons is. Those children belong in Toronto.

Posted by: Art Deco | Oct 12, 2016 10:42:44 AM

Reports her resignation from the FSU faculty effective January 2015.

Posted by: Art Deco | Oct 12, 2016 10:37:08 AM


Cop: and Katie says she [Wendi] wants to make sure that you guys are

Rivera: to make sure that we're up there

Cop: And you heard her [Katie's] voice say that

RIvera: Yes sir

Posted by: Anon2009 | Oct 12, 2016 8:16:34 AM

Moved to Miami immediately, Prius was publicized days after. Google it.

Posted by: Anon2009 | Oct 12, 2016 7:23:35 AM

In all the joking about the hitmen driving a Prius, someone mentioned that one of Dan's neighbors had a similar Prius. I wonder if Garcia knew that and chose that car specifically to blend into the neighborhood.

Posted by: Grant | Oct 12, 2016 7:23:18 AM

What was Wendi doing in Tallahassee? I thought she and the kids had already decamped to the Miami area.

She and the children decamped to Miami in January 2015, about six months after the murder.

Posted by: Art Deco | Oct 12, 2016 6:42:33 AM

there's no indication that once police put out notice that they were looking for a green Prius that Wendi contacted the police with intel that the day before the murder she'd seen a green Prius with two creepy men in the neighborhood

I don't know that I'd expect her to remember much about the car they were in at the time the police issued that statement (the following year, IIRC).

Posted by: Art Deco | Oct 12, 2016 6:34:40 AM

Wendi is still entitled to a presumption of innocence and I hope she is innocent for the sake of those children.

Posted by: Questions | Oct 12, 2016 5:34:59 AM

Assembling $100k in cash is not easy. The police should be able to find some evidence of how it was done. I doubt that the family already had 100 $100 bills on hand as mad money just because you never know when you might want to have someone killed.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Oct 12, 2016 5:33:17 AM

I'm guessing this is the sort of thing you get disbarred for being involved with? (not to mention losing custody, prison, etc.)

Posted by: dcm | Oct 11, 2016 11:16:29 PM

Even if she didn't have advanced knowledge, it is clear someone in her family had something to do with it. I find it incredible that she wouldn't be able to sense that even if they were keeping it from her. So she's a terrible person either way, but we knew that from the classless way in which she left him and kidnapped their children (which she should also be charged for).

Posted by: Aaron | Oct 11, 2016 8:10:59 PM

That's cold.

Posted by: Joe Martin | Oct 11, 2016 7:56:24 PM

Another thing - if the Wendi-Luis-Sigfredo stare down wasn't signaling to Wendi that they had arrived to do the hit - even if it was just a woman with two kids staring down two minorities driving around in the neighborhood like Sonetka speculates, there's no indication that once police put out notice that they were looking for a green Prius that Wendi contacted the police with intel that the day before the murder she'd seen a green Prius with two creepy men in the neighborhood.

That makes me suspect that Wendi knew. Once police said they were looking for a Prius, if I were Wendi I suspect that I would remember that encounter if it happened the way Garcia describes. If she didn't contact the police, that's suspicious.

Posted by: dcm | Oct 11, 2016 7:48:58 PM

How did Magbanua already know that they'd shot Dan when Garcia called her? Who told her? Is that why Wendi drove by Trescott on her way to lunch Friday?

Posted by: Grant | Oct 11, 2016 4:52:20 PM

Magbanua's lawyer is probably negotiating furiously for the best deal in exchange for fingering the other guilty parties. That may take several more days, but release of Rivera's interview creates a lot of pressure on her to make that deal.

I expect Charlie or Donna to attempt to take 100% of the blame, claiming that Wendi did nothing more than ask rhetorically "Will no one rid me of this troublesome ex-husband?" Would a jury believe it possible that a family member would order a hit without getting Wendi's OK? With this family, maybe so.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Oct 11, 2016 3:49:41 PM

Good to know that Charlie put up a blog post yesterday about how long one should keep a toothbrush.
He's not even billing us for that fascinating disquisition.

In another blog post I found, someone recently wondered whether or not they should go see Charlie for dental services:

Posted by: nothing to see here | Oct 11, 2016 2:13:03 PM

What was Wendi doing in Tallahassee? I thought she and the kids had already decamped to the Miami area.

Posted by: robert franklin | Oct 11, 2016 1:47:39 PM

JM, I agree that you can't read too much into the fact that Wendi Adelson made eye contact with Garcia. If I were walking around with my children and a car with two strange men in it was pacing us, I'd stare at them as well, because I'd be creeped out and would want to both get a good look at their faces and let them know that I was aware of them. Garcia may have been interpreting Wendi's "Who are these guys?" look as an "I see you've come as arranged" look because of the underlying circumstances. But "the lady" could easily be Donna Adelson.

Posted by: Sonetka | Oct 11, 2016 12:50:24 PM

- Don't get in the car with your friend after (s)he's been drinking alcohol
- Don't get in the car with your friend when he pulls up and tells you unexpectedly that you'll be going with him so that he can murder someone
- Wash behind your ears in the shower

Posted by: common sense | Oct 11, 2016 12:33:40 PM

Occan's Razor said it was her all along.

Posted by: G Joubert | Oct 11, 2016 11:29:12 AM

You all ought to listen to the full video. Don't just read the accounts of it. Rivera clearly, explicitly, and clearly implicates Wendi, prior to the murder and knowing of it after the deed was done. Here's a link with the entire video:

The details are very clear, there's more than probable cause to arrest her and Charlie now. With the payments coming from the mother-in-law, it's likely she too should be arrested. My presumption is that the prosecutors aren't picking up the family because they're waiting for Garcia to talk, and he knows even more than River and seems to have met Wendi prior to the murder. Listen to the full video.

Posted by: anon | Oct 11, 2016 11:09:16 AM

Verifiable, I do not remember hearing that detail either--I raised an eyebrow on that when I read his statement.

Posted by: Guest | Oct 11, 2016 10:46:17 AM

Her name comes up again in a segment from time stamp 11:10:55 - 11:11:50 which is, at least for now, still part of the posted video.

Posted by: Matt | Oct 11, 2016 9:45:24 AM

The part of the video that refers to Wendi by name now does not appear on the newspaper's website. The video skips directly from time stamp 11:06:01 to time stamp 11:07:01. Wonder why it is being edited...

Posted by: Matt | Oct 11, 2016 9:41:33 AM

This confirms my suspicion that it was his ex-wife, brother-in-law, or both who were paying for the hit. Look at who benefits.

The real losers are the kids they fought over. They've lost their father. Now they will lose their mother.

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Oct 11, 2016 8:02:48 AM

If so, her videotaped interview with the TPD could only be described as bizarre.

Posted by: Travis | Oct 11, 2016 7:53:49 AM

If Wendi was involved, her behavior - from talking to the police without an attorney to mentioning that Charlie joked about hiring a hitman to talking about Dan's murder in her recorded writing group - seems really odd, especially for someone with a JD. However, perhaps that was purposeful, to throw law enforcement off her trail.

Posted by: BA | Oct 11, 2016 7:48:54 AM

The bomb is about to explod.

Posted by: Andrew | Oct 11, 2016 7:36:14 AM

Wendi might want to stop attending writing workshops and catch up on Orange Is the New Black. Looking forward to Charlie's attorney claiming the unnamed "dentist" could be any of a number of dentists in Florida. Wendi then comes out with a story how Dan did not like his last cleaning, so maybe....... I expect Wendi to now start ginning up stories of her poor treatment at the hands of her husband.

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 11, 2016 7:26:47 AM

I don't believe I remember seeing the detail published anywhere that Markel was supposed to be leaving town the day after he was killed.

The lawyer who had called him in as a consultant on the New Jersey rabbis case I think did say for the newspapers they were due to meet the next day, IIRC, in the course of asserting that that case could have nothing to do with his murder because they had just exchanged e-mails and he hadn't done any work on the case yet (nor was his involvement known to the opposite parties).

Posted by: Art Deco | Oct 11, 2016 7:26:23 AM

I am still 50/50 on whether Wendi was involved, but I just don't see how this really tips the scale. All that really happened here is that Rivera saw Wendi at the house the day before the murder, and Wendi looked at him pretty hard. The statements Rivera made about Wendi making sure that they are there for the murder are all just inferences made by Rivera. From the article it is clear that Rivera was not told much about who was ordering the hit, just that it was woman who wanted custody of the kids.

If Magbanua had told Garcia that Wendi was there to make sure everything was on track, then that really would be a bombshell. But I get the feeling Magbanua just told Garcia that Wendi was there to check on the kids, and that Rivera (thinking Wendi ordered the hit) drew another inference.

Posted by: JM | Oct 11, 2016 7:24:12 AM

It's difficult in this rendering to figure out who among the three of them is offering which piece of information. Is this Magbanua reporting what she knows to Garcia, Garcia's gloss on what Magbanua told him, speculation by Garcia, speculation by Rivera? I'm confused.

I'm guessing there could be an innocent explanation for Wendi being there on that day, unless she actually spoke to Rivera and Garcia.

i'm still wondering when on 14 July she spoke to her brother on the phone, especially the 20 minute call.

He does make clear here that this was a murder for hire.

Posted by: Art Deco | Oct 11, 2016 7:23:46 AM

At 20:10: "I said who's f**in hiring you? Katie told me this lady's gonna hire me. But I want you to go with me."

The "lady" isn't Charlie. It's looking more like a cooperative family project.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Oct 11, 2016 7:23:31 AM

That's a bombshell.

Posted by: Marshal | Oct 11, 2016 6:34:58 AM

I don't believe I remember seeing the detail published anywhere that Markel was supposed to be leaving town the day after he was killed. The fact that Rivera believes this is meaningful. It doesn't necessarily implicate Wendi, ie she could have said in an offhand way to her mother on a call that she was going to 100% have the kids over the upcoming ways as Markel was going to be leaving town, but that fact that Rivera seems to have known this means, as opposed to what Markel attorneys would want you to believe, that he was there and they were commissioned to do the hit.

Posted by: verifiable | Oct 11, 2016 5:45:50 AM

Evil Woman

Posted by: Bruce Russell | Oct 11, 2016 5:35:38 AM