Miami New Times, A Professor's Murder in Tallahassee Was a Contract Hit, Prosecutors Say:
In the 15 months preceding what investigators say was a "murder for hire," Dan Markel's ex-mother-in-law, Donna Adelson, had sent her only daughter a flurry of emails. They were pointed and vitriolic, filled with hatred for her son-in-law.
She called the man with two Harvard degrees an "idiot," a "fucker," and a "bastard."
"You suffered under his 'reign,'" Donna wrote to her daughter, Dan's ex-wife Wendi, in May 2013. "Narcissistic personality disorder causes major problems in a marriage."
Donna continued by derogatorily calling Dan "Jibbers" for his habit of talking incessantly and "Elvis" for what she perceived as his swollen self-regard.
She concluded the email, "I'm too angry to write any more. I'm going to shower, wash my hair, and get ready for you and the boys to come home."
The email is one of hundreds of thousands of documents, CDs, and photos of evidence in a file in the Leon County Courthouse in Tallahassee, where Sigfredo Garcia, age 37, and Kathy Magbanua, his 34-year-old, on-again, off-again girlfriend and the mother of his two children, will soon face trial on first-degree murder charges.
Cops say Donna Adelson and her son Charlie, Wendi's older brother, paid $100,000 to have Markel killed. According to law enforcement, they hoped to free Wendi to move with her two pre-school-aged sons to South Florida, where she grew up. But almost five years after the murder, neither has been criminally charged.
"This is such an unusual situation, in that law enforcement is alleging a conspiracy but only some members of that conspiracy have been charged," says David Lat, a New York lawyer who has tracked the case from the beginning on his blog, Above the Law.
Three suspects from Miami were arrested in 2016. One of them was Luis Rivera, AKA "King Tato." By the time of the indictment, Rivera was already serving a 12-year federal sentence on criminal conspiracy charges for his role as a leader of the Latin Kings' North Miami operation. Rivera received a reduced sentence of 19 years to run concurrent with his federal sentence in exchange for his confession and cooperation in
If Garcia or Magbanua are convicted in Tallahassee, they might be inclined to cooperate with the state — if they have information, that is. "If they implicate the Adelsons, the case will be much stronger," Lat says. "So I don't think the Adelsons are out of the legal woods yet." ...
The divorce was finalized in July 2013. Dan would pay $841 per month in child support and a lump-sum payment of $180,000. He got the house. She got the minivan.
But it wasn't over. In the months after the settlement, Dan and Wendi quarreled over payment of the kids' expenses as well as drop-off and pick-up times. They also argued over Wendi's desire to move to South Florida, where her family ran a dental clinic.
Donna Adelson claimed that Dan had become a "religious zealot" since the couple's sons were born and that he was "indoctrinating them, not teaching them." If he really cared, he would allow the kids to move to South Florida with Wendi, where they could study at "one of the 37 Hebrew Day Schools in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County," she wrote in an email to Wendi in May 2013.
Donna pushed her daughter to be more forceful in the court hearings. She continually blamed her son-in-law for the demise of the marriage and accused him of brainwashing the children. And she insisted her daughter let everyone know. "It's super important for the judge to get the message that this guy is a big bully," Donna wrote at one point.
In advance of a July 2013 court hearing in the divorce, Donna wrote an email to Wendi with the subject line "Please read — very important."
"It's time to take control of your life and not let [Dan] think he's just 'won' anything by having you remaining [in] Tallahassee, eight hours away from the only family you have...," Donna wrote in the three-page missive. "Let's show this fucker what will make him absolutely miserable." ...
Donna laid out a plan to deceive Dan into believing the children would become part of a Catholic church if they remained in Tallahassee. She advised Wendi to tell him: "You wanted me in Tallahassee. My children are going to 'fit in' in this bible belt."
Donna said pretending to convert the kids to Christianity could sway Markel and appeal to the judge, Leon County Circuit Judge Barbara Hobbs. "There were multiple donations from her church pastors & ministers on her financial contributions," Donna wrote. "She's a Southern black lady. How do you know it won't be music to her ears to hear this?"
Donna ended the note telling Wendi the family was prepared to offer Dan $1 million to allow Wendi to move to South Florida.
"Everyone has a price," she said. "It is about winning or losing." ...
On July 11, 2014, Donna emailed Wendi to confirm a Best Buy appointment to fix a broken TV set. It was scheduled for between 8 a.m. and noon July 18, 2014.
Dan would be shot dead in that time frame. ...
The police affidavit for Garcia's arrest implicated Charlie and Donna Adelson. The motive for the slaying, it stated, "stemmed from the desperate desire of the Adelson family" to bring Wendi and the couple's two young sons home to South Florida. ...
Like Garcia's arrest warrant, the probable-cause affidavit in Magbanua's case suggested Charlie and Donna were involved in Markel's killing. It noted a flurry of cell-phone calls between Charlie, Donna, and Magbanua around the time of the murder. It went on to describe cash deposits Magbanua had made to her bank accounts over the next year of up to $2,000 at a time, about $44,000 total. Magbanua had also begun to receive checks from the Adelson dental practice in September 2014. The checks were signed by Donna Adelson.
Daniel Rashbaum, a lawyer on the team representing Donna and her husband Harvey, declined to comment and referred an inquiry to an August 2016 statement regarding the case. "We understand why the government has put the Adelson family through this type of severe scrutiny," the statement reads. "But nothing has turned up that supports this fanciful fiction that the Adelsons were involved. The investigation has gone so deep that it employed FBI agents, undercover agents, and a tip line. There is a reason that the police have not arrested any of the Adelsons — they weren't involved in Dan's death." ...
Wendi has been subpoenaed by the state and is also expected to testify.
The Adelsons — Donna, Harvey, and Charlie — will not be there, a lawyer for the family said. But their names will certainly come up.
"It will be impossible for the government to make the case against [Magbanua] and Sigfredo without heavily mentioning the Adelsons," says Lat, the attorney and Above the Law blogger.
Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:
- Police Release New Details In Dan Markel's Murder (July 20, 2014)
- Memorial Tributes to Dan Markel (1972-2014) (July 31, 2014)
- Details Emerge in Murder of Dan Markel (Aug. 31, 2014)
- Dan Markel's Death Remains a Mystery Seven Months After Shooting (Feb 20, 2015)
- Dan Markel's Father Speaks To The Media For The First Time About His Son's Murder (Apr. 5, 2015)
- Remembering Dan Markel (May 3, 2015)
- Dan Markel Deserves Justice (July 18, 2015)
- Police Release New Details In Dan Markel's Murder (July 20, 2015)
- Remembering Dan Markel (Sept. 9, 2015)
- 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)
- Hit Man Implicates Wendi Adelson In Dan Markel's Murder (Oct. 11, 2016)
- Update: Hit Man Implicates Wendi Adelson In Dan Markel's Murder (Oct. 12, 2016)
- Wendi Adelson's Attorney Questions Credibility Of Hit Man's Statement Implicating Ex-Wife In Dan Markel's Murder (Oct. 13, 2016)
- Dan Markel's Parents Discuss With Prosecutors Emergency Placement Of Their Grandchildren Upon Forthcoming Arrests Of Adelsons (Oct. 14, 2016)
- Update On Dan Markel Murder Investigation (Oct. 15, 2016)
- More Details Emerge Linking Adelson Family To Dan Markel's Murder (Oct. 18, 2016)
- What Wendi Adelson's Novel Reveals About Dan Markel's Murder (Oct. 19, 2016)
- The Dan Markel Murder Investigation: Why Was Katherine Magbanua's First Degree Murder Charge Reduced To Second Degree Murder? (Oct. 25, 2016)
- CrimeStoppers Reduces Reward For Tips In Dan Markel Murder Investigation From $25k To $3k (Oct. 26, 2016)
- Wendi Adelson's Novel: Art Imitating Life? (Oct. 27, 2016)
- Experts Expect Charlie And Donna Adelson To Be Charged In Dan Markel's Murder (Oct. 30, 2016)
- The Dan Markel Murder: Fascinating Details About The Adelson Family Dynamics (Nov. 4, 2016)
- The Dan Markel Murder Case: Who Is (Or Was) Paying The Killers' Attorneys' Fees? (Nov. 13, 2016)
- Prosecutors To Seek First Degree Murder Charge Today Against Katherine Magbanua In Grand Jury Proceedings In Dan Markel's Murder (Nov. 29, 2016)
- Grand Jury Charges Katherine Magbanua With First Degree Murder In Killing Of Dan Markel (Nov. 30, 2016)
- Katherine Magbanua Pleads Not Guilty To First Degree Murder In Killing Of Dan Markel, Trial Set For February; Prosecutors Still Hope She Will Implicate Adelsons (Dec. 7, 2016)
- Judge Denies Bond For Katherine Magbanua, Charged With First Degree Murder In Killing Of Dan Markel (Dec. 11, 2016)
- Does The Prosecution Believe (And Can It Prove) That Wendi Adelson (And Not Charlie Or Donna) Hired Katherine Magbanua And Sigfredo Garcia To Kill Dan Markel? (Dec. 14, 2016)
- 'The Prosecution Does Not Believe That Wendi Ordered The Hit' On Dan Markel (Dec. 17, 2016)
- Wendi Adelson's Lawyer Lists Seven Reasons That 'Conclusively Establish Her Innocence' In Dan Markel's Murder — And Monitors Web Comments That May Give Rise To Defamation Actions Against Those Proclaiming Her Guilt (Dec. 20, 2016)
- Tallahassee Crimes Of The Year: The Murder Of Dan Markel (Dec. 29, 2016)
- Katherine Magbanua's Murder Trial In Killing Of Dan Markel Is Delayed As Two Inmates Say Alleged Hit Man Sigfredo Garcia Implicated Charlie And Donna Adelson (Feb. 7, 2017)
- Two Prison Inmates Provide Link To Adelsons In Dan Markel's Murder (Feb. 15, 2017)
- Lawyers For Adelsons, Magbanua Attack Prosecution's Case Against Their Clients In Dan Markel Murder (Feb. 22, 2017)
- Magbanua’s Attorneys Chide Prosecutors' Fishing Expedition To Determine Who Is Paying Her Attorneys' Fees In Markel Murder Case (Mar. 28, 2017)
- One Year After Arrest Of Alleged Hit Man, Prosecutors Are No Closer To Charging Adelsons In Murder Of Dan Markel, Despite 'Mountain Of Strong But Circumstantial Evidence' (May 25, 2017)
- Trial Date Set For Alleged Hit Man In Dan Markel's Murder (June 21, 2017)
- On Three Year Anniversary Of Dan Markel's Murder, Wheels Of Justice Continue To Turn Slowly (July 19, 2017)
- Another Cellmate Implicates Hit Man In Dan Markel's Murder (Sept. 21, 2017)
- People Magazine Investigates: Who Killed Dan Markel? (Dec. 21, 2017)
- Who Had Dan Markel Killed? (Jan. 18, 2018)
- New Charges Filed Against Two Suspects In Dan Markel's Murder (Feb. 9, 2018)
- Prosecutors Admit They Are No Closer To Arresting Other Suspects In Dan Markel's Murder (Feb. 12, 2018)
- Accused Hit Man In Dan Markel's Murder Pleads Not Guilty To New Charges (Mar. 9, 2018)
- Charges Consolidated For Katherine Magbanua (Mother Of Hit Man's Children, Worker In Adelson Dental Practice) In Murder Of Dan Markel (Mar. 27, 2018)
- Dan Markel's Parents Break Their Silence Tonight On NBC's Dateline (Apr. 13, 2018)
- Wendi Adelson's Billionaire Boss Says Prosecutors Have Concluded She Had Nothing To Do With Dan Markel's Murder (Apr. 23, 2018)
- Judge Grants Prosecutors' Motion For Joint Trial Of Markel Murder Suspects, But Warns 'Be Careful What You Wish For'; Post July 18, 2014 Statements Are Now Inadmissible As Evidence (June 21, 2018)
- Autopsy Report Reveals New Details In Dan Markel's Murder (July 9, 2018)
- Dan Markel’s Parents Release Statement On Four-Year Anniversary Of His Murder (July 21, 2018)
- Prosecutors Investigate Whether Magbanua Sister-In-Law's Alleged $1.2 Million Embezzlement Was Used To Pay Defendant's Attorneys' Fees In Dan Markel Murder Case (July 31, 2018)
- Oct. 8 Murder Trial Of Suspects In Dan Markel's Murder Is Delayed, Perhaps For Five Months (Sept. 19, 2018)
- June 3, 2019 Trial Date Set For Suspects In 2014 Dan Markel Murder (Nov. 26, 2018)
- Dan Markel's Murder: The Podcast (Mar. 1, 2019)
- Dan Markel's Parents Want Justice As Suspects Finally Head To Trial In Murder-For-Hire Case (Apr. 29, 2019)
- Hit Man's Lawyer Seeks Continuance Of June Trial Four Years After Dan Markel's Murder Due To Girlfriend's Pregnancy (May 4, 2019)
- Judge Rules Wendi Adelson Need Not Give Defense Deposition, Denies Continuance In Dan Markel Murder Trial (May 10, 2019)
- Judge Denies Third Request For Delay In June 3 Trial Of Suspects In Dan Markel's 2014 Murder (May 23, 2019)
- Judge Delays June 3 Trial Date In Dan Markel's Murder Due To Newly Discovered Cell Phone Data (May 25, 2019)
- Dan Markel's Murder: The TV Series (May 26, 2019)
- Divided Appeals Court Affirms Ruling That Wendi Adelson Need Not Give Defense Deposition In Dan Markel Murder Trial (June 3, 2019)