Almost a year ago, the legal academy was shocked by the murder of Florida State Law Professor Dan Markel at his home. The police have now arrested Sigfredo Garcia, 34, and Luis Rivera, 33, and they have been indicted in the murders. The investigation is clearly not over. The police are suggesting that this was a contract killing tied to Markel’s divorce from his wife and former law professor, Wendi Adelson. The couple has two children.
Police say that Garcia and Rivera were “enlisted” to kill Markel in connection with his divorce from another law professor. The police have focused on a light green Toyota Prius rented in North Miami under Luis Rivera’s name. The contract listed the cellphone numbers of Rivera and Garcia as contacts. Investigators tracked the Prius to Tallahassee and have locational data from Garcia’s cellphone and the SunPass transponder in the rental car. The police also have video from various locations showing a car resembling the Prius following Markel the day of the murder as he dropped his young sons off at daycare and went to the gym.
Adelson and Markel married in 2006 when she was a third-year law student at the University of Miami and he was a criminal law professor at FSU. News accounts say that Markel returned from a business trip to find the kids and his wife gone with divorce papers left on the bed — the start of a highly acrimonious divorce. It would include a fight over custody and even a demand by Markel that his mother-in-law not be allowed unsupervised visits with his children.
Adelson has gone public with her own account and said that she is being unfairly targeted by sensational media: “He died violently and young, and likely at the hands of a professional killer, and the media had a field day in response. I turned on the TV to find photos of my children with Nancy Grace, George Stephanopoulos saying my name in reference to our ‘acrimonious divorce,’ and a picture my friend took when I was her maid of honor showed as evidence of why I should be treated as a murder suspect, and not the mother of two fatherless boys.”
Police however have said that there was a “desperate desire” of the Adelson family to relocate her and her two children to South Florida. Police say that there was tension between Markel and the family and that the divorce had become highly contentious. However, the most suspicious connection drawn by police is between Wendi’s brother, Charles Adelson, and a woman named Katherine Magbanua. Magbanua is the mother of two children with Sigfredo Garcia. Police say that she spoke more than 2,000 times to Garcia in the weeks leading up to the slaying.
The Adelson family has amassed significant wealth due to the Adelson Institute for Aesthetics and Implant Dentistry as well as real estate holdings. “Charlie” is a periodontist.
State Attorney Willie Meggs is mum about whether they are targeting any other individuals but it is difficult to base a prosecution on a murder connected to a divorce without pursuing someone connected to the divorce. These men did not spontaneously decide to murder a law professor.
Rivera is already facing an unrelated federal racketeering case and he is associated with the gang The Latin Kings. Notably, Rivera initially claimed he had never been to northern Florida but that was shown to be untrue and he changed his story. Rivera is better known as King Tato and First Crown of the Latin Kings gang in North Miami.
The police may be hoping that someone like Garcia will flip but they are clearly making no secret of their focus on the Adelson family.