We have been following the investigation of the murder of Florida State Professor Dan Markel – a case that has cast suspicions on the family of his ex-wife and fellow professor Wendi Adelson. Much of this suspicion has been drawn to Adelson’s brother, Charlie Adelson. Charlie Adelson was reportedly romantically involved with Katherine Magbanua, who just happened to be the mother of two children with Sigfredo Garcia, one of the two accused hit men (with Luis Rivera). Now, Magbanua has been arrested — drawing the case even closer to the Adelson family. UPDATE: Rivera has cut a deal to cooperate in a guilty plea. That deal appears connected to this arrest and will likely increase the pressure on Magbanua to cut her own deal.
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.
Police say that Garcia and Rivera were “enlisted” to kill Markel in connection with his divorce from Adelson. Police traced a rental to the scene of the crime. The police have made little secret of their suspicion of Charles Adelson and his mother Donna Adelson. The family wanted Wendi Adelson to move with the children near them. Police became suspicious after learning that Magbanua is connected to Garcia and that she spoke more than 2,000 times to Garcia in the weeks leading up to the slaying. Prosecutors now say Charlie Adelson paid for half of a $6,000 to $7,000 breast implant surgery done by Dr. Leonard Roudner, also known as “Dr. Boobner.” That surgery occurred notably in October 2014, roughly three months after Markel’s killing. Police sought the medical records despite the insistence of Charlie Adelson’s lawyer that it was “a fishing expedition.” The court did not see it that way and granted the subpoena to confirm the surgery and payments.
Now Magbanua is under arrest for murder. The warrant however suggests a broader circle of conspirators. It says that Wendi’s mother was particularly upset after Markel had filed a motion to require that the children’s visitation with Wendi’s mother be supervised. He cited allegations by the children that she had called Markel “stupid” and asserted he was “taking her sunshines away from her.” Moreover, the cellphone records show that after Magbanua spoke with Charlie Adelson, he would often call his mother, Donna. For her part, Magbanua would call Garcia. Indeed, police cite “a flurry of communications between the alleged conspirators.”
Police also suggest that Magbanua was given a “significant increase” in cash bank deposits after the murder and she received paychecks from the family dental business. The thrust of the warrant is clearly more about the Adelson family than Magbanua. Indeed, her arrest may be an effort to flip her against the Adelsons. She has children to care for and a valuable piece of any prosecution to bargain with. At most, she is believed to have been a facilitator in the conspiracy — making her the ultimate cooperating witness to tie in the main players. If that is the tactic, it could well succeed. What is clear is that the case is entering a new and more threatening stage for the Adelsons.