We have previously discussed the murder of Florida State University Law Professor Dan Markel (left) and suspicions that the family of his wife (and fellow FSA faculty member) Wendi Adelson conspired in the murder. Now, Adelson has taken the stand in the murder trial of one of the alleged accomplices just two weeks after the arrest of her brother, Charlie Adelson, right, for the murder. Wendi previously seemed to implicate her brother in her initial interview with police while maintaining that she knew nothing about a murder plot of her estranged husband. The trial involved Katherine Magbanua who was found guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation of murder.
In 2016, we ran a series of columns on the bizarre murder and the allegations against the Adelson family.
First a recap to bring you back up to speed.
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.
Magbanua is the mother of two children with Sigfredo Garcia, one of the two accused hit men (with Luis Rivera). 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.
Magbanua’s warrant said 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.
Rivera has stated that he and Garcia (who reportedly pulled the trigger) saw Wendi Adelson, eyeing their car. When Garcia asked why the woman with the children was staring at them, he says that Garcia told him “Oh, that’s the lady. That’s Wendi.”
We previously discussed the police station interview of Adelson. The videotape is very emotional and at times bizarre.
In the 2014 interview, the detective tells her “That’s what this is about. There was a shooting at your home, or your ex-husband’s home. [He] has been taken to the hospital. He’s not going to survive.” Adelson bursts into tears and exclaims “Oh, my God,” Adelson says, sobbing throughout. “What happened. …I just don’t understand? How could this happen?”
Wendi tells the detective “I’m scared. I don’t know why this would happen . . . It really scares me because, I mean, if there’s someone out there that’s willing to do this to him. … I’m scared for the kids.”
Given the focus on her brother, a couple of statements stand out. She says that she is “scared someone maybe did this – not because they hate Danny but because they thought this was good somehow.” She then admits that her brother joked with her earlier that day about how a television might be cheaper than a hit man to deal with the problems in her life.
“And I was talking to him about whether it made sense to pay to fix it or I should get a new one,” she said. “And it was always his joke that, like, he knew that Danny treated me badly, and it was always his joke, he said, I looked into hiring a hit man but it was cheaper to get you this TV.”
Adelson maintained the same line on the stand in the trial this week of Magbanua.
The testimony had one new element, however, given the arrest of her brother who is now charge with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and solicitation to commit first-degree murder.
The police have never made a secret of their suspicion of the Adelson family. While the brother was the focus of the investigation, his mother and even his sister Wendi have been the subject of speculation as co-conspirators. They deny the allegations.
The wealthy family runs a dental practice in South Florida. They wanted the kids relocated near them — a move that Markel “adamantly opposed.”
One of the reasons for the sudden arrest of Charlie was the enhancement of a secret recording between Charlie Adelson and Magbanua in which he discussed her resisting efforts to get her to talk.
The conviction this week could put even greater pressure on Magbanua to cooperate against Charile Adelson.
In this trial, Rivera, who pleaded guilty to Markel’s murder, admitted that he did the murder with his childhood friend Garcia, who was also convicted. He said Garcia hired him and that Magbanua paid them upon their return to Miami from Tallahassee” “It was all paid—it was me, Sigfredo, Katie got paid.”
The question is who paid them and whether, if guilty, whether Charlie was the only Adelson in on the alleged plot.