Prosecutors have long alleged that Florida State University law professor and legal scholar Dan Markel was ambushed and shot to death by hired killers as he pulled his car into his own garage nearly eight years ago. Now, authorities say they have filed murder charges against the man they believe solicited the hit.
Charlie Adelson, 45, the victim’s former brother-in-law, stands accused of murder in the first degree, conspiracy to commit murder, and solicitation of murder. He was indicted by a Leon County grand jury on April 20, 2022, and arrested the next day, according to State Attorney for the 2nd Judicial District Jack Campbell.
The prosecutor’s statement referenced “new audio” of a recording from a restaurant — audio which the prosecutor said “includes statements by Charles Adelson which can be heard clearly for the first time.”
The strength of that recording, made at the Dulce Vida restaurant in Miami, provided the basis for Adelson’s indictment, authorities say.
“That’s the new evidence,” Campbell said in comments reported by the Tallahassee Democrat after Adelson was indicted. “We’ve been able to hear things from the Dulce video that we weren’t able to hear until this most recent enhancement. We’ve never stopped working it and we appreciate the efforts of all of our law enforcement partners.”
The prosecution’s theory of the case is that Adelson and others, including his mother, Donna Adelson, conspired to have Markel killed amidst a custody dispute between the prominent legal theorist who wrote on matters of criminal retribution and his ex-wife, attorney Wendi Adelson. The two divorced in 2013. A court subsequently denied the ex-wife’s request to move their children to South Florida.
“Investigators believe motive for this murder stemmed from the desperate desire of the Adelson family to relocate Wendi and the children to South Florida, along with the pending court hearing that might have impacted their access to the grandchildren,” an affidavit filed in 2019 concerning the alleged assassins says.
That year, Sigfredo Garcia went on trial and was found guilty of pulling one of the triggers that took Markel’s life. The connective tissue between the convicted killer and the Adelsons is allegedly a woman named Katherine Magbanua, who worked in Charlie Adelson’s dental office and is the mother of Garcia’s children. Her case resulted in a mistrial but she is scheduled to be tried again on May 16, 2022.
Luis Rivera, who was convicted of murder in the second degree after a plea deal, admitted he was the second gunman and is the state’s lead witness.
According to prosecutors, the Adelsons paid $100,000 to have Markel killed. The new evidence cited by law enforcement allegedly reveals the details of the plot.
The recording was made in 2016 by FBI agents and features a conversation between Magbanua and Charlie Adelson where they discuss undercover agents talking to Donna Adelson about the scheme. Prosecutors allege this recording details the chain of information about the murder-for-hire conspiracy.
“The Markel Family is deeply grateful to the State Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and all members of law enforcement for their tireless pursuit of justice,” the deceased man’s surviving relatives said in a statement obtained by Tallahassee ABC affiliate WTXL. “Nearly eight years after Danny’s tragic murder, these dedicated public servants continue to fight to honor Danny’s memory and to hold accountable all those responsible for his horrific death. On behalf of Danny’s family and friends in the Tallahassee community and all over the world, thank you.”
Court documents in the matter – including charging instruments — are not yet contained in an electronic database. Despite a request, the prosecutor’s office has not yet provided copies to Law&Crime.
Wendi Adelson testified in a previous proceeding; that testimony is here (via the Law&Crime Network):
Charlie Adelson’s booking record is below:
Aaron Keller contributed reporting.
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