Criminal Justice

Affidavit links law prof's slaying to 'desperate desire' of ex-wife's family to win battle over kids

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Updated: A probable cause affidavit links the murder of Florida State University law professor Dan Markel at his Tallahassee home to a battle over the relocation of his children following his bitter divorce from another law professor, Wendi Adelson.

“Investigators believe motive for this murder stemmed from the desperate desire of the Adelson family to relocate Wendi and the children to South Florida,” the newly unsealed affidavit says, “along with a pending court hearing that might have impacted [her parents’] access to the grandchildren.” The Tallahassee Democrat has a story.

The affidavit alleges the slaying was a murder for hire but does not indicate who hired the alleged shooters. A shooting suspect, Sigfredo Garcia, was arrested on May 25.

The affidavit says another man, Luis Rivera, was with Garcia in Tallahassee on the day of the murders in July 2014, and both their cellphones were near Markel’s residence the day before. The men had rented a silver Prius; such a car was captured on surveillance tape near the shooting scene.

According to the affidavit, the divorce of Markel and Adelson was resolved by a settlement agreement in July 2013, but Markel raised new issues after the divorce grant. In a motion for sanctions, Markel alleged that Wendi Adelson and her lawyer weren’t forthcoming about financial issues in the settlement agreement.

Markel also alleged that his ex-wife’s mother, Donna Adelson, made disparaging remarks about him to the couple’s children. In a motion, he asked a judge to prevent Donna Adelson from having unsupervised visitation with her grandchildren. A hearing on the motions was pending when Markel was killed.

The affidavit also says Wendi Adelson’s brother, Charlie Adelson, reportedly disliked Markel. According to the affidavit, Charlie Adelson was involved in a personal relationship with a woman who also had a relationship with Garcia. The woman, Katherine Magbanua, had two children who were fathered by Garcia, and she was the first person Garcia called after the homicide, the affidavit says.

Wendi Adelson had also been a law professor at Florida State University until her resignation in January 2015.

The affidavit says Markel first saw divorce papers when he “returned home from a business trip to find his family gone, a majority of the contents of the house missing and the paperwork for dissolution of marriage displayed on his bed.”

In a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo would not say whether any family members were suspects, but he did say he thinks “it is more probable than not that there will be additional arrests” in the case.

Rivera is currently in federal custody on unrelated charges, DeLeo said.

There was no anonymous tip that led to a break in the case, DeLeo said. Instead, investigators acted with perseverance and dedication, “putting this together piece by piece,” he told reporters. The investigation is continuing.

Updated at 1:40 p.m. to include information from the press conference. Headline and first paragraph changed at 9:10 p.m. to reflect that the affidavit said the slaying was linked to issues about relocation of the children.

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