Criminal Justice

Defense blames law prof’s murder on extortion plot; lawyer ex-wife denies family involvement

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AP Charlie Adelson mugshot

Dentist Charlie Adelson is accused of arranging the 2014 murder of Dan Markel, his former brother-in-law. (Photo from the Broward County, Florida, sheriff’s office via the Associated Press.)

Lawyer Wendi Adelson, the ex-wife of murdered law professor Dan Markel, testified Thursday that it’s “completely untrue” that her family was responsible for the slaying.

Asked whether she had anything to do with the murder, Wendi Adelson said “absolutely not” and asserted that the state version of the incident is “absolutely” wrong, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Wendi Adelson testified in the trial of her brother, dentist Charlie Adelson, who is accused of ordering the 2014 hit that killed Markel, a Florida State University College of Law professor. She was granted limited immunity for her testimony.

Prosecutors contend Charlie Adelson ordered the hit so his sister could relocate with the former couple’s two children to be near her family in Miami. Already convicted in the case are two hit men, Sigfredo Garcia and Luis Rivera, and the alleged go-between, Katherine Magbanua. She had been romantically involved with Charlie Adelson as well as Garcia.

Wendi Adelson acknowledged that her brother had joked that the TV set he bought her for a divorce present was cheaper than hiring a hit man, but said he never mentioned actually hiring a hit man. On the day of the murder, Adelson was at her home waiting for a repairman to fix a cracked screen on the TV.

Adelson also denied telling an ex-boyfriend that her brother had seriously looked into hiring a killer and the cost could be $50,000.

During opening statements on Thursday, the defense outlined a theory involving “an elaborate extortion scheme,” according to the Tallahassee Democrat. The newspaper has additional coverage here; the Miami New Times and Law360 also have coverage.

Defense lawyer Daniel Rashbaum claimed in opening statements that Magbanua was the mastermind of the murder plot. According to his version of events, Magbanua told Charlie Adelson about the murders after the fact, and said those involved would have to be paid or they would kill a member of the Adelson family.

Charlie Adelson had told the joke about hiring a hit man to Magbanua and she was aware the Adelson family had discussed paying Markel $1 million to move to Miami with the children, Rushbaum said.

“You will learn that Katie heard about the million-dollar offer and got some ideas in her head,” Rashbaum said. “The state has called Katherine Magbuana the mastermind and that’s exactly what she was.”

The triggerman, Garcia, hated Charlie Adelson and had previously threatened him in a phone call, Rashbaum said. Garcia “tells him if you keep dating Katie, we’re going to go mano a mano, I’m going to kill you,” Rashbaum said.

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