Trials & Litigation

Slain law professor's wife testifies that she knew nothing about alleged murder-for-hire plot

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The former wife of slain law professor Daniel Markel testified Friday that she wasn’t involved in a plot to kill Markel, and she doesn’t know who killed him.

Wendi Adelson testified in a Tallahassee courtroom under a grant of immunity, the Tallahassee Democrat reported here and here. Adelson and Markel had divorced the year before Markel was killed in July 2014. Markel was a law professor at Florida State University.

The grant of immunity prevents prosecutors from using Adelson’s testimony against her but does not bar the state from ever charging her in the future. Adelson is a lawyer.

Katherine Magbanua and alleged triggerman Sigfredo Garcia are on trial for Markel’s murder. Magbanua worked in the dental office run by Adelson’s parents; Garcia was an on-and-off-again boyfriend of Magbanua. Magbanua had also dated Adelson’s brother, Charlie Adelson.

A third defendant, Luis Rivera, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in October 2016. He was accused of helping Garcia carry out the murder. He told police that Magbanua was a go-between in the murder-for-hire plot, but he was never told the names of the people who ordered the murder.

Charlie Adelson has not been charged in the case. Nor has any other member of the Adelson family.

A lawyer for Magbanua asked Adelson whether Adelson’s brother had anything to do with killing Markel. “I don’t believe so,” she replied.

Adelson said she had sought full custody of the children during the divorce, and her mother had considered offering Markel $1 million to allow the children to relocate to South Florida, where the Adelsons lived. No offer was ever made, however, Wendi Adelson testified.

Differing theories of the case emerged in opening statements Thursday, according to and the Tallahassee Democrat.

A lawyer for Magbanua said in opening statements that the only thing Magbanua is guilty of “is terrible taste in men.” Prosecutors have alleged that the case is a murder for hire, but no member of the Adelson family is facing charges, said the lawyer, Tara Kawass. Magbunua was arrested as an act of desperation, Kawass said.

Saam Zangeneh, a lawyer for Garcia, said Rivera was “the prosecution’s parrot” after receiving “the deal of a lifetime.” Zangeneh contended that Rivera could be the actual triggerman, and Garcia had nothing to do with it.

The trial resumes Tuesday.

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