Criminal Justice

Slain law prof's former brother-in-law was murder mastermind, alleged go-between testifies

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AP Sigfredo Garcia David Northway_800px

David Northway, a public information officer for the Tallahassee Police Department in Florida, reveals an image of Sigfredo Garcia during a press conference in May 2016. Garcia is the convicted triggerman in the 2014 death of Florida law professor Dan Markel. Photo by Joe Rondone/The Tallahassee Democrat via the Associated Press.

The alleged go-between in the murder of Florida law professor Dan Markel testified Monday that Markel’s former brother-in-law was the mastermind of the murder plot.

The former brother-in-law, dentist Charlie Adelson, “knew he was hiring a hit man,” alleged go-between Katherine Magbanua testified Monday.

The Tallahassee Democrat and WCTV have coverage.

Markel, a law professor at the Florida State University College of Law, was killed in July 2014. Prosecutors contend that Charlie Adelson ordered the hit so that his sister, lawyer Wendi Adelson, could relocate with the former couple’s two children to be near her family in Miami.

Magbanua had a romantic relationship with Charlie Adelson and with the convicted triggerman, Sigfredo Garcia. Magbanua was also convicted of murder in the case, while getaway car driver Luis Rivera pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

The defense contends that Magbanua was mastermind of the murder plot, and the goal was to extort payments from Charlie Adelson under threat of harm to Adelson’s family.

Defense lawyer Daniel Rashbaum pursued that angle while questioning Magbanua, according to the WCTV’s live blog.

“Isn’t it true that you were the mastermind of Dan Markel’s murder?” Rashbaum asked.

“No, sir; that was Charlie,” Magbanua replied.

“Ma’am, let me ask the questions. I know you have an agenda, but let me ask the questions,” Rashbaum said.

The comment prompted an objection and an instruction from Judge Stephen Everett that jurors should ignore the comment about having an agenda.

Magbanua said she previously turned down a deal for immunity in the case if she cooperated because it would mean giving up Garcia, who is the father of her children. She also said she lied in previous trials to save herself. She said she wasn’t lying now, and she was not promised anything for her testimony.

Magbanua testified that Adelson gave her stapled money in an envelope to pay Garcia, Rivera and herself. The cash was moldy and wet, she said, and she thought that it might have been that way because it was washed.

Markel’s ex-wife, Wendi Adelson, testified Thursday that it’s “completely untrue” that her family was responsible for the slaying. She also denied telling ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Lacasse that her brother had seriously looked into hiring a killer, and the cost could be as high as $50,000, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Lacasse testified Friday that Wendi Adelson did tell him about Charlie Adelson looking into hiring a hit man, and she was very serious at the time. Wendi Adelson’s statement “was chilling, scary, made my stomach quake,” Lacasse testified.

Rashbaum asked Lacasse why he didn’t go to police right away.

“I didn’t come in right away because I was scared of your client,” Lacasse replied.

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