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Florida woman sentenced to life in prison for hitman murder of FSU professor in tangled web of lovers, exes, and family

Leon County Sheriff's Office

The wildly connected crew behind a bizarre murder-for-hire plot in the 2014 killing of a Florida State University professor are finally being punished for their deadly crime.

On July 18, 2014, 41-year-old Dan Markel dropped his two children off at preschool and then went to the gym. Around 11 a.m., he went back to his Tallahassee home after his workout. Markel was talking to someone on his phone, and noted that a stranger was in his driveway.

Markel – a graduate of Harvard and Cambridge, turned law professor at Florida State University – was shot twice in the face in his garage. Markel died at a hospital from his gunshot wounds about 15 hours after the shooting.

Investigators point to a Toyota Prius as a possible vehicle of Markel's killer.

A year before he was shot to death, Markel got a divorce from his former wife Wendi Adelson.

The divorce became fiery after Adelson wanted to bring her children 450 miles away to her parents' home in South Florida. However, Markel successfully fought off the relocation of his children in court.

Police interviewed Jeffrey Lacasse – Wendi's ex-boyfriend – who is also a professor at FSU. Lacasse had a verifiable alibi. However, Lacasse was willing to offer up who he believed was capable of committing such a crime – Wendi's brother Charlie Adelson.

Charlie Adelson worked at the family's dentistry business, the Adelson Institute, in South Florida with Wendi's father and mother.

Wendi told authorities her brother had joked about hiring a hitman as a divorce present, but he bought her a TV instead.

Authorities reviewed surveillance video from city buses and found the green Prius. Footage showed that the Prius had a toll transponder. Investigators pulled the records of every Prius heading into Tallahassee around the time of Markel's murder.

A green Prius was rented from a car rental company in Miami. The Prius was rented from a man named Luis Rivera – a leader of the Latin Kings gang.

The car rental contract also listed Sigfredo Garcia – who was previously in a relationship with Katherine Magbanua. Garcia and Magbanua had two children together.

Magbanua was in a romantic relationship with Charlie Adelson.

Surveillance cameras at Markel's gym capture the moment that the green Prius pulled into the parking lot. Cell phone tower data show that Rivera and Garcia were in the area of Markel's home. The green Prius returns to the Miami area hours after Markel was shot at his home.

Garcia and Rivera were charged with the murder of Dan Markel.

"Rivera pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and received a 19-year sentence in exchange for testifying against Magbanua and Garcia," according to CrimeOnline.

In 2019, Garcia was convicted of first-degree murder and is serving a life sentence.

"Police previously released probable cause affidavits that revealed Garcia called Magbanua an astonishing 2,700 times in the three months before Markel's murder," the Daily Mail reported. "There were also a number of phone calls on July 1, 2014, 17 days before Markel was killed, between Adelson, Magbanua, Garcia and a phone registered to Harvey Adelson, Markel's former father-in-law, the affidavit states."

The Tallahassee Democrat reported in 2016, "Prosecutors say Charlie Adelson paid for half of a $6,000 to $7,000 breast implant surgery done by Dr. Leonard Roudner, also known as 'Dr. Boobner,' in October 2014, roughly three months after Markel’s killing."

Magbanua, 37, reportedly began receiving checks from the Adelson Institute from September 2014 to January 2016.

In April, Charlie Adelson was indicted by a grand jury on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy, and solicitation to murder.

Adelson's trial is expected to begin in early 2023, according to assistant state attorney Georgia Cappleman.

In May, Magbanua was unanimously found guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy, and solicitation.

On Friday, Magbanua was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for her role in the murder of Markel.

“You will be sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for probation or parole,” Circuit Judge Robert Wheeler told Magbanua at her sentencing hearing.

Investigators believe that $100,000 was paid for the murder-for-hire act.

Authorities have not charged Wendi Adelson or her parents, Donna and Harvey Adelson.

The victim's parents, Ruth and Phil Markel, told People magazine through their representation, "Dan Markel was brutally murdered more than eight years ago. Today's sentencing of Katharine Magbanua marks another important step toward accountability and justice. They are grateful for the efforts of law enforcement and the State Attorney's Office in advancing the criminal case against Charles Adelson and in continuing to pursue all those responsible for Dan's murder."

This "20/20" segment from 2017 details the murder of Dan Markel.

20/20 ABC 2017: In-Laws and Outlawswww.youtube.com

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