Speculation tying ex-wife's family to 2014 murder of Dan Markel is "categorically false," say attorneys

By Jeff Truesdell
August 04, 2016 06:00 PM
Florida State University College of Law

Attorneys for the ex-wife of Florida law professor Dan Markel tell PEOPLE it’s “fanciful fiction” to suggest that she or her family members have any connection to the murder of the popular teacher in 2014.

The family of the ex-wife, Wendi Adelson, is speaking out through their attorneys for the first time in a statement to refute that allegation, which was raised after the arrests earlier this summer of two suspects in the alleged murder-for-hire plot.

“There has been a lot of unsupported speculation that the Adelsons had something to do with the murder,” says the statement signed by a team of six attorneys who are separately representing Adelson, her brother, and her parents. “That speculation is categorically false. To be clear, none of the Adelsons – Wendi, her brother Charlie, or their parents Donna and Harvey – had anything to do with Dan’s murder.”

A “bitter divorce” and revived child custody matters between Adelson and Markel, who were fellow law professors at Florida State University, emerged as a dominant theme underlying the arrests this summer of two men in the alleged plot, according to a court document made public in June.

That document stated, “Investigators believe the motive for this murder stemmed from the desperate desire of the Adelson family to relocate Wendi and the children to South Florida, along with (a) pending court hearing that might have impacted the access to the grandchildren.”

Markel, a nationally respected professor and father of two boys, was shot in the head execution-style on the morning of July 18, 2014, as he sat in his Honda Accord in the garage of his suburban Tallahassee home.

After nearly two years of no public progress, authorities in May and June arrested and charged Sigfredo Garcia, 34, and Luis Rivera, 33, for the murder. Both have pleaded not guilty, and are scheduled to be tried together in November.

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

The alleged connection to the Adelsons was raised in a probable cause affidavit leading to Garcia’s arrest. In that document, investigators wrote that Charlie Adelson “was involved in a personal relationship” with the mother of Garcia’s children, Katherine Magbanua, who also was described as a business associate of Garcia’s.

Although police have never publicly named Charlie Adelson or other members of the family as suspects, they have said additional arrests are expected.

“We respect the process and the enormous amount of work that the Tallahassee police department has done in this case,” the attorneys for the Adelsons say in their statement. “They have spent the past two years reviewing every shred of evidence out there – every phone record, financial record, text message, email, internet search, everything. We understand why the government has put the Adelson family through this type of severe scrutiny.”

“But nothing has turned up that supports this fanciful fiction that the Adelsons were involved. The investigation has gone so deep that it employed FBI agents, undercover agents, and a tip line. There is a reason that the police have not arrested any of the Adelsons – they weren’t involved in Dan’s death.”

“We are issuing this statement because the media continues to run stories suggesting – without any support or evidence – that the Adelsons were somehow involved in Dan’s murder. Again, this is simply not true. The Adelsons were not involved. We share in the hope that those responsible will be brought to justice.”

The attorneys also said: “On behalf of the Adelson family, we continue to send our deepest condolences to the Markel family. Dan’s death was a tragedy, and the loss is profound. Although Wendi and Dan were divorced, he was the father of their two children, who must now grow up without their dad.”

The attorneys who signed the statement are John Lauro, representing Wendi Adelson; David Oscar Markus, Margot Moss and Michael Weinstein, representing Charlie Adelson; and Daniel Rashbaum and Jeffrey Neiman, representing Donna and Harvey Adelson.