Dan Markel murder: Charlie Adelson arrested on murder charges in Broward County

·6 min read

Nearly eight years after FSU law professor Dan Markel was gunned down in his Betton Hills garage by hired hitmen, his former brother-in-law has been arrested in connection with his brazen, broad daylight murder.

Charlie Adelson was booked, according to Broward County Jail records, on charges of first degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation of murder. The 45-year-old was taken into custody "without incident" Thursday morning at his home by the FBI.

It was a bombshell development in one of the capital city's most infamous murder cases — one that has been chronicled for years by the Tallahassee Democrat, around the globe and on true crime drama television shows ranging from "Dateline" to "20/20."

Details of the crimes he is accused of committing were not included in booking documents. Adelson's lawyers declared his innocence.

Charlie Adelson arrested: Latest twist in the 2014 murder-for-hire case of FSU professor Dan Markel

Hear the key evidence: Read the transcript and watch the video that prompted charges against Charlie Adelson

Charlie Adelson, the brother-in-law long suspected of being behind the murder of Florida State law professor Dan Markel, was arrested in Broward County Thursday morning.
Charlie Adelson, the brother-in-law long suspected of being behind the murder of Florida State law professor Dan Markel, was arrested in Broward County Thursday morning.

State Attorney Jack Campbell said Adelson was indicted Wednesday by a Leon County Grand Jury in connection with Markel's July 2014 execution-style shooting in Tallahassee, which investigators say was a murder-for-hire financed by his in-laws.

"The law-enforcement team behind this continuing investigation will not rest until justice is delivered to every person involved in this terrible crime," Campbell wrote in a prepared statement.

Markel's family issued their own statement through their lawyers thanking law enforcement for their dogged pursuit in the case.

"The Markel family is deeply grateful to the State Attorney’s Office, the FBI and all members of law enforcement for their tireless pursuit of justice," the family said. "Nearly eight years after Danny’s tragic murder, these dedicated public servants continue to fight to honor Danny’s memory and to hold accountable all those responsible for his horrific death. On behalf of Danny’s family and friends in the Tallahassee community and all over the world, thank you.”

Chronicling the case:

Background of the case and the anatomy of a hit

Adelson, a Fort Lauderdale dentist, and his mother, Donna Adelson, have been implicated in Markel’s murder from the start. Prosecutors said they did not have enough evidence to charge them — which changed this week.

Investigators say the motive for the murder stemmed from a rocky divorce and "the desperate desire of the Adelson family” that Markel’s ex-wife Wendi Adelson and the couple’s two young sons be allowed to move to South Florida.

Inside the Divorce: Markel, Adelson sparred up to the end

The link between Markel, the Adelson family and the two alleged hitmen, prosecutors say, is Katherine Magbanua, a woman who worked in Adelson’s dental office and is a former girlfriend of Charlie Adelson.

She is also the mother of two of convicted gunman Sigfredo Garcia’s children.

Magbanua was one of Charles Adelson's top cell phone contacts around the time Markel was killed and was the first person Garcia called after the murder.

Police say email evidence indicated Adelson's parents, particularly her mother Donna Adelson, wanted her daughter to “coerce” Markel into allowing the boys to move to South Florida.

Garcia and his childhood friend Luis Rivera were “enlisted” to kill Markel, court records say. Investigators say the two men drove from Miami in the rented Prius two days before the killing and stayed in a series of hotel rooms.

During Garcia’s trial in 2019, Wendi Adelson told jurors she didn’t believe her brother had a hand in Markel’s murder.

She testified that her brother gave her a television as a divorce present after she split up with Markel and that on July 18, 2014, the day he was killed, a repairman came to her house to fix the TV, which she said one their two sons had cracked.

She acknowledged that her brother Charlie Adelson joked that buying the TV was cheaper than hiring a hitman.

“He knew Danny treated me badly and it was always his joke," Wendi Adelson testified in 2016.

Enhanced Dulce Vida video leads to arrest

The state attorney said newly enhanced audio from a secret recording done at a South Florida restaurant led to Adelson’s arrest. He also lauded the extensive work of investigators.

“That’s the new evidence,” Campbell told the Democrat. “We’ve been able to hear things from the Dulce video that we weren’t able to hear until this most recent enhancement. We’ve never stopped working it and we appreciate the efforts of all of our law enforcement partners.”

The so-called Dulce Vida recording, taken in 2016 by FBI agents at the Miami restaurant of the same name, captures a conversation between Magbanua and Charlie Adelson in which they allegedly discuss undercover agents approaching his mom about Markel’s shooting. Prosecutors say the conversations detail the chain of information flow about the murder conspiracy.

Up until recently, when the audio was enhanced by a specialist, much of the conversation was inaudible.

Attorneys for Magbanua said the video has been in the hands of investigators for years. They drew concern about the timing of Adelson's arrest

"The enhancement — which they’ve had for six years — proves Katherine Magbanua is innocent while this last minute move by the government to frustrate her approaching trial date proves that they’re desperate," Miami attorneys Chris DeCoste and Tara Kawass said in a statement.

Adelson faces same charges as hitman; attorneys say he's innocent

Adelson is charged with the same offenses as Garcia, the gunman who drove to Tallahassee and shot Markel, and Magbanua, who is set to stand trial May 16.

Adelson's attorney David Oscar Markus said his client was innocent and chided prosecutors for the timing of the arrest, which comes just 25 days before Magbanua is set to stand trial.

"Charlie is innocent and the prosecutors have no new information that led to this arrest," Markus said in a text. "The timing sure does stink, doesn’t it? On the eve of a long-awaited trial of Katie, this move has the smell of desperation."

Sigfredo in the spotlight:

Justice for Dan, an advocacy organization of friends of Markel which petitioned Campbell to charge members of the Adelson family in 2020, said Adelson’s arrest is a major turn toward justice.

“Charlie's arrest is a major milestone, and reflects the tireless work put into this case by law enforcement and prosecutors,” the organization said through spokesperson Karen Cyphers. “Charlie, along with his sister Wendi Adelson, and mother Donna Adelson, have all been named as co-conspirators in this case. We are hopeful that they, as well as Katherine Magbanua, are soon among those held to account for their role in Dan's killing.”

Check back with Tallahassee.com for updates on this story.

Contact Karl Etters at ketters@tallahassee.com or @KarlEtters on Twitter.

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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Dan Markel murder: Charlie Adelson arrested in Broward County