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Florida dentist charged with hiring hit men to kill prominent law professor

Prosecutors allege that Charles Adelson conspired to kill Daniel Markel, his brother-in-law, because a joint custody agreement prevented his sister from moving.

A Florida dentist was arrested Thursday on charges that he hired hit men to kill his former brother-in-law, Florida State University law professor Daniel Markel.

Markel, 41, was shot and killed on July 18, 2014, as he sat in his car talking on his cellphone. At the time, he was going through a bitter divorce with Charles Adelson's sister.

Prosecutors allege that Adelson, 45, conspired to kill Markel because his sister, Wendi Adelson, was not able to move from Tallahassee to the Fort Lauderdale area with her two children due to a joint custody agreement.

A Leon County grand jury returned an indictment Wednesday charging Charles Adelson with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and solicitation to commit murder. Online jail records show that he is being held without bond at the Broward County jail.

His former girlfriend, Katherine Magbanua, was also named as a defendant in the indictment on the same charges.

Dan Markel, Florida State University law professor.
Dan Markel, Florida State University law professor.Florida State University

Magbanua had already been charged in the case for allegedly organizing the hit, but is scheduled to be retried next month for first-degree murder after a jury hung in 2019.

The indictment alleges that Charles Adelson and Magbanua conspired with each other to commit the murder. It says they solicited Sigfredo Garcia, the father of Magbanua's children, as well as Garcia's friend, Luis Rivera, to carry out the crime.

Garcia is serving a life sentence after he was convicted in 2019 of first-degree murder. Rivera is serving a 19-year sentence after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for testifying against Garcia and Magbanua.

Leon County State Attorney Jack Campbell said in a statement that Charles Adelson was indicted after technicians were able to enhance the sound on an April 2016 video recording made secretly of him talking to Magbanua while he had been under surveillance.

"This recording includes statements by Charles Adelson which can be heard clearly for the first time,” Campbell said.

In the recording, released Thursday, Charles Adelson told Magbanua that if the police knew anything, “we would have already gone to the airport.” He then told her that the police simply putting someone in a car or with someone else isn’t enough for a conviction and that prosecutors need proof the person was involved in the crime. At other points in the conversation, he said he was not involved in Markel's death.

David Markus and Margot Moss, Charles Adelson's attorneys, said in a statement Friday that he is innocent and "prosecutors have no new information that led to this arrest." They called the move an act of "desperation" and said the audio recordings exonerate their client because he repeatedly denied his involvement.