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October 7, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

There may be a break in the case of murdered Florida law professor Daniel Markel.

For background, please read my initial post on the case. As I said there, Markel looks to be the victim of a 50/50 parenting arrangement. His divorce from his wife Wendi Adelson was acrimonious for many reasons including property issues, but especially over custody of their two children. Adelson wanted to move with the kids from Tallahassee to the Miami area, a distance of some 500 miles. Her request was denied by the judge in part because it would have sabotaged the children’s relationship with their father.

Not long after that ruling, Daniel Markel was dead, shot to death by two men in the garage of his house. Two men, Sigfredo Garcia and Luis Rivera, have been arrested and charged in the slaying. Until recently, neither had provided information to police or prosecutors about the crime, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that they were acting at someone else’s behest. Neither man knew or had any relationship to Markel and both lived in the Miami area. Why would they rent a car and travel 500 miles just to murder a man they didn’t know?

Still, as I said in my previous post, and as has been revealed by police probable cause affidavits, until now, the case against the two was weak at best. Essentially, prosecutors had little to connect Garcia and Rivera to Markel or his murder.

Yes, they’d driven to Tallahassee on the day of the killing and returned to Miami the following day. And yes, Garcia has two children by a woman named Katherine Magbanua who happens to have been seeing Charlie Adelson, Wendi’s brother. All that and more is true, but all put together it doesn’t remotely add up to a murder conviction. But now the worm seems to be turning (Tallahassee Democrat, 10/4/16).

Luis Rivera will spend an additional seven years in prison in exchange for providing key information in the killing of Florida State law professor Dan Markel. It was the break prosecutors say they needed in the high-profile murder case that seemed stalled weeks before trial.

That information seems to have implicated Katherine Magbanua whom prosecutor Georgia Cappleman has now charged with first-degree murder. That’s essentially an admission on Cappleman’s part that she’s gunning for someone in the Adelson family. Obviously, Magbanua didn’t pull the trigger of the gun that killed Markel. Exactly what role she played, if any, in the slaying is, at this point, anyone’s guess.

And her relationship wasn’t with Rivera, but with Garcia, so we have to wonder how Rivera (who’s entered a plea bargain) knows what Magbanua’s involvement, if any, was. Still, suspicious facts abound.

All three suspects began making expensive purchases following the shooting. Around the same time, Magbanua’s bank account began to grow as she received handwritten checks from Donna Adelson [Wendi’s mother].

From July 2014, the month Markel was killed, through Nov. 2015, she deposited more than $56,000 in cash into her bank account. The money trickled in, court documents say, through ATM deposits of $300 to $2,000.

“Investigators believe that Magbanua is supported financially by Charlie Adelson," court records say, "and has received numerous benefits from the Adelsons since Markel’s murder.”

In short, prosecutors have gotten information from Rivera implicating Magbanua. Police have arrested her and will now seek information from her regarding other possible defendants. The targeted individuals look to be Wendi Adelson’s brother Charlie and their mother Donna. There’s so far been neither evidence nor speculation that Wendi Adelson took any part in the slaying of her ex-husband.

Now, from where I sit, I suspect that Magbanua has no interest in going to prison in this case. She’s got two kids and will likely not take a fall for anyone. Accordingly, expect to hear further developments in this case stemming from information she provides.

All that said, the fact that she’s received money from Charlie Adelson is scarcely any indication that she took part in a murder. She’s his girlfriend and he seems to be reasonably affluent. Countless men in that position support, or help support, their girlfriends. And, after all, everything the state has on her comes from Rivera, a gang leader who was looking at life in prison but who traded that for seven years behind bars in exchange for whatever he told police.

So at this point, the state’s case against Magbanua and the Adelsons looks to be precariously balanced on the information provided by Rivera. To make a case against them, Rivera’s information will have to be substantive and corroborated by other witnesses or other objective evidence. At this point, Rivera is the state’s whole case, a fact that doesn’t bode well for the prosecution.

Right now, how tough a nut Magbanua turns out to be looks like the lynchpin of this case.

We’ll soon know.

 

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