The mysterious shooting death of a respected Florida law professor originally from Toronto took a sinister turn on Monday as investigators revealed that Dan Markel was the victim of a targeted attack.
Tallahassee Police said the shooting of Prof. Markel, 41, at his home in broad daylight on Friday was not a random act of violence – a conclusion his friends and family find unfathomable. The legal scholar was killed by a gunshot wound to the head, police said on Tuesday.
“The initial investigation has provided no indication that this case is connected to a burglary or robbery, and investigators are assuring residents there is no evidence this was a random act,” the department said in a statement on Monday. “Neighbourhood residents should continue to be vigilant, but it appears at this time that Mr. Markel was the intended victim in this incident.”
Prof. Markel’s death has left his ex-wife, Wendi Adelson, terrified that whoever is responsible might come after other family members, according to her attorney. The pair, who divorced last year, have two boys, aged five and three.
“She’s devastated by it,” said Jimmy Judkins, her lawyer. “She’s a basket case over the plight of her children now. She’s scared because she doesn’t know who did this or why it occurred and it’s got her thinking the worst in so many different ways.”
Police do not have any suspects, and spent much of Monday canvassing Prof. Markel’s northeast Tallahassee neighbourhood for witnesses and clues. Investigators have set up a dedicated tip line and are offering a reward of $3,000 for information leading to an arrest.
“TPD will work tirelessly to follow up on all leads and evidence in this case and our thoughts and prayers are with the Markel family as they endure this terrible tragedy,” Police Chief Michael DeLeo said in the statement. “My investigators will do everything they can to see those responsible for this murder are brought to justice.”
Prof. Markel was rushed to hospital around 11 a.m. on Friday with a gunshot wound after a neighbour heard a loud bang and called 911. He died on Saturday morning.
A Harvard graduate, Prof. Markel was a law professor at Florida State University, where he specialized in criminal law and retributive justice. He also founded PrawfsBlawg, a popular blog for legal scholars. He grew up in Toronto, where his parents and sisters still live.
Prof. Markel and his ex-wife, who also teaches law at FSU, have been separated for about two years. Their divorce became final last July 31. They were in the midst of litigation about financial and minor custody issues.
“He’s … by all accounts one of the most dedicated fathers anybody has ever known. And for this to happen to him, it’s just beyond repugnant,” said Stephen Webster, Prof. Markel’s lawyer.
Mr. Judkins said Prof. Adelson is co-operating with police and is not considered a suspect.
The circumstances of the well-liked scholar’s death have mystified his friends.
“It doesn’t make sense on any level. But at least the initial theory was that it was some kind of robbery gone wrong, which is awful, but at least makes sense,” said Michael McCann, a friend who teaches law at the University of New Hampshire and who recently collaborated with Prof. Markel on a journal article. “This has become a story that no longer makes sense. If, in fact, he was somehow targeted, I literally just cannot understand that.”