The case of a Canadian legal scholar who was gunned down in Florida two years ago has taken a contentious turn as newly released police documents allege the man’s ex-brother-in-law is connected to the killing, but the state’s top prosecutor is not convinced.
State Attorney Willie Meggs says the allegations contained in the probable cause affidavits that the Tallahassee Police Department submitted to his office — and posted online — are merely police opinion.
“We have to have evidence,” Meggs told The Canadian Press in an interview. “If you read it in its entirety, it draws a lot of conclusions, but that does not make them facts.”
Police have said the killing of Dan Markel — a law professor at Florida State University who was born in Toronto and was well known in national and international legal circles — was a murder-for-hire allegedly triggered by an acrimonious divorce from his ex-wife, Wendi Adelson.
Adelson and her family have denied any involvement in Markel’s death in July 2014 and she has not been charged, but her brother, Charlie Adelson, and a woman he was romantically involved with have both come under police suspicion.
In the probable cause affidavits, the Tallahassee police allege Markel was killed by two men, Sigfredo Garcia and Luis Rivera, who are set to go on trial this fall on murder charges in the case.
Police also allege Markel’s killing was arranged through a woman named Katherine Magbanua, who had been romantically involved with both Garcia and Adelson.
“Investigators further believe Magbanua enlisted the father of her two children, Sigfredo Garcia, and his close associate, Luis Rivera, to carry out this murder, and they were all compensated for their actions,” one of the probable cause affidavits said.
“Magbanua is the only tie between Markel and the shooters, Garcia and Rivera. Further, Magbanua’s only tie to Daniel Markel is Charlie Adelson.”
The documents allege that Markel’s ex-wife’s family wanted her to move with her two young children to south Florida, but there was resistance from Markel.
The documents noted that Wendi Adelson told investigators during an interview that her brother had joked about hiring a hit man to kill Markel, but indicated her brother made a lot of jokes in bad taste and that she did not think her brother would actually commit such a crime.
The document states that after Markel’s ex-wife called her mother to tell her of Markel’s death, call records then show that her mother called Charlie Adelson, who then later called Magbanua.
“This call is significant because as previously stated investigators believe Magbanua was the person that facilitated the homicide in that she is the link between Charlie Adelson and the shooters,” said the document, which goes on to note several other records of calls made between Garcia, Magbanua and Adelson.
But Meggs said the call records themselves aren’t evidence enough to pursue a case against Adelson and Magbanua.
“We don’t know what they said, we just know they made phone calls,” he said. “Now, the officer’s opinion is Garcia called and said we’ve done the deal, and Kathy calls Charlie to say it’s done...There’s no proof of that. That’s their opinion.”
The documents also allege Magbanua started receiving cheques signed by Adelson’s mother after Markel was killed.
Meggs said the police documents “never should have been released” because the case is still thought to be an ongoing criminal investigation.
Adelson’s lawyer said he was “thankful” for Meggs’ position.
“He is one of the most experienced State Attorneys in the nation and he knows probable cause when he sees it,” said David Oscar Markus. “We are thankful that he faithfully and honourably fulfilled his duties and did not approve this document, which amounted to no more than simple speculation after a truly exhaustive investigation.”
A lawyer for Magbanua could not be reached for comment.Report Typo/Error