Miami Beach grandmother extradited and booked into Tallahassee jail

Miami Beach grandmother extradited and booked into Tallahassee jail
Miami Beach grandmother extradited and booked into Tallahassee jail

LEON COUNTY, Fla. – A 73-year-old Miami Beach grandmother appeared in Leon County court on Tuesday in Tallahassee after her extradition from Miami-Dade County for her alleged role in her former son-in-law’s murder.

Donna Adelson’s case is the fifth in an alleged murder-for-hire plot to kill Daniel Markel, a law professor at Florida State University. She was in the Leon County jail as she faced charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, and solicitation to commit first-degree murder.

Police officers arrested Adelson on Nov. 13 at Miami International Airport. She and her husband, Dr. Harvey Adelson, a dentist, bought one-way tickets and were planning to board a flight to Dubai on their way to Saigon, Vietnam, according to investigators, court records show.

Donna Adelson was arrested on Nov. 13 in Miami-Dade County after her son Charlie Adelson was convicted of murder in Leon County. (MDCR)

On Nov. 6, a jury in Leon County convicted Adelson’s son Dr. Charlie Adelson, a periodontist who lived in Fort Lauderdale, of charges related to hiring the hitmen who killed his former brother-in-law.

Records show investigators listened to Charlie Adelson’s jail calls, as Donna Adelson told him about “plans for a suicide” and “to flee to a non-extradition country” after creating trusts to make sure that her grandchildren were taken care of.

Prosecutors described Charlie Adelson, 47, as the mastermind of Markel’s murder. Katherine “Katie” Magbanua, who was his girlfriend at the time, testified to connecting him to Sigfredo “Tuto” Garcia and Luis “Tato” Rivera, the convicted hitmen from Miami-Dade.

Detectives accused Katherine “Katie” Magbanua, left, and the father of her children Sigfredo “Tuto” Garcia of participating in a plot to kill an FSU law professor, in 2014, in Tallahassee. Magbanua was dating the professor’s brother-in-law. (OST)

Garcia is the father of Magbanua’s children, and Rivera admitted he was a Latin King gang leader in northern Miami-Dade and a close friend of Garcia and Magbanua.

Markel was shot in the head twice on July 18, 2014, in his parked car, in Tallahassee. He was just outside his home after dropping off his two sons at a daycare, and he died about 14 hours later in the hospital, according to the FBI.

Markel and his ex-wife, Wendi Adelson, an attorney who filed for divorce in 2012, were in a child custody dispute. Records show Markel had asked the court to limit his sons’ time with their grandmother Donna Adelson due to his alleged disparaging remarks from her.

Charlie Adelson’s sister Wendi Adelson and his former brother-in-law Daniel Markel were in the midst of a bitter custody battle when the Florida State University law professor was fatally shot in 2014 in Tallahassee.

Their disagreements included the boys’ place of residence. Markel, who was born in Canada and wanted to continue to work at FSU, wanted his sons to be near him in Tallahassee, and Wendi Adelson wanted them to be near her parents in Miami Beach.

Rivera admitted to buying the gun and renting the Toyota Prius that was used for the murder, records show. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for 19 years in prison in 2016 and testified against Garcia and Magbanua, who were convicted of first-degree murder, sentenced to life in prison, and are appealing their cases.

Records also show Wendi Adelson told detectives that a murder-for-hire plot was a possibility, and said that her brother “commented” that he had looked into hiring a hitman, but it was cheaper to buy her a television as a divorce gift. Her mother Ella set an appointment for her TV repair Ella on the day of the murder, according to investigators.

Luis Rivera, who is better known as ‘Tato,’ recently testified that he participated in the murder of an FSU law professor in 2014 in Tallahassee. (Copyright 2023 by WPLG – All rights reserved.)

Wendi Adelson’s ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Lacasse, a professor of social work at FSU, testified she had told him she feared her brother was serious about hiring a hitman. He also said he feared Wendi Adelson and her brother were trying to frame him for Markel’s murder.

On Tuesday, while in the custody of Miami-Dade corrections, Charlie Adelson, was awaiting a December sentencing for first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, and solicitation to commit first-degree murder.

Wendi Adelson and her father, Harvey Adelson, have not been charged. Prosecutors said the investigation in the case was ongoing.


Read sections of the probable cause affidavit in Donna Adelson’s case

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Donna Adelson’s case records (Leon County)

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Donna Adelson’s case record (Leon County)

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