Hit man says slain law professor’s ex-wife was part of contract killing

Luis Rivera, who confessed to the murder of Dan Markel, says Wendi Adelson had supervised his work

Prof. Dan Markel (Florida State University College of Law)
Prof. Dan Markel (Florida State University College of Law)

A hit man who confessed to killing Jewish law professor Dan Markel implicated Markel’s ex-wife in the crime, adding that she supervised his work a day before the killing.

The allegation against Wendi Adelson came in an Oct. 4 police interview released this week by the Tallahassee Democrat, the Forward reported Thursday. The hit man, Luis Rivera, said that his longtime friend Sigfredo Garcia shot Markel. Rivera, who said he drove the getaway car, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

In the course of the two-hour interview, Rivera told police that Garcia said he had been hired to kill Markel in 2014 because “the lady wants her two kids back.”

Markel and Adelson, who divorced in 2013, were locked in a bitter custody dispute at the time of the murder. Adelson and her family have denied any involvement in Markel’s slaying.

Rivera said that he and Garcia saw Adelson walking near Markel’s house the day before the murder. Rivera said he thought Adelson was scoping the place ahead of the killing. Katherine Magbanua, a suspected accomplice who allegedly knew both the killers and Adelson, said Adelson was there to “make sure he wasn’t lying, that she wasn’t just paying him for nothing.”

Prosecutors told the Tallahassee Democrat on Oct. 11 that the alleged encounter between the hit men and Adelson could, if proven, connect Adelson with Markel’s murder.

“I think if it’s true, it implicates her, but I haven’t been able to confirm or deny that,” Chief Assistant State Attorney Georgia Cappelman told the newspaper.

Adelson’s attorney, John Lauro, told the Tallahassee Democrat on Oct. 12 that Rivera’s testimony is unreliable.

“All of his alleged information is second or third hand and none of it has been corroborated during the investigation,” Lauro said.

Under the terms of his plea deal, Rivera will serve an additional seven years on top of the 12 years he is currently serving on unrelated federal charges.

Garcia, charged with first-degree murder in connection with the killing, has pled not guilty.

Speaking with his hands shackled throughout his lengthy interview with police, Rivera wove a detailed account of two separate trips to Tallahassee with Garcia, the second of which ended in Markel’s brutal killing.

Last month, Tallahassee Police Department investigators said that the brother of Markel’s ex-wife, Charlie Adelson, and her mother, Donna Adelson, should be considered prime suspects in his slaying. However, Florida’s state attorney dismissed as “speculation” affidavits from Tallahassee police.

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