One of two men accused of gunning down Florida State University law professor Dan Markel in 2014 is scheduled to go to trial for murder in January.
A judge set the trial date for Jan. 22 at a hearing Tuesday. Sigfredo Garcia, 35, who prosecutors believe pulled the trigger, was originally scheduled to face a jury in November 2016 but that trial was postponed as investigators worked to bolster their case and prove a suspected link with Markel’s former in-laws. Garcia’s alleged accomplice in the murder, Luis Rivera, pleaded guilty in October and received a seven-year sentence. That’s in addition to a 12-year sentence he is currently serving for an unrelated crime.
Meanwhile, no trial date has been set for Garcia’s sometimes girlfriend Katherine Magbanua, who has been charged with first-degree murder for allegedly helping plot Markel’s killing.
The pace of news surrounding the high-profile case has slowed considerably since last fall, when police arrested Magbanua and Rivera implicated her and Garcia. At the time, it seemed prosecutors were moving in on several of Markel’s former in-laws, the Adelsons, whom they believe hired Garcia and Rivera to kill the law professor in a bid to relocate his two children with ex-wife Wendi Adelson from Tallahassee to South Florida. Criminal law experts speculated that prosecutors were trying to flip Magbanua to implicate the Adelsons.
But Magbanua—believed to be the link between the Adelsons and the alleged hitmen—has pleaded not guilty and remains in jail. Moreover, prosecutors have not brought charges against any members of the Adelson family, whom their lawyers have maintained had nothing to do with Markel’s death. However, prosecutors said last month that charges could still be brought against the Adelsons.
In court Tuesday, assistant state attorney Georgia Cappleman pushed for a November trial for Garcia. But Garcia’s attorney, Mutaqee Akbar, said their legal teams needed more time to conduct an investigation of the case.
“It’s our job now to dig into it and look at what the state didn’t look into,” he told the Tallahassee Democrat.
Markel, 41, an up-and-coming legal scholar and prominent law blogger, was shot in the head on July 18, 2014, in the driveway of his Tallahassee home. He was locked in a bitter custody dispute with ex-wife Wendi Adelson over the couple’s two young children at the time.
Prosecutors have said they believe that Wendi Adelson’s brother Charlie Adelson and possibly her mother Donna Adelson hired Garcia and Rivera to travel from Miami to Tallahassee to kill Markel, allowing Wendi Adelson and the couple’s children to move to South Florida, where the Adelson family runs a dental clinic.
They also allege that Magbanua, who was dating Charlie Adelson at the time and who is the mother of two of Garcia’s children, provided the connection between the Adelson family and the alleged hitmen. She is due in court next month for a hearing centered on who is paying for her private defense attorneys. Prosecutors suspect the Adelsons are footing the bills, while her defense attorneys have countered that her relatives are paying.
Contact Karen Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org