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Tonight on Dateline.


Your family had your ex husband killed to try to help you, didn't they? No. That's completely untrue.


A new twist in this headline grabing case. As a mother and son are accused, you've got this rich playboy, periodontus. My name is Dr. Charlie Adelson, and he's been charged with first degree murder for killing his ex brother in law, Dan Markel.


My brother, he knew Danny treated me badly. Do you think you can talk your way out of this?


No, I don't. I'm not part of a murder.


My parents have more reason to dislike Danny than almost anyone else.


Donna meddled in her children's business way more than most parents. Do you see Donna as a prime mover in this?


Yes. There's a lot of things that we have to do, and we've got a very tight time frame.


They're boarding the plane looking for places.


That is no extradition.


They believe they're about to make their great escape. I think the Adelsons became obsessed with Dan Markel. And obsession can make people do terrible things. Did you think finally, the case has come to the doorstep of the family?


It was an important new chapter. Definitely.


A murder plot unwinds, and investigators say the trail leads to one family on a deadly mission. I'm Lester Holt, and this is Dateline.




Here's Dennis Murphy with family matters. It all began like a typical vacation. In November 2023, a pair of senior citizens setting out for Miami airport's international terminal. It is an Emirates airline flight that is leaving Miami bound for Dubai. They are ultimately going to connect and fly to Vietnam. Harvey was a prominent Florida dentist. Donna, his devoted wife. They're wealthy, and they live a privileged life in Miami. Tickets and passports in hand, they checked their luggage and headed for the gate. The passengers are all getting on the plane. They're boarding. Then everything changed in a snap. I was like, are you honestly kidding me right now? A team of federal agents and police officers swarmed the jetway with guns and holsters. They surround this frail 73 year old woman. Your hands behind your body like if you were brain. Officers cuffed Donna and told her she was under arrest. The rings? Take everything. They asked her to remove all her jewelry and personal effects, and she kissed her husband goodbye. Then it was off to the Miami Dade county jail, where she posed for a mug shot that would blow up the Internet. Her arrest was accelerated after investigators learned she was trying to leave the country.


Soon, she faced a judge. Miss Adelson, please keep your comments to yourself. So exactly who was this 73 year old grandmother? Depends who you ask. Donna Adelson is like your meddling mother on steroids. The only thing Donna's guilty of is being a loving mother. And exactly how did she find herself in a jumpsuit facing a murder rap? Do you think that Donna is the great villain in this story? I do.


Donna, in my mind, is the architect.


To get to the truth. We have to take you back to the summer of 2014 and the opening chapter of an epic crime saga in the Sunshine State. A tale of bitter divorce, dueling grandparents, twisted family ties, and the custody of two small boys that all started with a tragic and mysterious murder. Tonight, you'll hear all the newest hair raising twists in a case that's full of them. The July day had begun routinely as Dan Markel, a beloved and accomplished law professor at Florida State University, dropped off his two sons at school, swung by the gym for a workout, then drove up the driveway into his garage. Then the quiet was suddenly shattered. A neighbor heard gunshots and called 911. He's inside. The car is running, and he's got blood all over his head. Dan Markel had taken two bullets to the head, his car window smashed, his eyeglasses broken, his assailants apparently pulling away. That car was backing up. It was light colored, white or silver. I want to say it was a Prius. It happened so fast. Dan's friends and neighbors, Jeremy and Tracy Cohen, didn't immediately realize what was wrong.


I drove home and I drove by Danny's house, and there was a police car in his driveway.


What did you think had happened? I just didn't dream that Danny could have been shot on a Friday in our neighborhood. It just didn't make any sense to me. Tallahassee authorities reached Dan's parents, Ruth and Phil, that afternoon. Shot. That doesn't make sense. No. Who would ever want to shoot Dan Markel?


For me, it was an out of body experience. Even. Don't even want to think about it in terms of that. Those moments were so horrific.


They quickly made their way to Tallahassee, but never did get to say goodbye. Dan Markel died overnight in the hospital. He was 41. It's tough to talk about until now. Dan's friend Josh Berman got the call at home in New York. I put the phone down. I sat there on the bed with my head in my hands. I was know, speechless. So then the question is, who wants him dead, right?


And so that's when theories started to fly.


There's a lot of moving parts and a lot of different agencies involved in this case. Jason Newland is the chief investigator for the Leon County State attorney's office and worked closely with the Tallahassee police and the FBI on the case. They started looking into Dan's life at the university. Could it be as simple as a student who got a bad grade or got thrown out of the law school, coming back and taking his revenge? All of that was taken into consideration. Was it somebody that got a bad grade? Was it a co worker? So investigators interviewed his students and fellow faculty members and combed through his email to see if there was any suspicious correspondence. Nothing turned up. With his professional life not bearing any fruit, investigators took a hard look at Dan's personal life. Dan had been married to a fellow lawyer and professor at FSU, Wendy Adelson. She hailed from South Florida, from a family of well to do dentists. What do you think? The glue was mutually the attraction. Wendy's definitely a sharp cookie. They had some overlapping interests, but quite candidly, they just seemed to be in love with each other.


The couple had two sons and began raising them in Tallahassee.


Dan loved the boys more than anything else in the world.


But after six years, Wendy and Dan's relationship began to crack. The day of reckoning came in September 2012. While Dan was away traveling for work, Wendy packed up the kids and left divorce papers on the bed. He called it his Pearl harbor moment. Wendy got her own place in Tallahassee, and a war of the Roses styled battle began. I think it had been building and building. Stephen Webster was a divorce attorney for Dan and became a friend. As I understand it, Wendy Adelson wanted to take the children with her and move closer to her family in south Florida. Absolutely. Six, 7 hours away. Was that the question? That was the initial question. And family law court said you cannot do that if the children are here in a stable environment and the father can participate fully with the raising of the children. The law prep prefers that and should. That motion was denied. We weren't going back there. Wendy stayed in Tallahassee with the boys as the court required, and her divorce from Dan became final in 2013. But the custody arrangement remained a sore point on both sides. 50 50. Sharing arrangement with the kids?


Absolutely. And he availed himself of every second and quite frankly, wanted some time that maybe she found offensive. According to court documents, Wendy was finding Dan's demands unreasonable. So Dan filed a motion for a hearing to work the issues out with a judge. On the scale of ugly, how ugly was this one? It was about to go off the Richter scale. Dan was killed before that hearing could happen. Now, police were about to talk to Wendy, who would be remarkably forthcoming about their bitter divorce and a whole lot more.


Danny didn't treat me very well.


Setting the stage for a shakespearean tale that would rip apart two families, baffle a team of law enforcement agencies. You had this connection to the Miami underworld. You just thought, this can't be true. And ignite a decade long search for justice.


Were you involved in any way in a plot to kill Dan Markel? No. I believe that the truth has a way of coming out.


The investigation into the death of Florida law professor Dan Markel was just hours old when his ex wife, Wendy Adelson, first spoke to police. There was a shooting. Your husband. Your ex husband. Excuse me. Daniel. All right. Has been taken to the hospital. He's not going to survive.


We're going.




I'm emotional this morning. What happened?


Well, before we get into everything, I have to establish where you were and who you were with and so forth. Okay? It's okay. Through tears, Wendy told the detective she'd been at her home that day, 5 miles from the crime scene. Can you tell me what time you left your house this morning?


Yeah, I was there. I didn't leave this morning. I didn't leave until noon.




Oh, my God. And I tried to drive up Trescot, and I saw that it was blocked.


Do you know anybody that would have a beef against your ex husband? I hate to ask it now, but I have to do it now. You understand, right?


He always meant well, but he would sometimes rub people the wrong way. Okay. But he wants me to do something like this. Oh, my God. We poor kids.


Where is your closest family at?


My parents are in Coral Springs. Okay. And my brother. I have two brothers, but I'm very close to one of them who is in Fort Lauderdale. Oh, my God. I can't believe this is happening.


Tallahassee police took photos and swabbed her hands for gunshot residue. None was found. Georgia Kappelman is chief assistant state attorney in Leon County, Florida, and would review the tape with law enforcement.


She told the truth about the status.


Of their relationship, that it wasn't a happy marriage in the end, and it was a very bad divorce.


Correct. It certainly was of interest to law enforcement that there was an ongoing, nasty divorce and litigation concerning these children.


That's part of a classic recipe for homicides.




But detectives later checked out her alibi and confirmed that she could not have shot her ex husband. Now, they wondered if someone she knew could be behind it.


Danny didn't treat me very well. And I'm so scared that maybe someone did this not because they hate Danny, but because they thought this was good somehow.


Oh. Are you saying that you think maybe one of your friends would have done something like this? I don't know. That's why you're here. Wendy told them she'd been seeing another man after the divorce. Jeffrey Lacasse, an associate professor of social work at FSU.


He's been my boyfriend. We've been dating since end of October. We had, like, a fight at the end of June, and it was weird. I asked him to just no contact for a week, just so I could kind of figure out whether I wanted to be with him or not.


When did you ask him that?


Monday night after yoga.


Just a few days before Dan Markel was gunned down in his garage. Wendy said she wanted to cool things off because Jeff had become increasingly jealous. Is Jeff a violent person? No, not at all.




Jeff own a gun?


I don't think so. I mean, he certainly could have a gun and I wouldn't know about it.


So the Tallahassee police tracked down Jeff Lacasse. Mr. Lacasse, I appreciate you coming in and talking with me here. Like I said, we're still in the preliminary stages of this investigation. Your name did come up. It's pretty clear even from that initial interview that the know they're interested in Jeff's relationship with Wendy. Journalist Matthew Scherr created a podcast about the case called over my dead body, a case that says at least as much about marriage and love as it does about revenge and justice. Jeff, by his own admission, is in love, still in love with Wendy at that time. And, yeah, look, of course the police must think, you know, Jeff didn't like Dan either. Again, by his own admission. Have you met Wendy? Not personally. She's very charismatic and very good at once. You date this girl, just do anything for. I'm not the only man that's been under her thumb in that way. I mean, she really has this charisma and this sexuality. And so you throw yourself in front of a bus for this girl. Did you think Lacosse was still head over heels for Wendy? Oh, definitely. I think he would have loved another chance to police.


Jeff Lacasse seems straight out of central casting. The jilted boyfriend, a man who made no secret of his dislike for Dan. So we know that Danny Markel and Wendy's story have been women through all this court with her for the last nine months. Wendy was afraid of Danny. Wendy would almost have a panic attack in front of Danny, which always made me. Wendy's pretty closed off. She doesn't disclose information easily. I wonder if he used to beat her ass. I didn't know, but it seemed out of proportion for a guy who's just kind of a general. Given everything Lacosse was saying about Dan, police had to wonder if he might have turned his anger into action. And you've never had any kind of physical contact with Danny? No. I'm surprised you guys didn't call me earlier, though, because I probably said a hundred times in public that I like to kick his ass. Really? Making Wendy suffer and things like that. Right. But, no, I would never. I'm a professor and I'm a. I didn't do anything like that. And it turned out he didn't. He was 500 miles away when Dan was shot. Friday, I drove to Tennessee.


Harrogate, Tennessee. I just got back. So he's got an alibi that holds up? He does. Whoever is in the driveway is not him. Correct. So who was in that driveway? Not Wendy and not her ex boyfriend. It was time for police to find that car seen leaving the crime scene. It's the date of the homicide, and you can actually see the Prius pull up to the ATM. Hey, guys. Willie Geist here, reminding you to check out the Sunday sit down podcast. On this week's episode, I get together with Oscar winner Matt Damon to talk about his latest role in the stunning new Christopher Nolan movie Oppenheimer, and how his A list career began when he and his budy Ben Affleck wrote and starred in a movie called Goodwill Hunting. You can get our conversation now for free wherever you download your podcasts.


Join Hoda Codby for a brand new season of her podcast, making space. I feel this season is more personal to me, uplifting conversations with television host Maria Menounos, the Office star, and author Rain Wilson, and more. All of our guests provide something special, every single one. Come with me on this journey, and I promise you'll leave stronger than when you started. All episodes of season four of making space with Hodakopi are available now wherever you get your podcasts.


Dan Markel's jewish faith had been deeply important to him, and his memorial service at his Tallahassee synagogue was packed with friends and family, including Wendy and her parents. How did Wendy seem to be taking it? I mean, she cried after the ceremony, as you would expect, and she was overwhelmed and totally distraught. Then, just days after the service, Wendy moved back to South Florida with her two boys to be near her family up in Tallahassee, homicide detectives were stumped. Their best lead from the crime scene was a thin one, the possible getaway car a witness had told them about. It was light colored, white or silver. I want to say it was a Prius. The eyewitness was vague about the car's color, but the make and model provided a start. Detectives thought that car must have been following Dan that morning, so they retraced his travels and searched for clues. So, Jason, he's dropped the kids off at the preschool roughly, what, five minutes and nine, something like that? Close to that. And then he's driving right down this road to go to the gym. Cops found security video of Dan as he arrived at the gym at 09:13 a.m. You could see him checking it.


We didn't see him scan his key card in. Then police checked security cameras outside the health club and hit a forensic home run. What do you know? There was a Prius. It resembled the getaway vehicle described by the neighbor eyewitness. And it was following Dan when he drove in. In the video, you see them tail him across. Actually, this app, this road right here. And then he cuts in and parks in one of these front roads right here. And they come on around this way. At 10:34 a.m. Dan leaves the gym. When Dan drives out of the parking lot, the Prius is 20 seconds behind him. He leaves the parking lot here and is headed back towards his house. At that point, he is being hunted. They're not going to let him out of their sights. They're not. That's where the video trail stopped. Until police remembered Tallahassee busses have their own cameras inside and out. They collected surveillance video from busses driving near Dan's neighborhood around the time he was shot. Bingo. There. At 10:47 a.m. On the southbound road Dan took home was the Prius. Multiple angles of it, driving toward the Markel house.


And investigators discovered another video from another bus recorded moments after the murder. There was the same Prius heading away from the scene of the crime. You have a lot of active movements in the passenger seat, which would make you believe there's two people in the car, two killers. Forensic experts screened those surveillance videos again and again. They couldn't read the license plate, but did determine the Prius was a model released between 2006 and 2009. Police had spotted one more thing. A sunpass toll tag on the Prius windshield. 500 miles south, a silver Prius had passed a transponder on I 75 heading toward Tallahassee. The afternoon before Dan was killed. What's more, the same sun pass dinged the very same turnpike exit in the opposite direction on the day Dan died. Timestamped 05:23 p.m. The timeline fit the shooting window perfectly. It was assigned to an actual business. The Sun Pass business account came back to a small car rental agency in north Miami. The renter, one Luis Rivera. His true cell phone number and correct Miami address were on the form. Also on the paperwork, cops found another cell phone number marked simply, brother, you've got one name.


How do you get the second name? The second name came through phone records and a whole lot more investigation. And that's how you end up establishing Siegfredo Garcia. Two names known to law enforcement. Siegfriedo Garcia and Luis Rivera. Both had criminal records. Garcia had been arrested for robbery and burglary, and Rivera was a member of the latin king's gang. A little more investigation turned up bank records, and they were able to locate a withdrawal from a bank down in Pembroke pines. This is on the day of the date of the homicide, and you can see Luis Rivera driving, and he sits forward, and you can clearly see Sigfredo Garcia sitting in the passenger seat. There. On the day of Dan Markel's murder were their two prime suspects together in a silver prius that was a perfect match for the vehicle seen stalking Dan. It had taken cops nearly 22 months to make their case. Sigfredo Garcia and Luis Rivera were arrested and charged with the murder of Dan Markel. Both men pleaded not guilty, but it was far from case closed. The arrests only deepened the mystery of Dan Markel's murder. Why would two guys from south Florida, who apparently had no contact with professor Markel, drive 500 miles to kill somebody they don't know?


That's what we're all trying to get to. Nearly two years after Dan Markel was gunned down in his Tallahassee garage, cops had two men in custody. The accused, Siegfriedo Garcia and Luis Rivera, were occasional Miami construction workers with criminal histories. From the moment the pair were arrested, police suspected a larger conspiracy, a murder for hire. It was not a random act that they came up here for him. Dan's friend Josh Berman agreed. These guys, Garcia and Rivera, they didn't wake up one fine morning and say, we've got two options. We can hang out on the beach and drink, or we can go rent a, you know, to tallahassee, spend the night, go murder some guy we never met, point blank in his garage, and then drive back. I mean, the police have called this a murder. For hire. And these guys didn't hire themselves. Investigators believed if they learned more about their suspects, they'd come closer to figuring out who put them up to the killing.


Garcia has less of a criminal history than Rivera, but know pretty bad actor.


They discovered that right after Dan Markel's death, the two men went on a spending spree buying cars and motorcycles. It seemed they'd come into major amounts of discretionary cash. But where had it come from? Who was the paymaster with the money, the malice, and the desire to see Dan Markel dead? Stymy detectives went back into their notes and delved deeper into the legal filings that flew back and forth during Dan and Wendy's divorce. Their documents led the cops down another path, one that took them from the shadiest side of the Miami underworld to a highly respected and prosperous family of professionals. The Adelsons, Dan Markel's former in laws. It had never been a particularly good relationship between Dan and Wendy's parents. There was not a lot of love lost between the two families. How toxic did it get? Well, cops discovered that in the divorce suit, Markel vs. Markel, Wendy had a forceful person in her corner, her mother, Donna Adelson. In a series of emails, she encouraged Wendy to go low. Fight dirty. Hi, honey. It's time for action. Let's show this f what will make him absolutely miserable. But first, Donna told Wendy the family was going to make Dan a big money offer to back down.


Investigator Jason Newland learned that even Wendy's brother Charlie was planning to kick in a few hundred thousand dollars. There were emails that were collected throughout this process, and there was communication between Wendy and Donna about, just offer him a million dollars until. Go raise the kids in a certain. Just go. Here's a million bucks. Yeah. But Dan's tension and ill will toward his mother in law was off the charts. Three months before his murder, he filed a motion asking the court to prevent his sons from spending unsupervised time with Wendy's mother. What's the backdrop of this thing? One of the grandchildren said, basically, grandmammy hates daddy. And had made some other remarks around Danny that suggested that she had kind of preferred to him in a derogatory fashion. So he, Dan does not want grandma poisoning the kids.




Wendy also put her parents smack in the middle of the homicide investigation with a seemingly offhand remark during her police interview.


My parents had more reason to dislike Danny than almost anyone else. He hurt their daughter.


Wendy's folks. Harming Dan Markel seemed improbable, given their circumstances. Her dad, Harvey, was a prominent dentist who, along with her mother, Donna, ran the Adelson Dental Institute in Tamarack, Florida. They were a five star family as far as I could see. Ben Graver is a Coral Springs physician and former state representative. He first met the Adelsons in the 1980s and became Harvey's patient. Seemed like a very nice guy, got a good reputation, did fillings and those type of things. His wife was very pleasant. Donna was a go getter, too, who charmed the wheel of fortune audience when she appeared on the show and solved the puzzle in 1989. Meet Donna Adelson from Coral Springs, Florida. I want to hear all about you, Donna. Let's go.


Well, I'm a domestic coordinator.


A domestic coordinator? Yes.


I'm responsible for the activities, classes, and lessons of my son Robert, who is 16, Charlie, who is twelve, Wendy, who is ten. My husband, Harvey, who's in the audience.


I used to laugh as I can't believe she has the guts to do that. Her kids were her life, and like most families, things got complicated as they got older. The oldest, Rob, moved away and saw the family less and less. The middle child, Charlie, faced disciplinary problems in school. My name is Dr. Charlie Adelson, and I am a periodontist. He eventually joined the family business and had a lucrative implant practice. What I love about what I do is being able to restore people's smiles. Dr. Charlie was also a flashy figure around the Miami area with some eye catching rides. He lives the lifestyle of a single, successful guy. Right? He's got the sports cars with the license plate that say maestro. Donna saw her youngest child, Wendy, as someone who needed protecting, a task charlie often took upon himself. Investigators quickly learned he was Wendy's confidant and had her back. She even brought it up in her police interview.


My brother, his name is Charlie, the one I'm really close to. He knew Danny treated me badly, and it was always his joke. He said, I looked into hiring a hitman and it was cheaper to get you this tv, so instead I got you this tv. I mean, he would never. He's my big brother. According to Wendy Adelson, it was suggested by the brother in the form of a joke.


But it's a very strange thing to say, very.


In light of the circumstances, wouldn't be any big deal if he was alive and well with us.


It was all very interesting, this smoke gathering around Wendy Adelson and her family of dentists. Meanwhile, in Tallahassee, those two suspected hitmen, Siegfriedo Garcia and Luis Rivera, sat in prison until one made a deal. Rivera flipped on Garcia and pleaded guilty to second degree murder in exchange for a reduced sentence. He told investigators that Garcia said he had a contract to kill Dan and needed the gangbanger's help. I'm going to kill this guy. You're going to get paid this much, 30, $35,000. We're driving. He showed me a picture of Markel the night before the murder. Rivera said they checked into a motel not far from Dan Markel's home. Ready? Morning. Went to Markel's house, followed him to the gym, waited in the parking lot for a while. So when he came out of the gym, I followed him home. We met him right in the garage. I was like, maybe like three, 4ft away from his car. Garcia jumps out, goes around the think marquee was on the phone that day, shot him twice, got in the car. We left kid driving.


I mean, it's as cold blooded a killing as you can get to drive all the way to Tallahassee and pull up into someone's driveway that you don't know and just shoot them in cold blood.


We dumped the gun towards a bridge. Can't remember that bridge. Hard as they tried, investigators never did find the gun. So do you believe this guy? He's got a bad record. A lot of what he tells you can be corroborated with evidence, and that's what you go with. And Rivera offered an answer to the cop's biggest question. What was the motive for Dan Markel's murder? Because I asked him, why are you going to go kill it back? Because the lady wants her two kids back. She wants full custody of them.




That's what I want to go kill that man for. But how did Garcia know that? Katie. I guess Katie told him everything. Katie? Who was Katie? Police were about to hear a lot about her, and what they learned would set the stage for an elaborate undercover sting with an unlikely target, Graham ma Adelson. Rivera told police that after his partner Siegfriedo Garcia, killed Dan Markel, they quickly hit the road back to Miami. And Garcia made a phone call. He called her and he said, everything is done. Make sure you have my money. I'm on my way. The woman at the other end was Garcia's romantic partner, the mother of his children, Katie McBonoa, a name the detectives already knew very well. Their investigation had turned up some critical details about her. She was employed at a couple dental practices. She was employed at a bar at one point. A modest income at best. Yet in a curious bit of timing, Katie's cash flow and south Florida standard of living suddenly improved after Dan Markel was murdered in Tallahassee. Her bank account for the end of 2014 through 2015 went from a minimal, low income bank account to $100,000, cycling through in less than a year.


In fact, on the day after the Markel murder, Luis Rivera says Garcia and Katie personally delivered a bag full of money to his house. He says he got $30,000 and that Garcia ended up giving him a cut of his, which ended up putting it at like 35, $36,000. But where did the money come from? Once again, it was Katie's bank account that provided prosecutors with a tantalizing clue.


She was getting a paycheck from the.


Adelsons, $400 in change.




Was there any obvious work that she was doing?


There was no obvious work that law enforcement was able to uncover. Yet she's drawing a paycheck.


Checks signed by none other than Donna Adelson, Wendy's mom. But it turns out Katie's connection to the Adelsons ran a lot deeper than a few cash checks, because she is.


The girlfriend, or recent ex girlfriend of Charlie Adelson, Wendy Adelson's brother.


So there's your heavy, your hit guys. One of them has a girlfriend, Katie McBonnewell, who has also been a girlfriend of Charlie Adelson.




So she's in the middle of these.


Two, linked to the victim's in laws and to the actual killer.


Boy, that's straddling two worlds. A review of DMV documents also revealed that Katie was driving a Lexus that came from the Adelson's.


She did get a car that was previously in the name of Harvey Adelson.


Generous. You bet. But Jason Newland says Charlie Adelson hadn't finished providing Katie with certain upgrades. We were informed at one point that Charlie paid for half of her breast augmentation done by a guy known in south Florida circles as Dr. Boobner. Dr. Boobner? Yeah. By the summer of 2016, the investigators believed it all made for a tidy theory, that these two criminals gunned down Dan Markel in a hit set up by Katie Magbanawa and paid for by Dan's angry in laws. But a theory isn't evidence. There's just no communication with anybody that we can find or that anybody will tell us that says the Adelsons are involved. So investigators hatched a plan. In late April 2016, nearly two years after Dan's murder, they decided to put a squeeze on the family in the form of an FBI undercover sting on Donna Adelson. Agents tracked her down as she headed to pick up her grandsons from school.


She's going to be wearing green, black and white tops.


Would grandma Adelson blurt out something incriminating? Excuse me, Mrs. Adelson, how you doing? Just want to give you this.


He's an FBI agent, and he is going to approach Donna Adelson on the street and imply that he is somehow affiliated with Louis Rivera. And give her a piece of paper which contains an article about the homicide. And written on the letter is $5,000 and a phone number.


Don't be scared. Listen, I just want to let you know that we know that your family has been taking care of Katie and friends for quite some time after your problem up north has resolved. Tuto is a nickname Garcia used.


He says something to the effect of, you're taking care of Katie and Garcia, but you're not taking care of my boy. He doesn't say the name, but the implication is that it's Rivera.


I want to let you know that my brother, he's incarcerated. He helped your family with this problem you guys had up north. Well, this will explain it. She has the paper. They're walking away. So this is an extortion, a blackmail letter?




And it ruffles her feathers?




And you know that because you're listening to her calls, too, correct?


Well, I'm listening to Charlie's calls.


She calls Charlie.


She calls Charlie. I've got some paperwork hand delivered to me.


You're being sued?




Does it involve me or other people?


Well, probably both of us.


What's that?


Probably the two of us. So you probably have a general idea what I'm talking about.


You think someone's trying to blackmail? No. That's crazy. After that cryptic conversation with his mother, Charlie Adelson called Katie.




Hey, what's going on? Which, of course, is exactly what investigators were hoping for. I don't know what's going on, but my mom. You said that someone approached her on the street, called her by name, handed her an envelope with something in it, and somebody was. She really wouldn't go into detail. And listen, I have no idea what this is in reference to, but something regarding her son, something regarding his ex girlfriend and the person asking my mom for some money. And there was another key conversation. It was caught on video in this Miami restaurant called Dolce Vita and suggested this Florida periodontist might have a violent streak. Though the audio was hard to make out, when investigators transcribed it, they believed Charlie was speaking with Katie about the blackmailer. You better kill him because he's going to be a big problem. If you can't do it, I'll have someone else do it. He uses the word we'd have to kill this guy, right?




It sounded suspicious. But because of the low audio, prosecutors weren't certain about the context. All the FBI surveillance produced some intriguing conversations, but in the end, it did not produce any evidence of complicity. There is no smoking gun. No one says this is exactly how this went down. But at least for Katie Magbanwa, prosecutors believed they had a case they could make. In October 2016, she was arrested and charged with first degree murder. She pleaded not guilty. Good luck to you. Setting the stage for a momentous trial for Magbanwa and her companion Siegfriedo Garcia. And one of the star witnesses would be Wendy Adelson herself. Um, Sigfredo Garcia and Katie Magbanoa had been partners in life and were now alleged partners in crime. Their trial began in Tallahassee in late September of 2019. All right. Prosecutor Georgia Kapelman laid out the evidence.


Catherine Magbanowa was hired to solicit Garcia, who in turn solicited Rivera to come to Tallahassee and to execute Mr. Markel in cold blood.


Luis Rivera, who had taken a deal to turn states evidence, gave his account of the murder sooner. Pulled in, Garcia jumped off, jumped out the car and went around, went to the driver's side and shot him. He said he got paid $35,000. Prosecutors believe the money came from Wendy's family, who were not to be found in the courtroom. But the jury did hear from the Adelsons in the evidence, including the video from that FBI sting operation and the wiretap surveillance of Katie, Charlie and his mother. Sounds like a cop that's fishing. That's where an investigator, if someone's playing games, in the end, the case would come down to the testimony of the two women at the center of it. First up, Wendy, who testified for the prosecution.


My name is Wendy Adelson.


She was given some immunity to testify. Her statements on the stand couldn't be used against her.


Were you involved in any way in a plot to kill Dan Markel? No.


Wendy told the jury she'd never met the alleged hitman, Siegfredo Garcia, but she had met Katie. The state showed the jury this photo of the two of them on the beach together in June 2014, just a month before Dan's murder.


And do you know where the photo was taken? I think that's south beach, close to where your parents were living in the condo? Yes. And did you say how you know she was dating my brother and she.


Had a ready defense for her brother Charlie.


Did he ever joke about he looked into hiring a hitman, but buying you a tv as a divorce present would be cheaper? He did make that joke. He tended to repeat himself, and sometimes he would make jokes that weren't very funny about all kinds of things.


When it was time to make their case, defense lawyers for Katie Magbanoa and Siegfriedo Garcia ignored the Adelson family. At first. Garcia's lawyer, Sam Zangane, told jurors the state star witness Luis Rivera was a lying snitch who flipped to save his own skin. The only person who can tell you that Siegfriedo Garcia got out of the car and purportedly shot Dan Markel is who? The guy who got the deal of a lifetime. Both defendants were offered an opportunity to testify on their own behalf. Siegfriedo Garcia passed, but in a bold, perhaps risky legal maneuver, Katie Magbanwa took the stand in her own defense.


Did you have anything to do with the murder of Dan Markel? No, ma'am. Did you get the father of your children, Mr. Garcia, to commit a murder on behalf of Mr. Charlie Adelson? No, ma'am.


Her lawyer walked her through some of the state's most damning allegations, including the charge that the Adelsons had given her thousands of dollars. Katie said no. She supported herself. She said she worked as a bottle girl promoting liquor brands at bars and clubs. And as she told it, tips were good.


What was a good night for you at the club? A good night for me. I can walk out of there with $1000 to $1,500.


No blood money from the Adelson, she said. Not even for that augmentation surgery? Charlie didn't pay for that.


Who paid for your birth implant? I did. All right. How did you pay for your birth implant? Well, from my cash tips all along.


The state had hoped Katie would turn and reveal other figures as the real masterminds of the murder. And in her defense, she did point the finger at Charlie. Sort of.


Do you have information that Charlie Adelson was involved in this? Do I have information? I mean, based on everything that we've been seeing, but I don't have personal information. Based on everything you've seen, do you think Charlie was involved in this? Yes.


In closing arguments, the defense attorneys asserted that Charlie may have been involved, but without the help of their two clients, they were innocent. Now it was up to the jurors. They were about to stun the courtroom and send the investigation even closer to the Adelson family's doorstep. It had been more than five years since Dan Markel was shot in his driveway in one of the most cold blooded killings Tallahassee, Florida, had ever seen. Now judgment day had arrived for the couple on trial for the murder. Siegfredo Garcia faced a possible death sentence for pulling the trigger. And Katie McBonawa faced a possible life sentence for setting it up. Dan's parents waited anxiously in court.


We didn't have a feeling of any guarantees. It was quite tense for us.


I was very nervous. Jury's in the courtroom. After 10 hours of deliberations, the jury came back with a verdict, but for just one defendant. State of Florida versus Siegfriedo Garcia. The defendant is guilty of first degree murder. And what about Katie? The jurors could not reach a verdict. As to Ms. McBanowa, I will declare this case. Mistried. Outside court, prosecutor Georgia Kaplman vowed to try Katie again. So what next for you?


Then regroup and try to do it better next time.


Phil and Ruth Markel were left with mixed feelings, relieved by Garcia's conviction.


But the mistrial experience was actually quite upsetting, shocking, and we had to pull ourselves together because it was like really something that we had not anticipated.


The judge sentenced Garcia to life in prison for murdering her son Dan, setting a retrial date for Katie. But as the Markelles sought justice, their primary goal was something else. To see their grandsons.


I'm in love with my grandkids. That's the priority of my life.


The two grandsons have been living with their mother Wendy in south Florida ever since their father's murder. Grandma Donna would frequently babysit after Dan's death. Wendy would arrange time for his parents to come down from Canada to visit the boys. But in 2016, that changed. Wendy not only put a stop to those visits, she changed the boys last name. They're no longer going to be known as Markel. They're going to be Adelson's. She said she did it for their security. Does that make sense to you? Not at all. I could never figure that out. If you were going to change their names and hide them from the public, you'd name them Smith or Jones or some other name. Certainly not Adelson. In my opinion, she just wanted to eliminate the Markel family from their lives. Ruth and Phil took action. They worked with a legal team and Florida state legislators to pass the Markel act.


If the natural parent has civil or criminal charges towards the deceased partner, that gives the grandparents permission to go before a court where they can get visitation.


In February 2022, the bill passed in the Florida state house, and the Markels got an email from Wendy. It would lead to their first visit with the boys in six years. By then, they were eleven and twelve years old. And I said, can we give you a hug? And we hugged and it was unbelievable. There aren't words to express the feelings.


I don't think that it could have been a better visit under the circumstances.


During that visit, the Markels had no idea that investigators in Tallahassee had just made a major breakthrough as they prepared for Katie's second trial. Prosecutors took that surveillance video of Charlie and Katie in this restaurant, known as the Dolce vita tape, to an audio expert to see if he could make it easier to hear. Stephen Epstein is an attorney and author of a book about the Markel case, extreme punishment. Keith McElvine, who for ten years was working with the CIA and his job was to figure out ways to pick individual voices out of noisy environments. So when Adele and clatter of lunch hour at this place, the dishes to basically blur out that extraneous noise. And for 41 minutes of the Dolce Vietnam meeting, he did that. And there are some priceless gems in there. The audio of their conversation is still low, but easier to understand. In the first enhanced clip, Charlie tells Katie, suggesting, according to prosecutors, that if he really feared arrest, he'd be on a plane. And in another moment, later in the conversation, Charlie is wondering why this scary character in that FBI sting targeted his mom and not him.


Makes me think that these people only know part of the story. He just keeps pointing the finger directly at himself. Why did they notice.


If it was.


A cop playing game or investigator playing games, and they didn't make sense? Is that the best evidence you have tying Katie to this family?


It's the best evidence we have tying the Adelsons into this crime.


In April 2022, armed with that evidence, prosecutors went to a grand jury, which indicted Charlie Adelson on charges of first degree murder, conspiracy and solicitation of murder. The FBI arrived at Charlie's house in Fort Lauderdale a little before six the next morning. This is a residential neighborhood, and they surround it in every way. And one of the officers gets caught on either barbed or razor wire because Charlie had it protected like a fortress. So they call Charlie, no answer. They call him on a cell, no answer. They try calling him one last time before they storm it. And this time, Charlie answers and they tell him to come out. He walks out, shields his eyes and what they see is a guy wearing only a pair of boxer shorts, and he looks at everything going on. He says, am I under arrest? How'd you hear Charlie was busted? They'd taken him down. Oh, I probably got five texts at know. And you said what? Something profane, like, it's about effing. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Charlie Adelson was transferred from Miami to the Leon county jail. And just a month later, he got more bad news. In her second trial, Katie was found guilty of first degree murder.


Thanks in part to that new and improved Dolce vita tape, the defendant is guilty of first degree murder. Do you swear? And Katie's time on stage wasn't over. She would come to Charlie's trial with a new story.


Who came up with the idea to kill Dan Markel? Charlie.


Wendy would return to court, too, and face much tougher questions about Dan's murder.


Your family had your ex husband killed to try to help you, didn't they?


Hey, guys, Willie Geist here, reminding you to check out the Sunday sit down podcast. On this week's episode, I get together with Oscar winner Matt Damon to talk about his latest role in the stunning new Christopher Nolan movie Oppenheimer and how his A list career began when he and his budy Ben Affleck wrote and starred in a movie called Goodwill Hunting. You can get our conversation now for re wherever you download your podcasts. Dan Markel's parents, Phil and Ruth, found themselves in both familiar and unfamiliar territory as they entered a Leon county courtroom in October 2023 for the trial of Charlie Adelson, the accused mastermind of the plot to kill their son.


When you actually walk in a courtroom and you recognize the offender, who he's from, and the family, it was a really different experience.


Dan's family listened intently as prosecutors Georgia Kapelman and Sarah Dugan presented their case against Charlie Adelson, often using his own words against him. You may take your seat. Jeffrey Lacasse, Wendy's ex boyfriend, testified that Charlie had bragged to him about having contacts in the criminal underworld. He also told the jury an explosive story. Wendy confided in him that Charlie had gone much further than merely joking about a tv being cheaper than a hitman. In a very serious tone of voice, told me that Charlie had investigated all possible options to take care of the problem of Danny Markel, including hiring a hitman.


So definitely not to be confused with the tv joke.


No, I'd heard that joke repeatedly. This was something very different. Made my stomach flip. I found it disturbing. Prosecutors laid out all the electronic evidence they gathered over the years. Phone calls, text messages and wiretaps that drew a link from Charlie to Katie to the killers. But that evidence took a backseat when a familiar witness took the stand. Do you swear or affirm the testimony you're about to give will be? Wendy Adelson. The sister of the accused again testified for the state under an immunity agreement, but that wouldn't protect her from a withering direct examination.


Your family had your ex husband killed to try to help you, didn't they? No. That's completely untrue. Were you involved in any way in the plot to kill your ex husband? Absolutely not. Did you know what was going to happen, but maybe not know the details? I knew nothing.


In some of the earlier cases, they treated her more as just a witness. David Lat went to college with Dan Markel and has reported on the case extensively for his substac original jurisdiction. And as more evidence has emerged, they do seem to believe that Wendy was involved. And their trial presentation reflected that. And in fact, prosecutors referred to Wendy in court documents as one of the co conspirators to the murder, who had the motive and along with her mom and brother, initiated the plot to kill Dan.


How did the killers in this case know that Dan Markel was planning to leave town the day after the killing? I have no idea. You knew he was planning to leave town the next day, didn't you? I did, yes. Did you convey that information to anyone? Absolutely not.


But if she knew nothing about the murder, the prosecutor pressed, why had she driven past the taped off crime scene on the day Dan was shot, despite having no reason to be in his neighborhood? Something investigators had long felt was suspicious.


Did you attempt to call Dan Markel when you encountered the roadblock? No, I didn't think anything of it. I didn't think it was related to the house.


Wendy remained adamant that neither she nor Charlie was involved in the murder.


Did your brother ever mention hiring a hitman to kill Dan Markel? No.


But Kapelman reminded Wendy that she had named Charlie as a possible suspect the very day Dan was shot.


He knew Danny treated me badly and it was always this know, I looked at the hiring a hitman and it was cheaper to get you this tv. While I was talking with law enforcement for 6 hours, terrified out of my mind. I offered them every possible idea I could come up with. Right. And one of the possible ideas was that your brother could have murdered your child's father. I didn't really believe that was possible. Was part of the plot for you to be able to have plausible deniability about this? Absolutely not.


When she stepped down from the stand, could you still believe that she was held inside these fire doors and knew nothing about what had happened? It's impossible to believe that wendy has known all these years nothing about what's happened. Prosecutors clearly wanted the jury to view Wendy's testimony skeptically.


That's not further questions.


But when the other woman at the center of the case took the stand, prosecutors had a different goal. Please raise your right hand. And here comes Katie McBonawa again. So she comes into court, this time around as a state's witness. Katie had twice sat in this box and sworn under oath that she had nothing to do with the murder of Dan Markel. But now she was testifying as a convicted killer, serving a life sentence.


Were you in the middle? Yes, ma'am, I was.


After years of denials, Katie finally admitted her involvement in the murder, and not just hers.


Who came up with the idea to kill Dan Markel? Charlie.


The question for the prosecutors, how do you rehabilitate this person in the jury's eyes so they'll believe her? With details. She described very specifically what Charlie did, starting with planting the seed. In her mind, it was a seed planted in Ernest nine months before the murder. With a simple question.


What was the question? Do you know anybody that can harm someone? And did you know anybody that could harm someone? Yes, ma'am, I did. Who was that?


Sigfriedo Siegfredo Garcia, the convicted trigger man in Dan's murder and the father of Katie's two children and the person Charlie wanted hurt.


How did the defendant refer to this person if not by the name Dan or Danny Markel, Wendy's husband.


Katie says she convinced Siegfredo to commit the murder, but felt he wouldn't do it if he knew it was for Charlie because he saw him as a romantic rival. So she didn't tell him. She explained to the jury how she passed the instructions from Charlie to Siegfriedo without the two having to meet in person.


He had a manila envelope that was sealed. He told me, katie, do not open it, do not touch it, do not look inside it, and basically give that paper to the other person. Did he express any concerns about fingerprints being on the envelope or the contents? Yes, ma'am. He said he wore a glove so that there's no fingerprints on it. And what about licking the envelope and that he didn't lick the envelope?


Katie testified that after the murder, she went to Charlie's house to get the payment. Charlie had the money packaged up for her. Stapled in stack, she said. And something else about the money was od. It was damp.


I believe his parents or his mom might have washed the money. You mean like, physically washed the money? Yes, ma'am.


Katie believed Charlie's mom did that before dropping the money off at his house, her husband Harvey in tow.


He was always adamant about telling me he didn't have any money in his house. And he told me that his parents had just stopped by right before I got there. So all of a sudden, he had money to put in the trunk of my car.


Katie had just put Donna Adelson, Charlie's mother, smack in the middle of the conspiracy. She also said her payment for the killing included those checks from the Adelson Institute, signed by Donna.


Did you perform any job at the Adelson Institute? No, ma'am, I did not.


And finally, Katie explained to the jury exactly what was going on in that now infamous dolce vita tape.


What he was speaking of was probably the FBI or Tato blackmailing. And by Tato, you mean Rivera? Yes, ma'am.


Is this finally the unvarnished truth from Katie McBanoa? It's certainly a lot closer to the truth than what we heard from her before, which was that she knew nothing. This version is a lot more believable. But according to Charlie's attorneys, the real unvarnished truth about Dan Markel's murder was something nobody, not even the prosecutor sitting at the next table over, had heard before. On that day, two crimes occurred. The first one the state knows about, the other one they don't know about. They're about to find out. Like you. But before we get there. I like cliffhangers. So do we. And you won't believe the story you're about to hear from Charlie Adelson himself.


But this was Charlie basically saying this the whole time.


Charlie Adelson's ex girlfriend, Katie Magbonout, was unswerving in her testimony against him. But Charlie's attorney says she did plenty of swerving. In the years leading up to this appearance on the stand, she's told more than two versions. She's lied when she was arrested, she's lied in the first trial, she's lied in the second trial, and then her story changes again when she's on the stand. You said you never saw. So in his cross examination, Dan Rashbaum attacked Katie Magbanawa's credibility.


I told you, I lied in my first and second trial to save myself.


Just like you're lying here to save, right?


I'm not saving myself. I'm telling the truth this time.


Right. Because now, all of a sudden, after eight years, you have developed a conscience. What happened after that was a high stakes gamble for the defense. We called Charlie Adelson. Charlie Adelson himself took the stand with a brand new version of events. And this guy gets out of the car, startling, jaw dropping, and totally out of the blue. He claimed two crimes had been committed, the murder of Dan Markel and the extortion of Charlie Adelson. When you heard it, you know this case so well, what did you think? My jaw dropped open. Did you cause the death of professor Dan Markel? Absolutely no. Charlie told the jury his own nightmare began the very day Dan was murdered. Katie came over to his house that night and she was in a panic, and she said, listen, this is all my fault, but I had no idea anything was going to happen. But this is totally my fault. I spoke in too much detail about your family's personal problems, about your sister, Dan Markel, and the million dollar offer. That would be the million dollars the Adelsons talked about giving Dan if he'd let his children move to south Florida.


What did you say? I'm like, what are you talking about? And she's like, my friend killed Dan and he wants to be paid a third of a million dollars. What happened next? I stood up and I started cursing it. I'm like, what the. Are you kidding me? And she's like, no. I'm like, who did this? Who's your friend that did this? And she's like, I don't want to say. I can't say. But it was clear they were talking about Siegfriedo Garcia. And I'm like, katie, I'm not going to be part of this. I'm not going to be part of paying for a murder. This is insane. And she's like, look, if you don't pay in 48 hours, they will kill you. And I said, katie, I feel like I'm getting extorted now. Did she tell you that they would just kill you or they would also kill other people? She said, he'd come after you, he'd come after the family. Like Charlie, you don't have a choice. Just pay the money. He testified he didn't have that much money, but he did have 138,000 in his safe. She put it in her purse and she asked me, she goes, how can you get the rest?


Charlie said he couldn't ask his parents. They'd go right to the police. She asked me, she said, well, can you pay, like $3,000 a month. And I said, yeah, I can do that. And while most killers don't agree to installment plans, these guys apparently did. Now, at this point in time, did you have any idea that she was part of the extortion? No. She kept saying it was all her fault and that she didn't know any of this was going to happen. Charlie's version of how much money was involved and how it changed hands didn't always square with what investigators learned. But he added more details, telling the jury that a few weeks after the killing, Katie seemed to be looking for a cut of the $3,000 monthly payment. She said, could you do me a favor? I need to get health insurance for my kids. According to Charlie, Katie suggested he peel $1,000 off the extortion payment each month and put it in a payroll check to her. I said, I'll do it for you, no problem. I mean, I wanted to keep her happy. Charlie said his mother did the books for the dental practice, so she set up the payments for Katie to go through the company payroll.


And then she's like, well, what's Katie going to be doing? I go, oh, she's just going to be helping me out with some stuff and different things. As for the key evidence, that new and improved video that helped pave the way for Charlie's arrest, he had an explanation for that, too. Why didn't you specifically mention the word extortion in Dolce? I was being real careful when I spoke to Katie. I would never say the word extortion to her. Charlie Adelson's explanation of how he got sucked into a murder extortion plot was convoluted. Some just called it crazy. What did you think? Yeah, I couldn't believe it. I thought these guys were out of their mind. Even his attorney admits at first it sounded like a stretch. So when I hear it the first time, I think it sounds crazy. You've got a very complicated theory which addresses all the dots and t's that need to be crossed. But what about the fact that these guys are strangers to Dan Markel? I mean, that doesn't seem to make sense. We're going to kill this guy and then hope we get 300,000? But that's the same exact thing in the murder for hire theory, too, because the testimony is clear that they didn't get paid before the murder.


So they're doing a murder for hire, according to the state, with the hopes of getting paid later. It doesn't make any sense. Attorney Rashbaum spent more than a day questioning Charlie about his alleged ordeal. But Charlie's time on the stand wasn't over. Prosecutor Georgia Kaplman was about to get her shot.


Do you think you can talk your way out of this?


No, I don't. I'm not part of a murder. Inside the Leon county courthouse, a lot of people watching Charlie Adelson's murder trial thought his defense, that he was, in fact, a victim of extortion, was just ludicrous. She said, ask me if I could pay $3,000 a month. But Charlie was detailed, thorough, and ready with an answer to every one of his attorneys questions. He had to come up with an answer for every text, mail, intercepted phone message. Charlie seemed to be able to speak to all of that stuff. Did you worry that he was going to find one juror to believe it? Oh, yeah, absolutely right. But as you said, if prosecutor Georgia Kapelman was worried, she didn't show it in her cross examination. She didn't even try to hide her disdain.


Doctor, have you ever heard the saying that the simplest explanation is always the most likely? Have you heard that?


I've heard that theory before, yeah.


Do you agree that the only problem with having an explanation for everything is that there's just so many explanations?


There's no explanation. I explained what happened. She zeroed in on one big overriding question. Why would these alleged extortionists even want to kill Dan Markel?


Why did Garcia and Rivera, or whoever did it, need to kill someone to extort you?


You gotta ask them.


You could have gotten extorted for life just by the threat of death by latin king, couldn't you, doctor?


This was as real the threat as you get. I mean, these guys aren't messing around. But she asked, did he see any evidence that gang members were waiting outside in the dark, ready to kill him if he didn't pay up?


Were you led to believe or told that the bad guys are outside, right outside your apartment or your residence?


No, but I was led to believe what they did to Dan, they were going to do to me.


I heard you say that, but my question is, did she say, like, the car's running, I'm going to take the money out there to them right now?


No, she never told me that. They were waiting for me outside my house.


In fact, she stayed the night with you, didn't she?


Yes, she did.


And didn't exit your house with your $138,000 until the next day, right?


Correct. According to the prosecutor, nothing Charlie did was consistent with someone who was a victim of extortion. She asked Charlie about his cozy relationship with Katie, which continued even after she brought so much danger into his life.


Did you offer that she could use your Range Rover anytime?


I said she could borrow the car, sure.


Did she talk about getting a boat? And you offered to help her get a boat?


I never offered to help her get a boat. I offered to help her look for a boat.


Did you pay for the breast augmentation?




So when she's saying at the same time she's the day of the breast augmentation, can I just put it on the credit card? Is she referring to something else? Some other expense?


I have no idea what she's referring to, but I did not pay for her voo job. Kappelman addressed that all important surveillance video and how it seemed to reveal a tight, ongoing connection to Katie following the murder.


What's the purpose of keeping Katie happy? Was she going to stick the latin kings on you if you made her unhappy?


She was protecting me. I didn't know what would happen.


Do you think you can talk your way out of this?


No, I don't. I'm not part of a murder. Prosecutor Kapelman's cross examination was detailed. But to some observers, like Dan Markel's old college friend, David Latt, Kappleman failed to land a knockout blow. I thought she was just going to really body slam him here, and that didn't happen. But her closing argument was certainly hard hitting. She argued that Charlie's story, even with all those details, still did not make sense.


Please think about that. These two dudes, with no connection at all to Dan Markel, and without two nickels to rub together, rented a car and paid for gas to come to Tallahassee in order to kill someone that this defendant hated. And for what? To maybe get Mike? Why not just kill and rob him if what you're after is money and there's no hired hit?


And through it all, the prosecutor made it clear that this deadly conspiracy didn't end with Charlie and Katie and the two hitmen. Kappelman alleged that Donna Adelson, and perhaps even Wendy, also played roles in the crime.


Wendy appears to be the weakling of the pack. She needs to be protected. Donna is the overbearing matriarch. And this defendant fancied himself the savior of this family. Equal parts black sheep and mama's boy. He would often try to help Wendy.


At Donna's bidding for its closing, the defense encouraged the jurors to look closely, objectively, at each detail in the case and consider the possibility that the simplest explanation is not always the truth. That proposition, that the simple answer is the preferred answer, is the exact opposite of what our criminal justice system is about. Sometimes things aren't so simple, and that's what we have in this case. Charlie's attorney argued he had no motive to kill Dan Markel. Charlie Adelson had a good life. His business was booming. He was supportive of his sister. But he didn't wake up in the morning thinking about Professor Markel. Good night, everyone. With the end of closing arguments, the trial of Charlie Adelson was over. Now it was the jury's turn to decide the nature of Charlie's role in this deadly conspiracy. Was he victim or mastermind? By the fall of 2023, Charlie Adelson had transformed from suave Miami bachelor to disheveled defendant facing a life sentence. All that remained was to hear from the group of jurors who were deliberating his fate. So what are you thinking? I mean, you're out there in the gallery. Did you think you had it this time?


We knew we had a good chance.


But as the markels waited, one question nagged them. With charlie's testimony that he, too, was a victim extorted in the plot to kill Dan markel. Sway the jury.


We've already been around this stuff a little too long. Like, we're over nine years now. So you know that nothing is and nothing closes in a second. So the deliberations are just a very, very worrisome time.


Everyone can be seated. But word came much sooner than the markels anticipated. The jurors had reached a decision.


Definitely surprised at, like, the three hour mark. Totally surprised.


Has the jury reached a unanimous verdict?


Yes, your honor.


It had taken nearly a decade to bring charlie to trial, but this jury's verdict was clear.


The defendant is guilty of first degree murder.


Thousands were live streaming the verdict, including author Stephen Epstein. I think charlie thought he was about to walk out of the courtroom a free man. 3 hours later, he wasn't? No. And you could see his reaction. It was a look of surprise, of shock. The head went. Head sank to the table, and he mouthed one word. No.


In the moment, it's like feeling of relief, almost celebration. It's a good feeling because you were waiting for this to happen, and yet.


You can't really celebrate because you have this stark, awful moment of grief in your life that this is all about.




Prosecutor Georgia Kapelman had never let her foot off the gas when it came to proving charlie's involvement in Dan's murder. She and her team never stopped investigating, especially when it came to key evidence, like that enhanced dolce vita recording. That's important. If she hadn't pursued that technology, you might not have ever gotten charlie.


Yeah. So I have a lot of compliments to georgia.


Kaplman spoke to reporters after the verdict. She took a quick victory lap, then hinted that Charlie's conviction was not the end of the case. Is this the last prosecution we're going to see in the Dan Martell murder, or will there be others?


I don't know the answer to that question yet, so stay tuned.


As Kapelman left the courthouse, Charlie Adelson settled in behind bars. And when they put him away. There's a telephone there. There is. And who's at the other end of the line? Same person who's been at the other end of the line throughout his entire life. Through all the wiretaps, his mama, Donna Adelson, spent many hours on the phone with his mother, Donna, and father Harvey. This is a free call from Charlie.


An incarcerated individual at the Leon county jail.


This call is not private. Hey, Charlie. Charlie, how are you? Okay. Okay. And commiserated over the verdict.


Can't believe it's reality either. We just can't believe.


That this is what happened. But there's no out of this. Charlie was especially critical of the jury. These people hated me. They looked at me like a guy that's making $5 million a won't. Donna agreed. They weren't impartial. They didn't give you a chance.


They had their mind made up.


You don't walk out 3 hours. No, trust me, it is. They simply couldn't believe he'd be behind bars for life thinking you're getting out. We were all set. It took a whole bunch of clothes from a couple of weeks ago. I packed. Charlie said the trial played out like a particular tv show. You know the one. It was like sitting in the courtroom watching Dateline. It deviated from being a trial to being date. When they realized they were losing, they had to turn it into Dateline. Nobody watches Dateline without coming away with their own thinking. They figured it out. Pretty soon, the conversation turned from complaints about the trial to plans for the future. And they are just going back and forth and back and forth, trying to figure out, what do we do now. What do we do now?


Gonna have to talk when we have a moment about things that we need to take care of. Okay.


And Donna reveals all kinds of stuff that she plans to do and, oh, what a plan. She'd hatched.


There's a lot of things that we have to do, and we've got a very tight time frames.


In the week after his conviction, Charlie and Donna Adelson were in constant communication.


Got to take care of things, Charlie. We gotta take care of things.


But one Adelson was notably absent on those calls. Wendy. On one call, Donna was talking to Charlie, but his side of the call dropped. But she kept talking to her husband Harvey and others in the room, maybe not knowing she was still being recorded. She read them a text she said she sent to Wendy after the verdict.


I wrote this last night. We know you never asked anything about your brother, but we just got off the phone with him, and the first thing he asked was, how's Wendy holding up? I didn't have the heart to tell him that you never called us or asked about him. I just said we weren't up to phone calls. Right now. Everyone looks to protect you. I bet you've got a lot to think about. But then she didn't answer.


Eventually, Wendy, an experienced lawyer, replied. And Donna read that message out loud too.


I'm not responsible in any way for Charlie's situation. I am not guilty because I did not do anything wrong, and I was not involved in any way with Danny's death.


Donna seemed to realize she was losing her grip on her adult children.


I said to Harvey, I swear to God, our family was cursed.


But Donna also seemed to have an ulterior motive for wanting Wendy on her side. Something she expressed on this same recording.


I have a space here. I want to give her pose. We're going to be gone. I want her to have all this information.


Gone where we've been looking it up over and over.


Because things change. If there is extradition from Vietnam, because we've looked at all the places. I mean, I could go to Korea and China, but there's no extradition. But we're looking for places where there's no extradition.


Donna seemed to be planning to flee for a country like Vietnam, which has no extradition treaty with the United States. That means she wouldn't necessarily be sent back to Florida to face the plane crash.


No one's going to know where anything is or who belongs to what. So I would like her to come up here so she could see it. I don't think that's asking too much.


But of course, she said all of this on a jailhouse phone line, which is monitored. Authorities learned Donna and Harvey had booked one way tickets to Vietnam the day after Charlie's conviction. One week after, Donna watched her son Charlie be convicted of murder. And they were literally boarding the plane. On the jetway, as Donna and Harvey made their way toward the plane, Tallahassee FBI agent Pat Sanford, leading a team of officers, pounced. They're boarding the plane. They believe they're about to make their great escape. But Pat Sanford is there and literally sees the phone in Donna's hand and grabs for it. Because he has a search warrant. Donna yanks it away from him as if she's got control and power, and the next thing you know, she's got her hands behind her back, cuffed, and she's marching in the opposite direction off the jetway with a gaggle of officers surrounding her and Harvey, utterly helpless to do anything. Harvey was sent home without being charged.


When did they issue a warrant?


Donna, seen here sitting in the back of a police car, was driven straight from the airport to a Miami lockup. Almost a decade after Dan Markel's murder, she was booked into the Miami Dade county jail, charged with first degree murder, conspiracy, and solicitation of murder. Lawyer Dan Rashbaum, who represented her son, is now representing Donna. At the time when Donna Adelson went to get on a plane, she didn't do anything wrong. There's no warrant for her arrest. She was a free citizen like you and me. But on those many jail calls, Donna sometimes mentions Dan Rashbaum's name in relation to her plans.


I don't know if we'll make it out in plan. I really don't, because Dan said you might.


What's going on? Are you helping her with the fleet? To a country with minimal extradition? The short answer to that is no. But the short answer is I'm limited in what I can say because I'm also representing her. For Ruth Markel, Donna's takedown was yet another unexpected twist. Even after years of them, it's an event with a lot of exclamation points.


Oh, it's amazing.


Where are we now? They've gotten Donna, the mother. And where does she fit in the grand scheme of things, do you think?


Donna, in my mind, is the architect.


But Donna denied that accusation in court. How does she plead?


Not guilty, your honor.


The Markels continue their visits with the grandchildren. In 2022, Ruth released her memoir, the unveiling. She hopes the story of how her own grief motivated her to become a grandparents rights activist can help others too. But she knows another trial is coming. That means a fourth trial for you.


A fourth round. Yes, it is.


Can you do it? Are you up for it?


Well, I didn't expect it to come so soon. That's like, obviously you have to do your fitness for the Olympics. I guess we'll be ready.


And of course, there's one last lingering question when it comes to just who was involved in Dan's murder for hire plot. Wendy, your opinion? Do you think Wendy should be worried?


I think everybody should be worried.


It's been nearly ten years since Dan Markel's murder. But for those who loved him most, his spirit is never lost in the barrage of headlines. His longtime friend Josh Berman even made Dan a part of his own family in a way. You know, my middle son is named after him. The hebrew name is identical to Danny's hebrew name. And someday I'll tell Theo why he has that name. I think he's only six, almost seven. It'd be a lot to tell him now, but, yeah, that sort of sums up how much Dan meant to me and to all of us. I see myself sitting talking to you as a representative of Dan's incredible network of friends here in Israel, on the professor circuit in Florida, like, wherever the.


Guy went, he was such a phenomenal father. I mean, the best thing about, you know, he's a scholar, he's internationally acclaimed. That all counts. But the biggest, biggest factor was the kind of father that he was.


That's all for this edition of Dateline, and check out our talking Dateline podcast. Dennis Murphy and Josh Mankowitz will go behind the scenes of tonight's episode, available Wednesday in the Dateline feed. Wherever you get your podcasts, I'll see you again each weeknight for NBC Nightly News. I'm Lester Holt. For all of us at NBC News, good night.