Dan Markel’s parents hope to change state law to reunite with grandsons

Published: Mar. 29, 2021 at 10:49 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Nearly seven years after Florida State Law Professor Dan Markel was murdered in his Tallahassee driveway, his parents are using his story to try to change Florida law on grandparent visitation rights.

The Florida Senate Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs will hold a workshop on the issue Tuesday, using Markel’s case to see if, in certain cases, a grandparent can gain visitation access to grandkids even if the child’s parent says no.

Two men are currently serving time in the killing of Markel, which shocked Tallahassee in July 2014. During the trial, state prosecutors accused his ex-wife’s family of involvement in the murder, but none of the Adelsons have been charged.

During the September 2019 trial, Wendi Adelson took to the stand and fielded a question about cutting off visitation to Dan’s parents two years after his death.

“Do you have any intention of letting them see your children again,” an attorney asked.

“I do,” Adelson said. “We have spoken [about it] in recent weeks.”

But in 2021, Markel’s family says that still hasn’t happened.

Jeremy Cohen was a close friend with Dan Markel at the time of his murder.

“It’s been devastating for them,” he said. “They’re just these doting, loving grandparents, and my heart aches for them being cut off the way that they have.”

In Feb. 2020, Cohen spoke in front of the same senate committee, sharing a family statement in favor of a bill that could solve their problem.

The bill would give grandparents the right to ask a judge for visitation rights if one parent had been killed and the other parent was a person of interest in the case.

Markel’s story closely matches that description.

That bill died in committee. Now a new effort is underway in the current legislative session.

“This is not a partisan issue,” Cohen said. “This is anyone who can sympathize with grandparents waiting to make contact with their grandchildren.”

During last year’s debate over the bill, a lawyer from the Florida Bar testified against the legislation, arguing it would likely be unconstitutional due to the way it infringes on protected parental rights. The lawyer argued the “person of interest” designation was far too broad to pass muster under the law.

But Markel’s mother, Ruth, is determined to sway legislators, recording a video statement that will air Tuesday supporting the measure.

“This year has shown all of us what it feels like to be isolated from family.,” Markel says in the statement.

“But as the world becomes safer from Covid, still too many of us face alienation of a different form. There is no vaccine to protect grandparents in circumstances like the ones my family has faced.”

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story indicated Markel’s family accused the Adelsons of wrongdoing. In reality, only state prosecutors made those accusations during the trial.

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