Markels push for grandparents’ visitation in wake of son’s murder

The family of a slain FSU professor continues to push for new legislation that would give grandparents visitation rights in certain deadly circumstances.
Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 4:53 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The family of slain FSU professor Dan Markel continues to push for new legislation that would give grandparents visitation rights in certain deadly circumstances.

Bills filed in the Florida House and Senate this week would give grandparents the right to petition the court for visitation in cases where a surviving parent is convicted in criminal court or found liable in a civil wrongful death case.

HB1119 and SB1408 were filed on Monday by Gainesville Representative Jackie Toledo and Tampa Senator Keith Perry.

“We are grateful to Representative Jackie Toledo and Senator Keith Perry for advancing these bills, which if passed, would expand access to courts for grandparents like us, who lost a child and then became alienated from their grandchildren,” Phil and Ruth Markel said in a statement Tuesday. “While we wouldn’t wish this experience on any others, we know we are far from alone in the desire to reunite with grandchildren in the aftermath of tragedy.”

The Markel family has pushed for new laws in the wake of their son’s 2014 murder. Dan Markel was gunned down behind the wheel of his car as he pulled into the garage of his Betton Hills home.

His parents, Phil and Ruth Markel, have not seen their two grandsons in more than five years.

“Losing a child is unthinkable, and we yearn to reconnect with Dan’s sons, Benjamin and Lincoln, and provide them with the love and support we did for so long,” the Markels said.

Similar legislation had been filed and failed in both 2020 and 2021. This version is broader than in years past. It includes provisions for both civil and criminal court and a “presumption for granting reasonable visitation” to the parents of the child’s deceased parent.

“Some families in Florida remain separated due to circumstances beyond comprehension,” sponsoring Senator Kieth Perry said. “This bill will provide an opportunity for families who have lost so much already to receive the support and affection from those who love and miss them dearly.”

Right now, it is not clear whether this legislation would assist the Markels in gaining visitation rights. The grandsons’ mother, Wendi Adelson, has not been charged with a crime in connection with Markel’s death and the Markel’s have not filed a civil wrongful death suit against her or anyone else.

Lawmakers will be considering the bills as a third defendant in Markel’s murder is poised to stand trial.

Katherine Magbanua is scheduled to be re-tried starting Feb. 14. Her first trial ended with a mistrial and her re-trial has been delayed several times during the pandemic.

Co-defendants Sigfredo Garcia and Luis Rivera are already serving prison sentences for Markel’s murder.

RELATED: Continuing Coverage of Dan Markel Murder Trial

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