Jury sees chilling videos of Prius following Dan Markel to gym, home in minutes before murder
Watch the video for a recap of the first day in court after the jury was seated Tuesday.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Jurors had a chance to see a series of surveillance videos Wednesday afternoon showing a green Prius following Dan Markel in the hours and minutes leading up to his murder.
Craig Isom, who was the Tallahassee Police Department’s lead detective in the Markel murder case, testified that investigators started retracing Markel’s steps the morning of the murder and were able to determine he had dropped his two boys off at daycare and then went to the gym to work out.
Isom narrated as a surveillance video from Premier Gym played on the big screen in the courtroom. It showed Markel’s car pull into the parking lot at 9:12 a.m., followed by a green Prius. Surveillance video shows Markel walking into the gym wearing a red shirt and leaving a little more than an hour later at 10:33 a.m.
Surveillance video then showed Markel’s car leaving the parking lot, again followed by the green Prius.
Investigators were able to pull surveillance video from several city buses showing the Prius following Markel’s car down Thomasville Road and turning left onto Betton Road at about 10:51 a.m. A camera on another city bus captured the Prius heading northbound on Thomasville Road just minutes later at 10:55 a.m.
Isom testified that put the time of Markel’s murder was somewhere between 10:51 a.m and 10:55 a.m that day. A 911 call came in from Markel’s neighbor at 11:02 a.m.
One of the bus videos gave investigators additional clues about the Prius — which had a black side mirror and a SunPass. Investigators were able to start tracking the SunPass and the Prius through toll booths across the state.
Isom was eventually able to track the Prius to a rental car agency in Miami and a rental agreement there showed it had been rented to Luis Rivera and included a phone number and address. They tracked one of the phone numbers on that rental agreement to Sigfredo Garcia.
Isom also shared surveillance photos taken of Garcia and Rivera at an ATM the night of the murder.
The lead investigator says in addition to following leads on the Prius, they looked into what he called a “lengthy” and “contentious” divorce and custody battle between Markel and his ex-wife Wendi Adelson.
Isom said the file was hundreds of pages long.
He testified that Wendi Adelson had asked the court for permission to relocate the two children to South Florida, but that request was denied.
At one point, Isom testified, Markel had asked the court to limit the children’s visits with their grandmother, Donna Adelson, to supervised contact only because she was saying disparaging things about him.
A court hearing on that was scheduled, Isom said, but never happened because Markel was murdered.
Isom testified that there were a series of scathing emails between Donna Adelson and Wendi Adelson, and at one point they discussed paying Markel a million dollars to allow the children to relocate to South Florida with Wendi.
Isom says he interviewed Wendi Adelson the same day that Markel was murdered. In that interview, Isom said, Wendi told investigators that her brother Charlie Adelson had looked into hiring a hitman to kill Markel, but said buying a television was cheaper.
Read WCTV’s previous updates from court below, including opening statements.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Katherine Magbanua was described as “the solution” to a “big problem” as prosecutors begin building their murder and conspiracy case against her.
In the state’s opening statements to the jury, Assistant State Attorney Sarah Dugan says Magbanua was “the link” in a murder-for-hire plot that resulted in FSU law professor Dan Markel being shot to death in his driveway in July 2014.
“She had connections to the type of people who were willing and capable of pointing a gun at a stranger, someone they never met, and pulling the trigger,” Dugan said.
Dugan started by describing the day of Markel’s murder. He dropped off his children at daycare and went to the gym. Little did he know, she said, that he was being followed by two hired hitmen. Markel was shot twice in the head, she said, as he pulled into his garage.
Dugan described Tallahassee police following two paths in the wake of the murder. One path explored Markel’s personal life and bitter divorce and custody battle with ex-wife Wendi Adelson. The other path followed the green Prius that a neighbor saw speeding out of Markel’s driveway.
“The defendant was the link, the middleman between people who wanted this murder done and the person who pulled the trigger,” Dugan said.
Prosecutors contend she went to Adelson’s home the night of the murder, picked up $100,000 in stapled stacks of $100 bills, and paid Garcia and Rivera the next day.
Dugan says Rivera will take the stand and implicate Magbanua in hiring them and paying them in cash after the job was finished. Rivera accepted a plea deal and a 19-year prison sentence in exchange for his testimony against the others.
Dugan says bank records will show Magbanua received a huge influx of cash in the weeks following Markel’s murder.
She told jurors they would see financial statements, phone records, wiretaps, and undercover videos that will prove Magbanua’s role in the murder.
“Charlie Adelson had Dan Markel killed. We absolutely agree with that,” defense attorney Tara Kawass said in her opening statements to the jury.
“Luis Rivera and Sigfredo Garcia carried out the hit for Charlie Adelson. We agree with that too,” Kawass said. “What we do not agree on is whether Katherine Magbanua knew about a plan to have Dan Markel killed.”
The defense contends that Charlie Adelson conspired directly with Sigfredo Garcia, “behind Katie’s back” to have Markel killed.
Kawass says the case comes down to just one question: “Did Katherine know? That’s it. It’s that simple.”
The defense contends a jealous Garcia confronted Adelson outside a restaurant after seeing him and Magbanua having dinner.
“For Charles, an opportunity had now fallen directly into his lap,” Kawass said in her opening statement. “You want her back, Katie, no problem. I’ll give you $100,000 in cash and I’ll leave her alone if you do this for me.”
Kawass noted that Magbanua, Rivera and Garcia were all arrested in 2016, Charlie Adelson wasn’t arrested until 2022, and the rest of the Adelsons are probably home, watching the trial streaming online, she said.
The first witness called to the stand Wednesday morning was Dan Markel’s neighbor, James Geiger, who heard the gunshots the morning of July 18, 2014.
“We heard a loud noise, a bang... It startled us and I walked to the front window,” Geiger testified.
Geiger said he saw a green Prius backing out of Markel’s driveway and speeding away.
When he went next door to check, Geiger testified he saw Markel’s car still running in the garage. Geiger returned to his home for a brief moment, then on his second trip over, he went inside the garage and saw Markel was inside, bleeding from his head. He then called 911.
Two of the Tallahassee police officers who worked the crime scene testified next — describing shattered glass everywhere — and showing photos on the big screen of Markel’s broken glasses and cell phone on the floor.
Medical examiner Dr. Anthony Clark also took the stand Wednesday. He did the autopsy on Markel. Clark testified that Markel was shot twice in the head and he ruled his death a homicide.
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