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Rivera’s ex-girlfriend on the stand, describes meeting the day after Dan Markel’s murder

An investigator who analyzed Katherine Magbanua’s bank accounts and income noted an influx of more than $17,000 in the six weeks after Dan Markel’s murder.
Published: May. 24, 2022 at 2:40 PM EDT|Updated: May. 24, 2022 at 5:44 PM EDT
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TUESDAY A.M. PROCEEDINGS (Luis Rivera’s ex-girlfriend on the stand around 23 minutes in.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Luis Rivera’s ex-girlfriend testified Tuesday in the retrial of Katherine Magbanua, describing a meeting at her home the day after FSU professor Dan Markel was murdered in 2014.

Jessica Rodriguez said she had just had a baby girl a couple of weeks earlier.

She testified that Rivera told her he was going out of town with Sigfredo Garcia for a few days “to get drugs” but never told her where they were going and never confided in her that he had participated in a murder in Tallahassee.

Rodriguez said when Rivera got back, he was upset, “crying in his sleep, screaming in his sleep.”

She testified that Garcia knocked on her door the morning after the murder and brought a package inside for Rivera. She said Magbanua was in the car outside and came in to see the new baby. Rodriguez said Rivera wasn’t there at the time and she called him to come home.

Defense attorneys contend in prior statements Rodriguez said Garcia and Magbanua left before Rivera came home, but she testified Tuesday that’s not true and Rivera “flew” home.

Rodriguez said the package was 12x8 and testified she thought there were drugs inside, not money.

“Why didn’t Luis Rivera want them to leave the package with you?” prosecutor Georgia Cappleman asked.

“Because there was money...” Rodriguez replied.

“You would have taken the money?” Cappleman asked.

“I would have taken the money and left,” Rodriguez said.

Defense attorneys pointed to inconsistencies in Rodriguez’s testimony about the date of this meeting, which they contend Rodriguez initially said was months after the baby was born, not weeks.

On cross-examination, defense attorney Tara Kawass also asked Rodriguez why she didn’t mention the July 19 meeting to police until the day before Magbanua’s arrest.

“This is the first time - the day before Katie’s arrested - that you ever mention to law enforcement that you remember this meeting? Or this time when Katie came to your house with Tuto and that they dropped off the package?” Kawass asked.

“Correct,” Rodriguez said.

“That’s the first time ever?” Kawass asked.

“Yes,” Rodriguez said.

Prosecutors circled back on redirect to ask why.

“Did you know that the package delivery had anything to do with this murder before the cops came and asked you?” Cappleman asked.

“No, not at all,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez testified she had no idea Rivera was involved in Markel’s murder until she saw it on the news after Sigfredo Garcia’s arrest in May 2016.

Rodriguez described Rivera and Garcia’s relationship as “brothers, inseparable” and Garcia and Magbanua’s relationship as “toxic.” She testified the couple was constantly breaking up and getting back together. She said Garcia drank to excess, used cocaine, and sometimes would be gone for days at a time without explanation.

Rodriguez said in 2014, Magbanua had confided in her that she was seeing a “dentist” but did not know Charlie Adelson’s name then. She testified that Garcia was also seeing someone else, a stripper named Shrimp.

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