Donna Adelson makes first court appearance in Leon County, ordered held without bond

Adelson transported from Miami to Tallahassee to face charges in murder for hire
She is accused of planning the killing of Markel, who was fatally shot in his Betton Hills garage in 2014.
Published: Nov. 21, 2023 at 11:15 AM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Donna Adelson made her first appearance before a Leon County judge Tuesday morning.

Adelson was handcuffed and wore a red jail jumpsuit as she appeared on a video link from the jail.

Circuit Judge Jason Jones ordered Donna Adelson held without bond on the murder charge and ordered her not to have any contact with other co-defendants, witnesses or the victim’s family.

The entire court hearing lasted just two minutes.

Adelson, 73, is accused of conspiring with her son, Charlie Adelson, to murder her former son-in-law, FSU law professor Dan Markel, who was fatally shot in his Betton Hills garage in July 2014.

Donna Adelson is charged with first-degree murder, solicitation to commit first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Her arrest came exactly one week after her son, Charlie Adelson, was convicted of the same three charges.

The mother was transported Monday from Miami to Tallahassee to face charges. She was booked into the Leon County Jail just after 1:30 a.m., according to Leon County Sheriff’s Office records.

The FBI arrested Donna Adelson Monday, Nov. 13, as she and her husband, Harvey Adelson, attempted to board a flight to Vietnam at Miami International Airport after booking one-way tickets. That’s according to State Attorney Jack Campbell. Harvey Adelson was not arrested.

Search warrants signed by a judge the next day say the lead FBI agent in the case seized Donna Adelson’s white iPhone during the arrest.

“As Special Agent Pat Sanford attempted to seize her cell phone Donna attempted to pull away and prevent him from grabbing it. Donna said she was told not to give her phone to law enforcement,” the search warrant says.

The same search warrant says a friend of Charlie Adelson contacted the State Attorney’s office soon after his conviction, saying that Donna and Harvey Adelson had contacted him Nov. 12 seeking advice about airlines and places to stay in the Philippines.

Donna Adelson is the fifth person arrested for Markel’s murder. The other four have all been convicted. Luis Rivera entered a plea and was sentenced to 19 years in prison. Sigfredo Garcia and Katherine Magbanua are serving life sentences. Donna’s son, Charlie, is scheduled to be sentenced on December 12.

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