Tallahassee By: Julie Montanaro/WCTV Eyewitness News
July 14, 2019
TALLAHASSEE, Fla (WCTV Eyewitness News) - He was an FSU Law professor and father of two.
Dan Markel was gunned down in his own garage five years ago.
"It's hard to believe it's been five years and I'll never forget it," neighbor Dot Inman Johnson said as reflected on the anniversary.
Neighbors, colleagues and friends are still stunned five years later.
"I just can't believe anybody could do something like that," Inman Johnson said. "You wouldn't think that anybody would have that kind of animosity against this man."
The swarm of police officers descended on Trescott Drive in Betton Hills on July 18, 2014.
A neighbor called 911 that day after hearing gunshots.
"His driver's side window is shattered and he's battered and can't answer," the man told the 911 operator.
The pictures of Dan Markel's car tell the story of what police would later deem a murder for hire scheme.
"It was not a random act that they came up here," Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo said at a press conference in June 2016 when Sigfredo Garcia and Luis Rivera were arrested.
The allegations are almost unbelievable. Investigators claiming Sigfredo Garcia and Luis Rivera traveled from Miami, cased the house in advance and followed Markel around town in a Prius before opening fire in his driveway.
"I don't think anyone in the neighborhood would have expected something like this to happen," one of Markel’s neighbors said as details of the crime started to emerge in June 2016.
The suspected motive for the murder was just as shocking. Arrest papers suggesting an ongoing custody battle over the Markel's two children fueled the murder.
“Investigators believe motive for this murder stemmed from the desperate desire of the Adelson family to relocate Wendi and the children to South Florida,” Sigfredo Garcia’s arrest papers said.
Speculation then started swirling around Markel's ex-wife and her family, but none of the Adelsons has been charged in the plot and all have denied involvement from day one.
"We're going to say the exact same thing to WCTV that we're going to say to everybody else,” Charlie Adelson’s attorney Michael Weinstein said in a June 2016 interview. “We are denying any and all responsibility."
Suspects Sigfredo Garcia and Katherine Magbanua are now getting ready for a September trial.
"We're going to set the trial for September 23rd," Circuit Judge James Hankinson said at a recent court hearing in June 2019.
Garcia's attorney says they're looking forward to it.
“We look forward to trial along with the opportunity to show the jury something other than what the prosecution has been force feeding the media and the jury pool since my client's arrest three years ago,” defense attorney Saam Zangeneh said.
"I think it'll be riveting testimony when we learn the facts firsthand,” neighbor and colleague Reggie Garcia said of the upcoming trial, “but in a way I think the community ... the anguish will come back again."
Those who knew Dan Markel are still shaking their heads in disbelief at the loss of the father and legal scholar five years ago.
"I hope they get justice. I hope they can heal,” Reggie Garcia said of the Markel family. “As his sons grow up, I hope there will be some effort and my sense is there will be to honor his memory."
"We really miss him in the neighborhood and hope that justice is brought for what happened to him," Dot Inman Johnson said.
We reached out to Dan Markel's family. Family attorney Orin Snyder sent a statement on behalf of Dan Markel’s parents, Ruth and Phil Markel:
“Dan Markel was a light in the world. Five years ago, Dan was murdered in cold blood outside his home—only hours after saying goodbye to his two young boys for what would be the last time. Five years later, his friends and family are still waiting for all of his killers to be brought to justice.”
“The Markels used to travel to Tallahassee to visit Dan and the boys at home—to visit their preschool, to attend music programs, and to play in the park together. Now, as they prepare to return to Tallahassee for the trial of some of Dan’s alleged killers, they will be forced to re-live the nightmare of Dan’s murder all over again. The Markels continue to be grateful for the support of the Tallahassee community and the efforts of law enforcement. They are counting down the days until justice is done. More than anything, the Markels want to reunite with their beloved grandsons—Dan’s young boys—whom they have not been allowed to see in more than three years.”
Defense attorneys for suspect Katherine Magbanua have maintained her innocence from the beginning.
“On this anniversary instead of again stressing Katie’s innocence we'd rather address the community that lost a son,” defense attorney Christopher DeCoste said. “Through our extensive investigation we’ve learned many things including something many of you already know. Dan Markel was a great man, a brilliant scholar and a devoted father. Current legal battles aside his murder is beyond tragic.”
The state attorney's office declined comment for this story and so far there’s been no response from Wendi Adelson's legal team.