Markel Murder trial day 2: Ex-wife, lead investigator take stand

By: Julie Montanaro, Jacob Murphey | WCTV Eyewitness News
September 27, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — Day two of the Dan Markel murder trial came to a close around 5:20 p.m. Friday as Markel's ex-wife, Wendi Adelson, finished her testimony. Court will resume at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, since the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashana will be observed Monday.

Whenever the trial is in session, you can watch a livestream of it here on our website.

WCTV has continued coverage of this trial, including recaps of each day in court.

Day 2 Wrap

Twelve witnesses took to the stand during a fast-paced opening day of testimony. Day two moved at a crawl, but ended with highly anticipated testimony.

Adelson walked into the courtroom around 3:45 p.m. Friday, taking the oath with members of Dan Markel's family watching on.

Prosecutor Georgia Cappleman dove into Adelson's failed marriage with Markel.

Adelson said she was happy living in Tallahassee, but said she argued with Markel about how to incorporate faith in raising their two children.

She described the 2012 divorce as "unpleasant," and said members of her family were "angry" with Markel during the process.

Many of the questions on both sides targeted Wendi's family, especially her brother, Charlie.

Prosecutors are trying to draw a connection between Charlie and the alleged murder-for-hire scheme that ended Markel's life.

The attorney representing the alleged gunman Sigfredo Garcia asked Adelson if her brother knew Luis Rivera, who is expected to testify as the State's star witness next week.

Adelson denied knowing any connection between the two men.

Adelson received immunity for her testimony. Nothing said Friday could be used against her. No member of the Adelson family faces charges in this case.

Earlier in the day, lead investigator Craig Isom spent several hours testifying.

Both defense teams tried to paint a picture of shoddy investigative work and a lack of conclusive evidence against their clients.

5:20 p.m. update

Adelson's time on the stand has come to a close.

The final questions from state attorneys focused on why Adelson kept Markel's parents from seeing their grandchildren for the last three years.

Adelson said the parent's inquiry about potential foster care concerned her, since it made her believe they might try to take away her kids.

4 p.m. update


Lead investigator Craig Isom's lengthy testimony ended around 3:40 p.m. The state's third witness was Ronald Witt, who works for T-Mobile. Witt testified on behalf of T-Mobile's records.

After a brief testimony from Witt, the state called Wendi Adelson, who is Dan Markel's ex-wife, to the stand.

The state subpoenaed Adelson to get her to testify, but it also gave her immunity, so anything she said on the stand Friday couldn't be used against her legally.

Neither she or any of her family members have been charged in this case.

State attorneys asked Adelson about her divorce of Markel in 2012. She was directly asked if she had a desire to move her kids to South Florida.

"Not at the time," she said.

State attorneys went on to ask Adelson if her parents are over involved in her personal life.

"I don't know," she said.

Adelson called her divorce with Markel unpleasant, specifically pointing to issues with raising children and faith. Adelson said following Judaism's kosher rules weren't important to her, but it was important to Markel.

When state attorneys got to the heart of allegations in this case, Adelson said her brother joked about hiring a hit man, but instead went with a TV for a divorce present.

Adelson went on to deny her brother ever hired a hit man to kill Markel. She admitted her brother has a bad sense of humor.

Following Markel's death, Adelson said she was terrified for her and her children's lives. She said she stayed home for a month, until finally going out for a meal with her brother.

She said she barely ate for weeks due to the grief from Markel's death.

3 p.m. update


Lead investigator Craig Isom's long day on the stand continues.

Isom answered questions about Katherine Magbanua's cash deposits, which are allegedly connected to the murder plot. Magbanua's lawyer criticized Isom about not investigating where the money came from.

"Isn't that willful ignorance," the lawyer asked.

Her attorney pointed out Magbanua never fled the country despite this case being "one of the biggest media cases in Tallahassee history."

Isom spent 30 minutes answering written jury questions. Magbanua's attorney asked why the September 30, 2016, conversation with Luis Rivera, who is one of the state's witnesses, wasn't recorded. Isom said it was a request from the state attorney's office

10:30 a.m. update


Jurors are now getting a look at a series of surveillance tapes that show a Prius tailing Dan Markel in the hours before the murder.

Those videos, shown on the big screen, showed Markel’s black Honda pulling into the parking lot at Premier gym at 9:11 a.m. that day. The suspect Prius pulling in and passing his parked car seconds later.

Surveillance video shows Markel walking in and out of the gym and when he pulled out of the parking lot at 10:38 a.m., the Prius followed seconds later.

Lead investigator Craig Isom testified that surveillance cameras from Star Metro buses captured video of the Prius tailing Markel’s car down Thomasville Road and making a left turn on Betton Road just minutes before the murder.

Surveillance video from another bus shows the Prius heading northbound on Thomasville Road minutes later. That same video shows two people in the Prius including what appears to be a man in a white shirt in the passenger seat.

The police investigators described the lengths they went to find the driver of the Prius. They sifted through toll records on I-75, I-95 and the turnpike. Isom said they ultimately tracked the Prius to a rental car company in Miami.

Luis Rivera used his real name and phone number on that rental agreement, according to Isom's testimony.

10:15 a.m. update


The now-retired lead investigator on the Dan Markel case is testifying.

Craig Isom says he went to the crime scene and within a few hours he located and interviewed Markel’s ex-wife Wendi Adelson.

He said based on her interview he reviewed the couple’s divorce records and found what he called “bad blood” between Markel and the Adelson family.

There is a huge binder with more than 500 pages of divorce filings in evidence. Isom said it showed a judge had denied Wendi’s request to relocate the children to South Florida.

He said it also shows a series of “strong” emails from Wendi’s mother, including one that suggested paying Markel a $1 million bribe to move the children.

Isom testified that in one of the emails, the mother proposed splitting that payment three ways among Wendi, her brother and her parents with each paying $330,000.

Isom also testified that Markel had filed paperwork to try to block any unsupervised visits with the children’s grandmother after Markel claimed she was making disparaging remarks about him to the children. Isom said that hearing was never held because Markel was killed first.

Isom testified he went to a memorial service for Dan Markel and asked Wendi’s parents to come to TPD for an interview, but they did not. Isom testified he also asked Wendi Adelson to come in for a follow up interview, but she hung up on him.

9:30 a.m. update


A Tallahassee Police Department forensics expert was on the stand testifying about the trajectory of the bullets that killed Dan Markel.

Shawn Yao testified that the downward path of the bullet indicates that the shots “are more consistent with a taller shooter than a shorter shooter.”

Sigfredo Garcia’s attorney objected, but was overruled.

Yao testified that it’s more likely these shots were fired by someone who is 6 feet tall, rather than someone who is 5 feet 4 inches.

He said that was based on the assumptions that Markel was sitting upright in his car and the shooter fired the gun with an extended arm through the window.

Yao testified that on cross examination that any change in Markel’s position could account for the trajectory. Garcia’s attorney also asked if it was possible the shooter was firing “gangster style” like in many TV shows and movies. Yao said yes.

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