Markel Murder trial day 4: Luis Rivera finishes nearly 8-hour testimony

Published: Oct. 2, 2019 at 9:13 AM EDT
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By: WCTV Eyewitness News

October 2, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — Day four of the Dan Markel murder trial is underway. Co-defendant Luis Rivera, who agreed to plea deal in 2016, spent nearly three hours on the stand Tuesday describing the day he claims he and Sigfredo Garcia traveled to Tallahassee to kill Markel.

Rivera claimed Garcia fired the deadly shots and all three— Rivera, Garcia and Katherine Magbanua— split $100,000 for "the job."

His testimony closed out the third day of the trial, and it's where day four picked back up.

WCTV has continued coverage of this trial, including


Whenever the trial is in session, you can watch a


2:30 p.m. update

After nearly eight hours on the stand over two days, Rivera's witness testimony came to a close.

The next witness to take the stand was Jonathan Grossman, a Miami Dade Police Department homicide detective. Attorneys asked Grossman about the Toyota Prius Garcia and Rivera drove to Tallahassee.

Earlier Tuesday, Rivera testified that Garcia had shot a hole in the floorboard of the Prius during their trip to Tallahassee. Rivera told this to prosecutors in 2016 when he agreed to the plea deal.

The state had Grossman track down the Prius to confirm what Rivera told them. Grossman found a Prius with a bullet hole, consistent with Rivera's story.

Photos of the Prius were shown in court during Grossman's testimony.

Magbanua's defense attorneys are now questioning Luis Rivera.

Rivera confirmed that he’s known Sigfredo Garcia since they were 5 or 6 years old and went to elementary and middle school together.

He said he has known Katherine Magbanua as Garcia’s girlfriend for more than 10 years.

Defense attorney Tara Kawass asked Rivera about a break up between Garcia and Magbanua and then asked about Garcia’s continued involvement with his children.

“He’s a good father,” Rivera said of Garcia. Garcia would “never” abandon his kids, he said.

Rivera said he’s been working as a mason for 15 years and got Garcia a job at the same company in between their trips to Tallahassee in June and July of 2014.

He testified he had to fire Garcia “for drinking on the job.”

Rivera described Charlie Adelson as Magbanua’s “boss.” He said Garcia was jealous of their relationship and described sitting in Garcia’s truck one night watching them eat dinner together. Garcia felt like running them over, he testified.

Defense attorneys are now questioning Rivera about the multiple statements he’s given to law enforcement in this case.

“Everything was recorded to my knowledge,” Rivera said, but defense attorneys said otherwise.

One of the discrepancies defense attorneys tried to point out involved who “financed” the murder plot, Rivera claiming Katherine Magbanua financed it in one version and claiming “the lady” financed it in another.

They also confronted Rivera about claims that he thought they were coming to Tallahassee to pull off a robbery. Rivera testified Tuesday that he didn’t know they were coming to kill Dan Markel until he got in the car.

Defense attorneys then asked Rivera why he bought a smaller gun in advance because he said the one Garcia had was not good for killing people.

They are now questioning Rivera about an incident in which he says Garcia shot a hole in the floorboard of their rental car.

Rivera was questioned about a ride with law enforcement in which he tried to help them find the murder weapon.

Rivera said they rode up and down I-75 for several hours and stopped at an underpass, but did not find it.

Rivera was clearly agitated when Garcia’s attorney repeatedly asked about connections to the Latin Kings.

“It’s got nothing to do with the Latin Kings, it has to do with me and Garcia,” Rivera said raising his voice.

Rivera testified on the stand Tuesday that his life was in danger for testifying,

Defense attorneys put a handwritten letter on the screen that Rivera sent to prosecutor Georgia Cappleman soon after his plea deal.

In the letter, Rivera said he “told you everything you wanted to know,” and asked Cappleman to move him out of a confinement cell to “general population.”

Defense attorneys asked why he would do that if his life was in danger.

“They’re trying right now,” Rivera said.

Rivera testified he had never been to Tallahassee before he and Garcia drove up in June to try to kill Dan Markel.

Rivera says when they arrived in Tallahassee, he and Garcia did hundreds of dollars worth of cocaine and went out to eat at Hooters.

Rivera testified Tuesday that they did not wind up killing Markel on June 4 because his children were with him.

The defense is trying to point out inconsistencies in his testimony, saying Rivera initially claimed Garcia drove the whole way on that first trip, but Rivera admitted he got a traffic ticket in Gainesville on that same trip, so they must have shared the driving.

Rivera says he had doubts about killing someone he didn’t know and wanted Garcia to be the triggerman. He said they left Tallahassee after losing track of Markel that morning.

The defense questioned Rivera about why he came back.

“He’s my best friend,” Rivera says of Garcia. That’s why Rivera says he was willing to come back to Tallahassee on July 18.

9:15 a.m. update

Rivera is back on the stand continuing his testimony. Before he got back up there, defense attorneys pointed out although Rivera said he can't read, he received and responded to thousands of text messages on his phone.

Rivera walked into court in a blue jail jumpsuit. He looked directly at Garcia and Magbanua as he waited for the jury to walk in.

Rivera said he can read at a third grade level, and he claimed he uses the audio function on his phone to send and read text messages. The defense also pointed out he filled out the car rental agreement for the Prius.

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