Markel Murder Trial Day 9: Defense rests its case

By: WCTV Eyewitness News
October 9, 2019

Katherine Magbanua was the first witness called to the stand Wednesday morning.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — After nine days, witness testimony has concluded in the Dan Markel murder trial. The defense finished presenting its case on what would've been the FSU law professor's 47th birthday.

Defendant Katherine Magbanua took the stand for nearly four and a half hours Wednesday.

Closing arguments are set to begin Thursday morning and jury deliberations will follow later in the day.

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

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

Day 9 wrap

"Did you get the father of your children, Mr. Garcia, to commit a murder on behalf of Mr. Charlie Adelson?" Tara Kawass, Magbanua's attorney, asked.

"No ma'am," Magbanua replied.

During her lengthy testimony, Magbanua denied that she ever picked up stacks of stapled money and delivered them to Sigfredo Garcia and Luis Rivera.

Magbanua described her longtime relationship with Garcia. She said they met as teens, and the two had children together.

She described her dating relationship with Charlie Adelson, the brother in law of Markel. She said she asked Adelson for a job so she could get insurance for her children.

"Why did he put you on the payroll?" Prosecutor Georgia Cappleman asked. "Was that as a favor?"

"Yes ma'am," Magbanua replied.

"Not for a payment for murder?" Cappleman asked.

"No ma'am," Magbanua replied.

Magbanua tried to explain an infusion of cash she had after Markel's murder. She said she worked at a Miami night club, pocketing tips from high end customers.

"I could walk out of there with anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500," she said.

She said she also got cash from Garcia and her mother to help support her kids.

"Would you agree, Ms. Magbanua, that you deposited $13,000 in cash in August 2014?" Cappleman asked.

"If that's what my bank records show," Magbanua replied.

Magbanua said she had no idea she was implicated in Markel's murder until Garcia was arrested, and her name showed up in the paperwork.

She said she was surrounded by officers with guns drawn a few months later.

Markel's family has attended the trial each day, except for today. They observed Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday, and most courts are closed.

11:45 a.m. update

Magbanua testified that on the day of her arrest, police surrounded her car with guns drawn.

“I can’t even count,” Magbanua said. “In every direction.”

Magbanua said she was running errands that morning.

Defense attorney Tara Kawass asked Magbanua if Charlie Adelson was involved. Magbanua said based on what she’s heard in court, yes, but testified she had no personal knowledge of his involvement in Markel’s murder.

On cross examination, Magbanua testified that Luis Rivera was proud of his gang membership and leading role in the gang.

“Were people afraid of Luis Rivera?” Defense attorney Saam Zangeneh asked.

“Yes.”

“Would Sigfredo Garcia ever do anything to help Charlie Adelson?”

“Never,” Magbanua said.

None of the Adelsons are charged with a crime and have denied any involvement in Markel’s murder.

11:15 a.m. update

Katherine Magbanua described the day two men came to her home and started banging on the door.

She said they were not in uniform and there was no marked patrol car outside.

“I was freaking out,” she said. “My dog was going crazy.”

Magbanua said she called Sigfredo Garcia at work and one of his co-workers told her there were federal agents there, questioning Garcia.

She said Garcia was arrested on their daughter’s birthday.

“I was distraught,” Magbanua said.

She said when Garcia’s arrest papers were made public, it was the first time she realized she had been implicated in the murder.

11 a.m. update

Katherine Magbanua testified that she worked in a Miami night club and on a good night could make $1,000 to $1,500 in cash tips.

She says she did not report those tips on her income tax.

Magbanua said in 2014 she asked Charlie Adelson for a job at the Adelson Institute because she was trying to get insurance for her children.

Magbanua said she would serve as an assistant to Charlie Adelson doing odd jobs for the dental office and helping with his rental properties. She said she did not go into the office every day.

Magbanua said she never told Garcia she was working for Charlie Adelson because “he would be very angry.”

Magbanua said both her mother and Garcia would frequently give her cash.

“For the kids,” she said. Magbanua testified that she never questioned Garcia about where the money came from and when asked, she said she was not aware if Garcia was selling drugs.

Garcia’s lawyer objected to that question, but was overruled.

Magbanua testified that she got breast augmentation surgery in October 2014. She said she had wanted the surgery since high school and paid for it with her cash tips.

She said she returned to working in the clubs soon after her surgery and says her tips increased.

The defense showed a photo of her on the big screen in court.

“You look a lot different now. Why?”

“I’ve been incarcerated,” Magbanua said.

10 a.m. update

Defense attorney Tara Kawass is now questioning Katherine Magbanua about the day of Dan Markel’s murder - July 18, 2014- and the day afterward.

Magbanua testified that Garcia never told her he was going to Tallahassee.

She said until her arrest, she had never been to Tallahassee.

Magbanua testified that she called Garcia that day and the next because she was trying to find him.

She testified that sometimes she couldn’t reach Garcia for days and didn’t approve of her children being exposed to his new girlfriend, who defense attorneys mentioned was an exotic dancer.

Magbanua remembers Charlie Adelson telling her that his brother-in-law Dan Markel had been in an accident, but testified he did not tell her that Markel had been murdered.

Magbanua testified that she took her children to the pool the day after the murder, and denied picking up stapled money or delivering it to Garcia or Luis Rivera.

9:15 a.m. update

Katherine Magbanua was the first witness called to the stand Wednesday morning.

Magbanua said she was nervous.

“Did you have anything to do with the murder of Dan Markel?” Defense attorney Tara Kawass asked.

“No, ma’am,” Magbanua answered.

Magbanua described meeting Garcia as a teenager and getting pregnant with the couple’s first child while she was a college student in Orlando.

Magbanua testified that they lived together there and then moved back to Miami after she graduated so she could get a job and have help taking care of their son.

Magbanua testified that she considers Garcia her husband and they now have two children together.

Magbanua says she and Garcia were repeatedly breaking up and getting back together, but had a big break up in 2013.

She says she overheard him talking about a girl and “I was done,” Magbanua said.

Magbanua testified that she met Charlie Adelson while working at a dental office in Miami Beach.

Magbanua said they talked daily and “hung out a lot.”

“Were you ever looking for him to move in with you?”

“No,” Magbanua said.

Magbanua said there was no talk of marriage and Adelson often encouraged her to get back together with Garcia who was the father of her children.

9 a.m. update

Katherine Magbanua will take the stand to testify in her own defense, her attorney told the judge Wednesday morning.

Garcia opted not to testify on Tuesday.

This could be the final day of testimony in the Dan Markel murder case. It falls on the FSU professor’s birthday. He would have been 47 years old.

The state called witnesses to the stand over the span of eight days, while the defense just started calling its witnesses Tuesday.

The judge has not yet decided whether attorneys will give their closing arguments Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning.

The state wants to move forward, but Magbanua’s defense attorney argued against making those critical arguments at the end of a long day and then sending the jury home without deliberating.

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