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UPDATE: Sigfredo Garcia Guilty of Murdering Law Professor Dan Markel, But Katherine Magbanua’s Case Results in Mistrial


Jurors found Sigfredo Garcia guilty of murder in the 2014 shooting death of Florida State University Law Professor Dan Markel. The case against co-defendant Katherine Magbanua resulted in a mistrial when jurors couldn’t reach a decision.

Garcia faces a possible death penalty. His sentencing is scheduled to start Monday.

Prosecutors argued at trial that Magbanua was an intermediary in a plot to end the victim’s life. She got Garcia to do it, who in return recruited Luis Rivera for backup, investigators said. Markel was murdered in his garage.

The victim went through an ugly divorce with his ex-wife Wendi Adelson. Police have previously suggested that Adelson’s brother and even their mother might have masterminded it. This brother, Charlie Adelson, used to date Magbanua, according to testimony and evidence at trial.

Only Garcia and Magbanua faced a jury, however. Rivera had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and implicated them. None of the Adelsons have been charged, and they’ve denied wrongdoing.

Wendi Adelson testified Sept. 27 that she wasn’t aware of the state’s theory, and that she didn’t watch TV specials about the case.

She said she knew Magbanua as her brother’s former girlfriend, that this seemed to be a casual relationship, and that she didn’t recall if she and Magbanua ever discussed the divorce from Markel.

Adelson testified that starting in either the fall of 2012 or early 2013, her brother would begin repeating a joke about it being cheaper to hire a hitman to kill Dan Markel than to buy a TV for Wendi.

If there’s anything everyone in this case agrees on it, it’s that there’s no love lost between the victim and his former in-laws. Nonetheless, Adelson insisted this was a joke.

She testified that Markel’s parents were no longer allowed to see her children because the victim’s mother reached out to a foster agency to get the kids placed with a family. Adelson said she believed they were trying to take them away from her.

The messy personal dynamics don’t stop with Markel’s family.

Garcia and Magbanua’s teams used the defendants’ history in a bid to avoid a guilty verdict. The couple–who parented two children together–had an on-and-off relationship, but Magbanua ended it in 2013, and started dating Charlie Adelson, said Magbanua’s lawyer Tara Namat Kawass. Garcia’s lawyer Saam Zangeneh said his client hated Adelson, and would’ve never helped kill Markel for that man’s benefit.

Note: Updated to show there’s a mistrial in Magbanua’s case.

[Mugshots via Broward County Sheriff’s Office]

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