More than five years after the murder of Florida State University law professor Dan Markel, a jury found a Miami man guilty of his killing.
Sigfredo “Tuto” Garcia was found guilty of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. He faces the death penalty and will be sentenced on Monday.
A judge declared a mistrial after the jury couldn’t come to a decision on the charges against Katherine Magbanua. The judge confirmed she will be retried and her hearing will be held two weeks from now on Oct. 22.
In 2016, Garcia and Magbanua were both charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation of murder. Both pleaded not guilty.
Garcia faces the death penalty and Magbanua is facing life in prison.
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Markel was shot in the head twice at his home on July 18, 2014. He died 15 hours later.
Prosecutors in the case argued that Garcia, Magbanua and Luis Rivera, who is now cooperating with prosecutors, were part of a plot to kill Markel and that they were hired by some members of Markel’s ex-wife Wendi Adelson’s family.
Wendi Adelson’s divorce to Markel had been finalized about a year before his murder. Per the divorce settlement, the couple was to share custody of the two children.
During divorce negotiations, Wendi Adelson petitioned to relocate from Tallahassee with their young children some 450 miles south to Coral Springs, close to where her family lived. The Adelsons were incensed when a judge denied that petition.
According to police, surveillance images of the getaway car lead them to identify it as a rental car and track it to Rivera and Garcia.
Police say Rivera is a leader in the North Miami branch of the notorious Latin Kings gang. In 2016, he struck a deal with prosecutors, pleading guilty to second degree murder and confessing to his role in Markel’s murder in exchange for avoiding the death penalty. He was sentenced to 19 years in prison, concurrent with a 12 year sentence he was already serving on an unrelated charge.
Rivera, a childhood friend of Garcia, said he was promised $35,000 to accompany him to Tallahassee for the hit on Markel. Garcia, who already had a felony record and more than 20 run-ins with the law, fired the gun killing Markel, according to Rivera.
Rivera also claimed Katherine Magbanua had organized the plan on behalf of someone who was only referred to as “the lady,” who would pay them for the killing.
Magbanua, who dated Garcia on and off for ten years, has two children with him. She also dated Markel’s former brother-in-law Charlie Adelson during a time period that overlapped with Markel’s murder.
Magbanua was arrested in 2016 for Markel’s murder. Investigators say they uncovered a number of checks she received from the Adelson’s family dental practice, signed by Donna Adelson, Wendi and Charlie Adelson’s mother, but could not find evidence that she had been employed there. She testified that her work largely consisted of projects for Charlie Adelson.
Attorneys for each of the Adelsons issued a joint statement denying any involvement in the crime. None of the Adelsons has been charged.
“The prosecution couldn’t prove its theory on Katie after 3 years of really thorough investigation and preparation,” Charlie Adelson’s attorney said of Friday’s verdict. “This is why they have not charged Charlie and his family — the case simply isn’t there. We don’t charge people based on amateur speculation. Professional prosecutors rightfully understood that it couldn’t prove a case against Charlie before this trial. After the hung jury, their prospects have gone down, not up.”
“The presentations by the prosecution and the defense, as well as Wendi’s own testimony, have demonstrated beyond any doubt that she had no involvement in this terrible tragedy,” Wendi Adelson’s attorney told ABC News. “Wendi, and her sons, continue to mourn the loss of their father. Wendi has complete faith in our court system to ensure that justice will be done.”