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Magbanua Trial Day 9: Jury returns guilty verdicts on murder, conspiracy, and solicitation charges in the death of Dan Markel

 Katherine Magbanua (center) cries as she hears a judge announce guilty verdicts in her retrial (5/27/2022)
Katherine Magbanua (center) cries as she hears a judge announce guilty verdicts in her retrial (5/27/2022)

Katherine Magbanua has been found guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy, and solicitation in the 2014 killing of Florida State University Law Professor Dan Markel.

A jury deliberated for eight hours before reaching the verdict. Magbanua is likely to face life in prison for the first-degree murder charge. Her first trial, in 2019 alongside convicted shooter Sigfredo Garcia, resulted in a hung jury.

State prosecutors worked for two weeks to convince the jury that Magbanua is the go-between for convicted hitmen Garcia—who is also her ex-boyfriend and father of her kids—and Louis Rivera, Garcia’s childhood friend. Magbanua also dated the brother of Markel’s ex-wife, Wendi Adelson. Charlie Adelson was arrested last month for what prosecutors say was orchestrating Markel’s killing.

Magbanua’s defense attorney’s argued Adelson went behind her back and hired Garcia without her knowledge, but the state picked that defense apart using evidence like the fact Adelson would keep stapled cash on hand, money that eventually found its way to Garcia, Garcia’s ex-girlfriend, and a former friend and business associate of Adelson’s who remarked that it was “strange.”

The state also presented cell phone records showing Magbanua in the vicinity of the place where the Toyota Prius used in the crime was rented; along with her inability to convincingly explain an influx of cash into her bank accounts after Markel was killed. During her testimony, Magbanua admitted the evidence against her in the case, “looks bad.”

More damningly, the jury was also able to listen to a conversation recorded between Magbanua and Adelson at a Miami restaurant in 2016, where Adelson discusses what’s come to be called “The Bump”. That was an undercover FBI investigation where an undercover officer gave Adelson’s mother a flyer with Dan Markel’s face and a phone number on it. The recording had been in investigators' possession for years, but only this year were they able to decipher what was said. It led to Adelson’s arrest last month.

Prosecutors contend Markel’s death was a murder-for-hire, spurred on because of a bitter custody of fight between him and his ex-wife.

As the judge read the decision out loud, Magbanua sat between her two defense attorneys, Tara Kawass and Chris DeCoste, hung her head, and cried.

Markel's parents sat in the courtroom, watching the trial daily.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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