Day Four: Luis Rivera Says He Wouldn't Shoot Dan Markel In Front Of Kids

Oct 3, 2019

Luis Rivera testified for two days in the murder trial for Florida State University Dan Markel. He’s pled guilty to murder in exchange for a 19-year sentence in the case.

Luis Rivera testifies against his lifelong friend, Sigfredo Garcia in the murder trial for slain FSU Professor Dan Markel (October 1, 2019)
Credit Alicia Devine, Pool / Tallahassee Democrat

Full Story: For two days, Luis Rivera sat on the witness stand in the murder trial for slain Florida State University Law Professor Dan Markel. Rivera has pled guilty to his role in the slaying, and told the court the job was setup by Katherine Magbanua and Sigfredo Garcia.

Rivera says he watched from the driver’s seat of a green Toyota Prius as Sigfredo Garcia shot Dan Markel twice, as the FSU Law Professor sat in his car which was parked in the garage of his home.  Rivera says he only came along for the trip because Garcia is his friend and says he knew nothing about the plan to murder Markel.

“I thought we were finna go rob him,” Garcia told the court.

He says during the drive up to Tallahassee is when he found out the real plan.

“Like halfway there we just, he [Garcia] said we were going to have to kill the man for some kids.”

Rivera says he refused to shoot Markel in front of his children. The two men made two trips to Tallahassee from South Florida. On the first, they didn’t kill Markel. On the next one, they did.

“Soon as we pulled in Garcia…jumped out the car and went around. Not around but in front of the car, right behind his car and the car I was driving. Went to the driver side and shot him.”

Markel was shot twice. Garcia, and his ex-girlfriend Katherine Magbanua, along with Rivera are accused of carrying out a murder-for hire planned by Markel’s ex-wife’s family, the Adelsons. No members of that family have been charged.

Defense attorneys for Garcia and Magbanua pounced on differences between Rivera said in court and what he’s said in depositions. Magbanua’s attorney Tara Kawass, asked why Rivera’s statements appear to have changed over time. 

“You testified to two things,” she said. “At first you testified that you found out that it was a murder on the way to Tallahassee. Remember that?”

Rivera said he did.

“And then on cross examination with Mr. Zangeneh you testified that you found out when you got to Tallahassee. Remember that?”

Rivera said he didn’t recall.

Garcia’s attorney, Saam Zangeneh also cross-examined Rivera about details of the case, such as Garcia’s relationship with Magbanua. The two have two children together.

“Would you say that Mr. Garcia was unhappy [with] the fact she [Magbanua] was dating Charlie Adelson?” Zangeneh asked. Rivera said, “of course he was.”

Charlie Adelson is Dan Markel’s former brother-in-law who’s believed to have placed the order to take out his sister’s ex-husband. He was dating Magbanua prior to Markel’s murder and Zangeneh says he doesn’t get why Garcia would do something for his ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend.

At times, Zangeneh’s questions focused on Rivera’s affiliation with the Latin King’s gang. The exchanges were tense leading to the state asking that gang-related activities be left out because the gang has nothing to do with the Markel’s murder.

Garcia and Magbanua are facing life sentences if convicted. Rivera has taken a 19-year plea deal in exchange for his testimony.  

Original Story: Rivera’s 19-year sentence is running concurrently to his current one. He’s the state’s main witness in the case, and outlined to the courtroom how Markel’s murder happened. Rivera says Sigfredo Garcia shot Markel twice while the law professor was parked in his garage.

“Soon as we pulled in, Garcia…jumped out the car and went around. Not around but in front of the car, right behind his car and the car I was driving. Went to the driver side and shot him,” Rivera said.

“He shot Mr. Markel?” State Attorney Georgia Cappelman asked.

“Yes.”

Cappelman asked how many times Markel was shot and Rivera answered, “twice.”

Rivera says he was supposed to be the shooter at first but once he found out about the kids he called and told Garcia he wouldn’t do it.

“I ain’t gone shoot nobody in front of no kids.”

Sigfredo Garcia and his ex-girlfriend Katherine Magbanua are presently on trial for Markel’s murder. Along with Rivera, the three are accused of carrying out a murder-for-hire that was orchestrated by Markel’s ex-wife’s family, the Adelsons. No members of the family have been charged.

*Correction: The headline for this headline has been changed to reflect that there was never a plan to shoot the children.