Day Twelve: Dan Markel's Mother Speaks To Jurors As Sentencing Begins

Oct 14, 2019

Monday. Jurors heard from Ruth Markel the mother of slain FSU Professor Dan Markel. They’re considering the sentence for his killer Sigfredo Garcia who faces the death penalty for his involvement in a so-called murder for hire plot that took place in 2013.

Ruth Markel speaking to jurors about who Dan Markel was and what his death means to her family, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fl.
Credit Tori Schneider, Pool / Tallahassee Democrat

Shortly after 1 pm, Monday jurors were seated. And the sentencing portion of the trial began. The state called up its first and only witness, Ruth Markel. She read a letter to jurors that she says crafted with input from all of her family.

“Parents are not supposed to outlive their children. A mother should never have to bury their own child. Perhaps this is why there are words to describe someone who loses their spouse or their parents - a widow or an orphan – but there’s no word in the English language for someone who loses a child," said Markel.

Ruth Markel went on to mention how friends, colleagues, and mentors described her son as caring uplifting and inspiring. She listed off many of his accomplishments, Dan Markel graduated from Harvard Law school, worked as an associate at a prestigious law firm in D.C., and landed a teaching position at FSU College of Law. But Ruth says that’s not the accomplishment she is proudest of.

"Of all my son’s accomplishments however I am most proud of the father Dan was to his beautiful boys Lincoln and Ben. It is hard to capture in words the joy and excitement I felt when Dan became a father, and I became a grandmother," explained Markel.

Ruth says all of that ended when she got the news about Dan’s death.

"In one fell swoop our son, brother, and the father of two young boys were all killed. My life was shattered. Dan’s death has caused us deep pain that is both disruptive and permanent," said Markel.

Ruth says losing a child isn’t comparable to losing any other loved ones.

“After the death of a loved one you are supposed to face the loss, the void, the experience, the grief and maybe get closure if you are lucky. But when you lose a child life’s progression comes to a complete stop and the grief and pain of a mother who loses her child never ends,” read Markel.

Ruth says even now five years later the death of her son still haunts her and that she prays for justice. The jury also heard from two licensed psychologists who disagreed whether Sigfredo Garcia suffers from certain mental diagnoses. Dr. Greg Prichard who was called up by the state during rebuttal said Garcia had 20 arrest reports stemming from 1988 to 1999; the charges range from robbery, car theft to allegations of arson.

"If I look at Mr. Garcia’s records the thing that does not stand out is treatment for mental health symptoms, anxiety or depression. What does stand out is the criminal behavior," said Prichard.

Garcia was first arrested at age six. He is the father of two young children.