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TPD Says 'More Arrests Likely' In Murder of FSU Professor Markel

A police chief stands at a podium
Lynn Hatter

An unsealed probable cause affidavit coupled with looming questions about the role of a slain Florida State University Law Professor’s estranged family, is reading like a case from Law and Order. The Tallahassee Police Department says more arrests are likely, and an investigation into Dan Markel’s death is ongoing.

On his final day, Dan Markel was followed from Premier Fitness, by a silver-green Prius, That’s the car investigators say was being driven by Sigfredo Garcia and Luis Rivera.  At the time of the shooting, Markel was talking to a person on his cell phone, and reported seeing someone he didn’t recognize in his driveway. According to the probable cause affidavit, the person on the line with Markel heard what is described as a loud grunt. And that matches what neighbor’s reported at the scene—that they heard a gunshot, looked outside, and saw a light-colored or silver Prius, backing out the driveway.

“The garage door was up. I thought the gentleman was backing up, and I went back to my house,  but he never backed out. I came back over and his diver’s side window was shattered and he’s spattered and can’t answer," a neighbor told dispatchers in a 9-1-1 call.

Markel survived the gunshot to the head, but later died at a local hospital. Police arrested Garcia last week, but the probable cause report had been sealed, and law enforcement had been tight-lipped, offering few details about motive. It had been widely speculated that Markel’s death was tied to his divorce from former Florida State University Law Professor Wendi Adelson. The probable cause report now validates that assumption. In a section titled, “motive for murder,” it says the two professors were involved in a dispute over a settlement agreement at the time of Markel's death in 2014. Wendi Adelson filed for divorce in 2012 and later moved to South Florida near her family. But Markel challenged that, and Leon County Judge Barbara Hobbs denied Adelson’s motion for relocation with the kids. The affidavit cites emails showing Wendi’s parents wanted the relocation, and the report states Adelson’s brother and mother did not like Markel. The probable cause affidavit fills in some of the blanks. Charles Adelson, Markel’s former brother-in-law, was in a relationship with the mother of Garcia’s kids. Speaking to reporters Thursday, Tallahassee Police Chief Mike DeLeo says he’s not spoken with the Adelson family:

“I think it’s more probable than not that there will be additional arrests," he said during a Thursday press conference.

Garcia made his first appearance in Leon County Court Thursday after being extradited from the Broward Jail. Meanwhile Luis Rivera, the second suspect, is being held in a federal prison on unrelated charges. DeLeo says the case is still active. Investigators believe Markel’s death to be a murder-for-hire, but who authorized it, and whether any money changed hands is still not clear. Garcia was interviewed by law enforcement two days before his arrest and denied being in Tallahassee the date of the murder.

*Story updated to reflect the 2014 dispute was regarding a settlement agreement, not custody.

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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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