© 2023 WFSU Public Media
WFSU News · Tallahassee · Panama City · Thomasville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Day Thirteen Part Two: Garcia Sentenced To Life And What's Next

Sigfredo Garcia's legs chained together as he is waiting in front of Leon County Circuit Court Judge James C. Hankinson to hear his sentence on Tuesday, Oct. 15th, 2019.
Alicia Devine, Pool
/
Tallahassee Democrat

The state claims Garcia’s girlfriend, Katherine Magbanua, told him to kill Markel in a murder-for-hire plot. Magbanua and Garcia both lived in South Florida and have two children together. They had an on-again, off-again relationship.

Leading up to the time of the murder they were off-again and Magbanua was seeing Charlie Adelson, a periodontist and brother of Wendi Adelson, Dan Markel’s ex-wife. Assistant State Attorney Georgia Cappleman believes Charlie wanted Markel killed so his sister and her kids could move to south Florida. A move Markel blocked in custody hearings. Wendi’s ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Lacasse talked with Cappleman about that during the trial.

Cappleman: “And was Ms. Adelson happy about the fact she was not able to relocate.”

Lacasse: “No she was quite bitter about it actually. It was as I said it was a topic, that tone came up on the first few dates.”

Cappleman: “Did she make any statements to you in reference to her brother considering options to take care of this problem with her not being able to relocate “

Lacasse: “Yes she did.”

Katherine Magbanua's Defense Attorney Chris DeCoste shows a map of the people involved in the state's murder-for-hire plot to kill Dan Markel.
Credit Alicia Devine, Pool / Tallahassee Democrat
/
Tallahassee Democrat
Katherine Magbanua's Defense Attorney Chris DeCoste shows a map of the people involved in the state's murder-for-hire plot to kill Dan Markel.

Wendi also told the police on the day of the murder, that her brother Charlie joked about hiring a hitman. The state doesn’t think it was a joke. They believe Charlie Adelson had Katherine Magbanua hire Sigfredo Garcia to murder Dan Markel and that Garcia hired Luis Rivera, his friend, to help him. Rivera cooperated with law enforcement in order to get a lesser sentence. He says he learned about the plan when he and Garcia were heading to Tallahassee.

Rivera: “Like halfway there he said we were going to have to kill the man for some kids.”

Cappleman: “Said you were going to have to kill the man?”

Rivera: “Yeah.”

Cappleman: “And what was the second part of what you said?”

Rivera: “For some kids.”

Cappleman: “For some kids. What did that mean to you, kill the man for some kids?”

Rivera: “It was for a lady; I guess the lady wanted her kids back.”

A man in dark colored scrubs with a white t-shirt sits on the witness stand in a Leon County courtroom
Credit Alicia Devine, Pool / Tallahassee Democrat
/
Tallahassee Democrat
Luis Rivera sits on the witness stand in a Leon County courtroom.

Garcia faced the death penalty for the crime. The state focused on two “aggravating factors” State Attorney Georgia Cappleman says warranted the sentence. One that it was done in a cold, calculated and premeditated manner.

“Cold means the murder was the product of calm and cool reflection so time to plan time to reflect time to rent a car in June of 2014,” explains Cappleman.

The other is that the crime was committed for financial gain.

“Was somebody forcing him to do it? No. He did it for money this was a murder for hire,” says Cappleman.

However, Garcia’s defense attorney Saam Zangeneh points to what he calls mitigating factors. He says Katherine Magbanua was controlling his client.

Katherine Magbanua chained together as she prepares to take a seat in a courtroom inside of Leon County Courthouse.
Credit Alicia Devine, Pool / Tallahassee Democrat
/
Tallahassee Democrat
Katherine Magbanua chained together as she prepares to take a seat in a courtroom inside of Leon County Courthouse.

“She had complete control of Sigfredo Garcia from day one, day 1!” exclaimed Rivera. “And now they want you to ignore the fact that during the trial they told you over and over she’s calling him she’s calling, she would call 19 times no answer. That right there, that in and of itself is enough. That mitigator outweighs those agitators by a mile.”

Ultimately, the jury agreed with Zangeneh and recommended life. After the case, Zangeneh said he believes Garcia didn’t take the stand in order to tell his side of the story because he was still trying to protect the mother of his kids.

“I think that he understood that if he took the stand it could potentially hurt Katie,” explained Zangeneh. “He didn’t want to hurt Katie so he chose not to take the stand. We’ve had this discussion with him.”

Sigfredo Garcia looks over at Katherine Magbanua as they await the result of the trial in which they are both being tried for first-degree murder.
Credit Alicia Devine, Pool / Tallahassee Democrat
/
Tallahassee Democrat
Sigfredo Garcia looks over at Katherine Magbanua as they await the result of the trial in which they are both being tried for first-degree murder.

Garcia and Katherine Magbanua were tried in tandem, but the jury couldn’t reach a decision in Magbanua’s case and the judge declared a mistrial. She’s still in jail and awaiting a new trial. Her case management takes place on October 22nd.

Ruth Markel speaks to the media on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019.
Credit Alicia Devine, Pool / Tallahassee Democrat
/
Tallahassee Democrat
Ruth Markel speaks to the media on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019.

Markel’s mother Ruth Markel thinks there’s still a lot of work to be done.

“We respect the process. There’s a lot of work to be done and we’re looking forward and hoping it’ll be done soon, said Markel.

The Adelson’s who the state believes funded the murder-for-hire plot have not been arrested.

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.