As 7th Anniversary of Dan Markel's Murder Passes, His Parents Still Hope To Reunite With Their Grandchildren
It's been seven years since Florida State University law professor Dan Markel was murdered. His parents, Ruth and Phil Markel, say they are still waiting for justice for their son. They're also holding out hope they'll be reunited with their two grandsons. The Markel family says they have not seen their grandchildren since 2016. During the 2021 legislative session, Ruth Markel appeared before lawmakers in a prerecorded video, asking for help.
"We miss our grandchildren terribly and grieve their loss of our support and visitation and affection," Markel said.
The video, which played during the Senate Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs, was not the first time Markel spoke to lawmakers. In 2020, she pleaded with them to pass a bill she hoped would allow her to petition Florida courts for visitation rights to see her grandchildren. But the bill died.
Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) sponsored the 2020 measure. It would have allowed grandparents to petition courts for visitation rights if the grandchild's parent has been murdered and if the other parent is a person of interest in the crime. Brandes says the bill died because of concerns that it didn't pass constitutional muster. He says in Florida, parents have strong protections.
"It's not something that we can do just through the legislative process. It's going to have to go to people [in] the state of Florida, who are going to have to vote to in some part diminish their right as parents in order to allow grandparents to have more rights even in the extreme circumstances where one parent has committed—or has been accused of commit[ting] a murder," Brandes says.
According to the News Service of Florida, an investigation into Dan Markel's death revealed a murder-for-hire scheme, which investigators allege implicates Wendi Adelson's family members. However, none of them have been arrested.
Meanwhile, the Markel family isn't giving up. Instead, they say they'll keep pushing for change to help other grandparents like them.
"They're continuing to work with a group of legislators and advocates developing specific legislation, there was a very successful workshop in the Florida Senate last session, and they're looking forward to building on that momentum and refining proposed legislation," Matthew Benjamin says. He's an attorney with the law firm Gibson Dunn and represents the Markel family.
Orin Snyder, another attorney with Gibson Dunn who represents the Markels, says the family has tried privately for years to ask Wendi Adelson, Dan Markel's ex-wife, to see their grandchildren.
"The Adelson's have refused to grant the grandchildren any access to their grandparents, which is, in my view, cruel and horrible," Snyder says.
John Lauro, the attorney representing Wendi Adelson, wrote in a follow-up statement to a previously published WFSU story that Markel's parents had regular visits with their grandchildren until the release of an e-mail to the media between Ruth Markel and prosecutor Georgia Cappelman. In the e-mail, Ruth Markel discusses the need for an emergency placement for the children upon impending arrests.
"Without telling Wendi, the Markel family engaged in these discussions with the prosecutors to place the children in foster care. For whatever reason, the prosecutor released these e-mails publicly, which has caused great harm to Wendi and her family," Lauro wrote to WFSU.
Snyder calls Lauro's statements nonsense.
"All that Ruth did is say that in the event that the parents were arrested—police knock down their door, for example, in the morning and arrested them, they needed to be mindful that there are children living with the parent," Snyder says.