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Magbanua Trial Day 5: Friends testify as the state and defense target Magbanua's financial trail

Katherine Magbanua
Chasity Maynard, pool
/
Tallahassee Democrat
Chasity Maynard, pool

A jury is hearing testimony from the family and friends of Luis Rivera and Sigfredo Garcia. They're the men convicted of murdering FSU law professor Dan Markel in 2014. Garcia's former partner, Katherine Magbanua, is being retried this week for what prosecutors say is acting as a go-between for the hitmen and the people who hired them.

Rivera's ex-girlfriend Jessica Rodriguez testified Rivera told her he was going out of town with Garcia for drugs a few days before Dan Markel was killed, but never said where he was going and did not discuss participating in a murder. When Rivera came back, she says, he had nightmares and was crying in his sleep.

Rivera and Garcia drove to Tallahassee in a rented Toyota Prius. Garcia shot and killed Markel while he was in his car in the garage of his Betton Hills home.

Rodriguez says Garcia came over the day after Markel was killed with a package for Rivera, but he wasn’t home at the time. Rodriguez, who had delivered a baby a few weeks prior, says she invited Magbanua, who rode with Garcia, into her home.

Magbanua's defense team pointed out what they say are inconsistencies in Rodriguez's testimony. They say she didn't mention the July 19, 2014 meeting until a day before Magbanua's arrest in 2017.

The jury also heard conflicting accounts on how large amounts of cash came to be deposited in Magbanua’s accounts in the days, months, and years after Markel was killed.

Mary Hull, a former investigator with Florida’s Department of Financial Services, testified that Magbanua made $46,000 in cash deposits in 2014. Prosecutors have depicted the payments as hush money paid by the family of Markel’s ex-wife, Wendi Adelson. The family has long been implicated in the crime and last month, Wendi’s brother Charlie was arrested and formally charged for what the state says was orchestrating Markel’s killing.

Magbanua’s attorneys argued the state’s effort to tie Magbanua’s income to Markel’s murder is speculation and when asked about the source of the money Hull said, “I cannot determine the source of the cash.”

Defense attorney Chris DeCoste asked whether the charts Hull prepared and that were shown in court took into account Magbanua’s income from jobs at a realty office, dermatology office, two different nightclubs and money paid directly to her by Garcia, who is also the father of her children. Hull said no.

The records reviewed by Hull also included payments made to Magbanua from the Adelson Institute, the dentistry practice owned by the Adelsons. Magbanua’s attorneys say she was employed there and records show her receiving checks from October 2014 through May 2016. Magbanua and Charlie Adelson briefly dated.

Her attorneys say she had nothing to do with Markel’s death, and that Charlie Adelson and Sigfredo Garcia went behind her back and planned the murder.