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Magbanua is sentenced to life as Adelson seeks freedom before his trial for Markel's murder

Two people in navy blue scrubs wearing face masks and handcuffs, sit beside a man and woman in dark suits in a courtroom.
Tallahassee Democrat
Katherine Magbanua and her attorney Tara Kawass (right) during her sentencing hearing; Charlie Adelson and his attorney Daniel Rashbaum during his case management hearing. Both took place on 7/29/22 in a Leon County courtroom

Katherine Magbanua will spend the rest of her life in a Florida prison for her role in the 2014 murder of a Florida State University Law professor. Meanwhile, the man accused of orchestrating the crime wants to get out of jail on pre-trial release.

Magbanua's sentencing hearing and Charlie Adelson's case management hearing were an hour apart, Friday.

In May, Magbanua was found guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy, and solicitation to commit murder. This was her second trial. She was first tried in 2017 alongside convicted shooter Sigfredo Garcia. While the jury determined Garcia's guilt, they couldn't decide on Magbanua, resulting in a hung jury.

The first-degree murder charge carried a life sentence, and the other two carry 30-year sentences. Magbanua's attorney, Tara Kawass, requested the conspiracy and solicitation sentences be served concurrently with the life sentence; the judge declared all sentences would be served consecutively and without the possibility of parole.

Shelly Markel, Dan Markel's sister, read a victim impact statement to the court stating the family remains shocked and hurt by his death.

"Eight years he has not been with us and in those eight years we continue to suffer. We continue to grieve," she said.

Markel was shot in his car while parked in the garage of his Betton Hills home in 2014.

“One thing I can say that Ms. Magbanua hopes and prays for and that she does know, is that justice is still ongoing and has not been reached in this case," said Kawass as Magbanua sat beside her, weeping. "She wants each and every person who had a hand in this and knows something about it, to be brought to justice.”

State prosecutors say Magbanua was the go-between for her former boyfriend, Charlie Adelson, and convicted gunmen. Garcia and his childhood friend, Luis Rivera. Garcia and Magbanua have two kids together, and Adelson is the brother of Markel’s ex-wife.

In April, Adelson became the first member of the long-implicated Adelson family to be charged for what prosecutors say is orchestrating Markel’s killing.

An hour after Magbanua's sentencing, the judge held a case management hearing for Adelson and agreed to an Arthur hearing within the next 30 days. Such hearings are held when a person has been arrested for a non-bondable crime. Adelson is requesting pre-trial release, and his attorney Daniel Rashbaum and state prosecutor Georgia Cappleman said they want to go to trial as soon as possible.

“Mr. Rashbaum and I had discussed the possibility of going to trial as soon as January, February or March," Cappleman said.

Adelson's arrest came shortly after the state announced, after years of trying, that it had finally deciphered a secretly recorded conversation between him and Magbanua that was taken in 2016 at Miami's Dolce Vita restaurant by undercover FBI agents.

Audio of the conversation shows Adelson and Magbanua discussing the moment when another undercover agent approached Charlie's mother with a flier about Markel's killing, and a phone number, which Adelson believed was an attempt at blackmail.

The audio was played at Magbanua's trial.

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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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