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Katherine Magbanua claims innocence in Dan Markel murder trial

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The woman accused of participating in a bloody murder-for-hire plot that killed respected Florida State University professor Dan Markel in 2014 claims she didn’t execute him and is blaming his former brother-in-law for his death, as jury deliberations begin.  

Markel, a prominent criminal justice scholar, was shot twice in the head in his Tallahassee garage on July 18, 2014 and police say his murder was a for-hire plot orchestrated by his ex-wife Wendi Adelson’s family. 

In their bitter divorce in 2013, Wendi was barred from moving to Miami, where her family lives, with their two children so they could maintain 50/50 custody of the kids.

Katherine Magbanua was charged with first degree murder for allegedly helping facilitate Markel’s death where he was shot dead by two hitmen Sigfredo Garcia and Luis Rivera, who confessed to being involved in the plot. 

She was dating Markel’s former brother in law Charlie Adelson when the professor was found dead. She also has two children with Sigfredo Garcia, who also faces a first-degree murder charge. 

Closing arguments in the trial of Katherine Magbanua (left) and Sigfredo Garcia, who stand accused of murdering Florida State University professor Dan Markel (right) began today in Tallahassee court

Markel, a prominent criminal justice scholar, was shot twice in the head in his Tallahassee garage on July 18, 2014 and police say his murder was a for-hire plot orchestrated by his ex-wife Wendi Adelson.

Closing arguments in the trial of Katherine Magbanua (left) and Sigfredo Garcia, who stand accused of murdering Florida State University professor Dan Markel (right) began today in Tallahassee court

Markel, a prominent criminal justice scholar, was shot twice in the head in his Tallahassee garage on July 18, 2014 and police say his murder was a for-hire plot orchestrated by his ex-wife Wendi Adelson. They had gone through a bitter divorce finalized in 2013 that barred her from moving to Miami, where her family is from, with her kids

Markel, a prominent criminal justice scholar, was shot twice in the head in his Tallahassee garage on July 18, 2014 and police say his murder was a for-hire plot orchestrated by his ex-wife Wendi Adelson. They had gone through a bitter divorce finalized in 2013 that barred her from moving to Miami, where her family is from, with her kids 

She was dating Markel's former brother in law Charlie Adelson (above) when the professor was found dead in 2014

She was dating Markel’s former brother in law Charlie Adelson (above) when the professor was found dead in 2014

At the time of the murder she had a sexual relationship with both of them.  

The mother and brother of Markel’s ex-wife – Charlie and Donna Adelson – have been implicated in the case as the financiers of the plot giving Garcia, Rivera and Magbanua a $100,000 payout, though they have not been charged, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.   

Cops say the motive was the family’s desperate desire to get Wendi to move to South Florida with her two kids.  

On Thursday closing arguments were shared in the three-week murder trial of Magbuana and Garcia where they both face first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation of murder charges. If convicted Garcia could get the death penalty and Magbanua could get life in prison. 

On Wednesday Magbuana took the stand denied involvement in the plot and pointed the finger at Charlie Adelson.

During the final day of testimony she denied the prosecution’s claims that she facilitated a $100,000 payment from the Adelsons for his murder in 2014.  

On Wednesday Magbuana took the stand denied involvement in the plot and pointed the finger at Charlie Adelson. When asked: 'Do you think Charlie Adelson was involved in this? And that he was lying to you?' she replied 'Yes'

On Wednesday Magbuana took the stand denied involvement in the plot and pointed the finger at Charlie Adelson. When asked: ‘Do you think Charlie Adelson was involved in this? And that he was lying to you?’ she replied ‘Yes’

Sigfredo Garcia

Luis Rivera

Magbanua allegedly helped get Sigfredo Garcia, the father of her children, (left)  and his friend Luis Rivera (right) involved as hitmen in the plot

Cops say the motive was the family's desperate desire to get Wendi to move to South Florida with her two kids. Last week in court Wendi Adelson testified and called her divorce from Markel 'unpleasant'

Cops say the motive was the family’s desperate desire to get Wendi to move to South Florida with her two kids. Last week in court Wendi Adelson testified and called her divorce from Markel ‘unpleasant’

Police created this map showing the web of connections in the Dan Markel murder case

Police created this map showing the web of connections in the Dan Markel murder case

Prosecutors asked if she had anything to do with Dan Markel’s murder or of Sigfredo Garcia, the father of her children, had anything to do with it, all on behalf of Charlie Adelson. 

She replied ‘No ma’am.’ 

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She claimed she didn’t know anything about Charlie’s involvement in the murder but after hearing the state’s case believed he was behind it. 

When asked: ‘Do you think Charlie Adelson was involved in this? And that he was lying to you?’ she replied ‘Yes’. 

The day of Markel’s murder Magbanua claims that she was at the pool with her son. 

She denied going to rent a car with Garcia that prosecutors say was used in a failed first attempt to execute Markel. She claims she had no idea Garcia was driving to Tallahassee in the days prior to Markel’s murder.

Markel, a world-renowned legal professor, was found dead suffering gunshot wounds to the head behind the wheel of his car in July 2014

Markel, a world-renowned legal professor, was found dead suffering gunshot wounds to the head behind the wheel of his car in July 2014

Police say a light-colored Prius was tailing Markel the day he was killed, from the time he dropped his children off at daycare until he left the gym and returned home

Police say a light-colored Prius was tailing Markel the day he was killed, from the time he dropped his children off at daycare until he left the gym and returned home

In their bitter divorce in 2013, Markel one an order prohibiting Wendi from moving to Miami, where her family lives, with their two children so they could maintain 50/50 custody of the kids

In their bitter divorce in 2013, Markel one an order prohibiting Wendi from moving to Miami, where her family lives, with their two children so they could maintain 50/50 custody of the kids

However Luis Rivera’s confession in the plot led investigators to arrest Magbuana. 

Prosecutors accused her of accepting a cash payment of $13,000 the month after the murder and pointed out she took a job afterwards at the Adelson Institute.  

She argued she worked promoting liquor companies as a bottle girl at high-end Miami night clubs and it’s normal to take home $1,00 to $1,500 cash tips. 

The defense, on the other hand, argued she was only implicated in the lot by Luis Rivera and by no other evidence. 

‘The only evidence against her in terms of her involvement comes from Luis Rivera,’ her attorney Tara Kawass said. ‘He was impeached so badly that no one could find him credible. The evidence presented in this case is not sufficient to go back to the jury.’

Defendant Sigfredo Garcia pictured smiling in court on Tuesday October 8

Defendant Sigfredo Garcia pictured smiling in court on Tuesday October 8

Assistant State Attorney Georgia Cappleman pointed blame to the Adelson family for the heinous murder on Friday during closing arguments.

‘What enemies had Mr. Markel made that set in motion such a brutal act?’ she asked. ‘The answer: his own family’.

She noted that last week in court Wendi Adelson testified and called the divorce ‘unpleasant’, to which Cappleman added ‘the evidence shows that is a severe understatement.’ 

In March 2014, five months before Markel was killed, he filed a motion in their divorce complaining that his kids told him Wendi’s mother Donna Adelson said he was stupid and she hated him. 

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