Last week, Charlie Adelson was convicted of orchestrating the murder of his sister’s husband. Now their mother faces charges in the case
Exactly one week after a wealthy Florida dentist was convicted of killing his sister’s husband, his mother has been arrested in connection with her former son-in-law’s 2014 death.
On Monday night, Donna Adelson, 73, was arrested by the FBI and other authorities at the Miami Dade International Airport and charged in connection with the shooting death of her former son-in-law, Dan Markel, 41, a popular Florida State University law professor, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.
Adelson and her husband Harvey Adelson, were about to board a flight to Vietnam with a stop in Dubai, State Attorney Jack Campbell told the Tallahassee Democrat.
Campbell said the mother's itinerary will be included in the state’s evidence against her, the newspaper reports.
At 10:08 p.m., Adelson was booked into Miami-Dade Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center on an out-of-county warrant where she is being held without bond, according to jail records reviewed by PEOPLE.
She is charged with murder, conspiracy and solicitation, according to State Attorney Jack Campbell, WCTV reports. Prosecutors claim she played a role in the plot to kill her son-in-law, Local 10 reports.
The arrest came after her son, Charlie Adelson, 47, was found guilty on Nov. 6 of the same crimes his mother is charged with: first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and solicitation to commit murder.
Donna was arrested sooner than anticipated because she and her husband were leaving the country, Campbell told the Tallahassee Democrat.
"That's what forced our hand," Campbell told the newspaper. "We started talking to some of our law enforcement partners about the complexities of trying to bring someone back from either Dubai or Vietnam. And that might be a very complicated and lengthy process. So that’s why we had to make a decision quickly."
Campbell alleges that Donna was fleeing the country and heading to Vietnam because the United States does not have an extradition treaty with the Asian country, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.
The charges against her stem from the morning of July 18, 2014, when Markel was shot twice in the head at point-blank range after returning to his Tallahassee home from bringing his children to preschool and going to the gym.
He was sitting in his Honda Accord in the garage talking on the phone when he was shot. He was rushed to a local hospital and died 14 hours later.
Deadly Family Feud
During Charlie's trial, prosecutors argued that Charlie hatched the murder-for-hire plot on behalf of his younger sister, Wendi, who has denied any involvement in the killing and has never been charged.
After Markel and Wendi divorced, she wanted to move to Miami with their two children to be closer to her family, the Associated Press reports.
But a judge said she couldn’t do so without the consent of her ex-husband, who said he didn’t want her to move across the state with the children.
Donna was allegedly pushing Wendi to move to Miami, WPTV reports.
"Email evidence indicates Wendi's parents, especially her mother, wanted Wendi to coerce Markel into allowing the relocation to South Florida," states a 2013 affidavit obtained by WPTV after a Leon County judge formally denied Wendi's motion to move to Miami with the children.
Donna allegedly “hated” her son-in-law, prosecutors said, especially after Markel asked the judge to prevent her from having unsupervised visits with her grandchildren, Law & Crime reports.
Markel asked the judge to limit the amount of time she spent with his children after she allegedly made “disparaging remarks” about him to them, the affidavit said, WPTV reports.
Emotions were running high as a result of the custody battle and the fight to relocate, as seen in emails Donna allegedly sent her daughter before Markel's murder, ABC News' 20/20 reported.
Donna allegedly wrote, “It’s time to take control of your life and not let [Markel] think he’s just ‘won’ anything by having you remain in Tallahassee, eight hours away from the only family you have, and lose out on what will be a job that will afford you and your children advantages that they will never otherwise be able to enjoy.”
She allegedly continued, “Let’s show this [expletive] what will make him absolutely miserable. You know his weak points; money, religion, control.”
“You have 5 weeks before your court date,” she wrote, underlining that portion of text. “I know you have a hob (sic) that keeps you very busy. However, the rest of your life, and consequently, dad’s mine and yes, even Charlie’s, will by affected by how well you can perform/act before July 31st.
“You can be a good actress when you want to. I’ve seen you in action. You need to put on the performance of your life! [Markel] hasn’t beaten the Adelson family yet.”
After Markel’s death, Wendi moved with her sons to a house in Miami that was close to her parents, prosecutors said, Law & Crime reports.
Charlie Didn't Work Alone, Say Prosecutors
Prosecutors argued that Charlie enlisted the help of his then-girlfriend, Katherine “Katie” Magbanua, to hire the father of her children, Sigfredo “Tuto” Garcia, to kill Markel, the AP reports.
Garcia had his longtime friend, Luis “Tato” Rivera, help him, prosecutors said.
Garcia, the suspected triggerman who drove to Tallahassee with Rivera from Miami in a rental vehicle, was convicted in 2019 and sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years for conspiracy.
In 2022, Magbanua was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of first-degree murder, conspiracy and solicitation to commit murder.
Her first trial resulted in a hung jury. She is appealing.
During the trial, Charlie took the stand, testifying that he had nothing to do with Markel’s murder, WPLG reports.
Charlie and his attorneys argued that his ex-girlfriend and the two men planned the murder without his knowledge and then extorted him over it, WPLG reports.
On the stand, when asked if he would ever take his nephews’ father away from them, Charlie replied, “Never in a million years,” WPLG reports.
Charlie testified that he had no idea who Rivera was before he was arrested, WPLG reports.
He testified that Magbanua told him that her ex-husband and his friend had killed Markel and that he needed to pay more than $300,000 in 48 hours – or else he would be killed, the AP reports.
Charlie faces up to life in prison.
Campbell didn’t immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
It is unclear whether Donna has retained an attorney who can speak on her behalf.
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