On 5th Anniversary of Law Professor’s Murder, Parents Say Dan Markel Was 'a Light in the World’

Jeff Truesdell

Five years to the day that well-known Florida State law professor Dan Markel was fatally shot amidst an acrimonious divorce that police allege may have created a motive for murder, his parents recall him as “a “light in the world” as his accused killers prepare for trial.

“Five years ago Dan was murdered in cold blood outside his home — only hours after saying goodbye to his two young boys for what would be the last time,” attorney Orin Snyder, representing Markel’s parents Ruth and Phil Markel, says in a statement shared with PEOPLE. “Five years later, his friends and family are still waiting for all of his killers to be brought to justice.”

“The Markels used to travel to Tallahassee to visit Dan and the boys at home — to visit their preschool, to attend music programs, and to play in the park together,” says Snyder. “Now, as they prepare to return to Tallahassee for the trial of some of Dan’s alleged killers, they will be forced to re-live the nightmare of Dan’s murder all over again.”

“They are counting down the days until justice is done,” says Snyder’s statement. “More than anything, the Markels want to reunite with their beloved grandsons — Dan’s young boys — whom they have not been allowed to see in more than three years.”

Markel, 41, was shot twice point-blank on July 18, 2014, while sitting in his car in the garage of his suburban Tallahassee home after dropping off his two sons, Ben and Lincoln, at daycare. He died early the next day.

In criminal affidavits, authorities allege that his bitter split from his ex-wife, Wendi Adelson, another former FSU law professor, led members of Wendi’s family to engage a hit man whose attack on Markel would free Wendi and the couple’s kids to move closer to her family in South Florida.

RELATED: 5 Things to Know About the Mysterious Shooting of Popular Florida Law Professor Dan Markel

Attorneys for Wendi’s brother, Charlie Adelson, and Wendi’s parents, Donna and Harvey Adelson, have steadfastly asserted the family’s innocence and none have been charged.

Wendi Adelson | Florida State University College of Law
Wendi Adelson | Florida State University College of Law

“There has been a lot of unsupported speculation that the Adelsons had something to do with the murder. That speculation is categorically false,” the attorneys earlier said in a joint statement. “To be clear, none of the Adelsons — Wendi, her brother Charlie, or their parents Donna and Harvey — had anything to do with Dan’s murder.”

In September, two suspects, Sigfredo Garcia and Katherine Magbanua, are scheduled to go on trial for Markel’s murder. Both have pleaded not guilty. A third suspect, Luis Rivera, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a plea deal, and was sentenced to serve seven years in prison.

From left, Luis Rivera, Katherine Magbanua Sigfredo Garcia | Broward County Sheriff's Office (3)
From left, Luis Rivera, Katherine Magbanua Sigfredo Garcia | Broward County Sheriff's Office (3)

Rivera is expected to be the key witness against his alleged co-conspirators. Rivera told police that he, Garcia and Magbanua allegedly split a $100,000 payment for the hit.

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Prosecutors who advanced the murder-for-hire theory say Charlie Adelson allegedly was “involved in a personal relationship” with Magbuana, who is the mother of Garcia’s two children.

The arrests of the suspects in 2016 seemed to support dark fears among Markel’s closest friends and colleagues that the couple’s contentious split had played into his murder.

RELATED: Did a Divorce Fight Over Children Lead to Florida Law Professor’s Execution-Style Slaying?

After the couple’s breakup, Wendi had relocated herself and the couple’s boys to South Florida, and Markel had gone to court to force them to move back to Tallahassee against the wishes of Wendi’s family, according to court documents. A criminal affidavit portrayed the ongoing conflict between Markel and the Adelson family as a possible “motive for this murder.”

It had been Wendi’s choice to end her marriage to Markel. In September 2012, “Markel reportedly returned home from a business trip to find his family gone, a majority of the contents of the house missing and the paperwork for dissolution of marriage displayed on his bed,” according to a criminal affidavit in the case.

RELATED: Ex-Wife of Murdered Florida Law Professor, Whose Family Police Have Tied to His Death: ‘This is My Side of the Story’

The divorce was granted without a trial in July 2013, a year before Markel’s murder. But after he died, lingering tension between the two families allegedly led Wendi herself to direct police toward a possible theory regarding the killing.

“She made the statement that her brother had joked the previous summer about hiring a hit man but instead decided to buy her a television,” Tallahassee Police Detective Crag Isom testified during a December 2016 hearing.

Police followed that path into Wendi’s background, and more than two years after the killing, they made their first arrests and revealed the alleged connections between Garcia, Rivera and Charlie Adelson.

Their investigation is continuing.

In his statement, the attorney for Markel’s parents says, “The Markels continue to be grateful for the support of the Tallahassee community and the efforts of law enforcement.”