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Woman arrested in murder for hire plot of Florida law prof Daniel Markel

October 3, 2016  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Woman arrested in murder for hire plot of Florida law prof Daniel Markel

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Police have arrested a Florida woman, who law enforcement officials allege was the person who launched the murder-for-hire of respected Florida State University law educator Daniel Markel.

Police arrested 31-year-old Katie Magbanua in Davie, Florida after she was pulled over for a traffic stop outside of a busy shopping center.

Daniel Markel, 41, a distinguished criminal justice scholar, was murdered after he was shot twice in the head back in 2014 as he sat in his vehicle in his garage.

Tallahassee police have alleged for quite some time that the motivation for the slaying was the painful divorce between Markel and Wendi Adelson.

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Katie Magbanua, 31, was picked up by police in Davie, Florida, on Saturday following a traffic stop outside a busy shopping plaza. She is facing first-degree murder charges

Adelson’s relatives were desperate to have Wendi and the couple’s two children move closer to them in South Florida, but Markel had successfully challenged his ex-wife’s efforts in court.

In May, authorities arrested Sigfredo Garcia and Luis Rivera, two south Florida men with criminal records, and charged them with Markel’s murder. Both men have pleaded not guilty.

However, Magbanua, who was taken into custody on Saturday afternoon on an arrest warrant for first-degree murder, is suspected of being the connection between the two hit men and Wendi Adelson’s family.

Law enforcement officials claim that Garcia and Rivera were “enlisted to commit this egregious act.”

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After Wendi Adelson (pictured) divorced Markel, she left for South Florida with the couple’s children, but was forced to return after a court ruling which prosecutors say could have motivated the murder

In an affidavit, police stated that they believe Garcia and Rivera drove from Miami to Tallahassee two days before the slaying to shoot Daniel Markel in the middle of the day and drove back to Miami immediately after.

According to police, Magbanua was the first person Garcia contacted after the incident.

Interestingly, Magbanua is not only the mother of Garcia’s two children, but she was also romantically involved with Wendi Adelson’s brother, Charlie.

Garcia and Rivera were apprehended on murder charges, but police did not have sufficient evidence to proceed against anyone else.

Garcia’s lawyer, Saam Zangeneh, told ABC News that Magbanua’s arrest was not surprising, but that it strikes him as a last-gasp effort by law enforcement to try to validate their theory of what happened after two years of investigation.

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Prosecutors say Sigfredo Garcia (left) killed Markel on request from his wife’s family after the couple divorced. Charles Adelson (right), the wife’s brother, knew Garcia and was dating the mother of his children

He stated: “Desperate times call for desperate measures… The prosecution has made her a focal point of this investigation. I am eager to read the arrest warrant and see why Katie was arrested.”

Magbanua’s arrest documents indicate that she had accumulated more than $50,000 in her bank account in the 16 months after Daniel Markel’s shooting. She also started receiving consistent checks from the Adelson family’s dental office.

Early this month, video footage was shown revealing an undercover agent, who acted as Rivera’s brother, confronting Donna Adelson as part of the sting operation.

The officer went up to Donna on the street and said that his brother needed money, and requested $5,000 to help him.

Donna looked shocked in the video, which was made public for the first time on 20/20.

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Luis Rivera and Garcia, both with criminal histories, are charged wit Markel’s murder

Police documents suggested that soon after Donna met the agent pretending to be Rivera’s brother, her son Charlie phoned his then-girlfriend Magbanua and said: “You better kill him because he’s going to be a big problem, if you can’t do it, I’ll have someone else do it.”

Footage of the exchange between Donna and the undercover agent shows the man saying: “I wanted to let you know that my brother… he helped your family with this problem your family had up north. He’s going through some rough times, and I want to make sure that you take care of what he’s going through.”

A shocked Donna replied: “You’re scaring me. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

In a phone call made just shortly after the sting, investigators claim that Charlie told his mother she should just pay the man as “a charity.”

Detectives believe that the close-knit Adelson family plotted to have Markel killed after he dragged Wendi away from where they were living in South Florida

Detectives believe that the close-knit Adelson family plotted to have Markel killed after he dragged Wendi away from where they were living in South Florida

In June, 27-year-old June Umchinda, a Thailand-native credit union employee who began dating Charles Adelson eight months prior,  said in an interview with the Daily Mail that she doesn’t believe the claims that Adelson or other relatives paid the two men to carry out Markel’s killing.

“I mean, he hasn’t been saying anything about this. I haven’t asked about it. But I know he’s been under intense pressure over the last couple weeks, and I assumed it was something having to do with work. I’ve gone to family dinners, and they never talk about what happened to Wendi’s ex-husband. I did ask once, and Charlie said he was murdered… But I’m practically living with Charlie and I’m not worried. He’s very nice and not violent at all,” she stated.

No one in the Adelson family has been charged for their role in Daniel Markel’s killing, and their lawyers have described the accusations against them as “fanciful fiction.”

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