Parent relocations are stressful, but can they lead to murder? Years after a contentious Tallahassee divorce, the trial of the murderers of FSU law professor Dan Markel is underway. Many suspect he was murdered for contesting parent relocation.

Parental Relcation Murder

In Cold Blood

More than five years after his horrific murder, and after numerous delays and postponements, the trial of two of the alleged murderers of law professor Dan Markel got underway in Tallahassee this week.

Professor Markel was gunned down in his driveway after sending off his children for the final time. The trial of two of the alleged perpetrators, Sigfredo Garcia, one of the alleged gunmen, and Katherine Magbanua, the alleged go-between who set up the murder, began this week.

A third man formally accused in the plot — Luis Rivera — says he joined Garcia on the hit and agreed to split $100K with the other two. Rivera already took a plea and will be the star witness.

Unfortunately, Rivera can’t give police the one thing they don’t have: a case against the people who offered up the $100,000 payment he says the crew were promised. Police believe it’s the family of Markel’s ex-wife, Wendi Adelson, who now has custody of the couple’s children and has kept them cut off from their paternal grandparents.

Adelson divorced Markel by moving out of the house and leaving divorce papers on the bed while Markel was on a business trip. After Markel was killed, Adelson told police that her brother joked about hiring a hit man to kill him and she tearfully admitted that she suspected this was done on her behalf.

Miami area Defendant Katherine Magbanua is the ex-girlfriend of Wendi Adelson’s brother, Charlie Adelson, who is also from the Miami area, who may be an unindicted co-conspirator.

Florida Parent Relocation

I’ve written about Professor Dan Markel’s case before. Parent relocations with children during a divorce happens frequently in our mobile society.

In Florida, “relocation” is defined as changing a parent’s principal residence to a new one at least 50 miles away from his or her current address for at least 60 consecutive days. Relocation is a topic that I have lectured and written on before.

Florida has a relocation statute, which in addition to defining relocations, sets out the requirements a parent needs to fill to legally relocate by agreement or court order.

The relocation statute is very technical, and lays out very specific factors a relocation parent must prove, and the court must consider to determine if the proposed relocation is in the best interests of the child.

There is no presumption in favor of or against a request to relocate with the child even though the move will materially affect the current schedule of contact, access, and time-sharing with the nonrelocating parent.

Instead, the court looks at specific factors, such as: the child’s relationship with the relocating parent and with the non-relocating parent, the age and needs of the child, the ability to preserve the relationship with the non-relocating parent; and the child’s preference, among others.

Of course, if one of the parents dies during the divorce proceedings, that would likely cause the divorce, and related issues of parent relocation with the children, to be dismissed.

Murder She Wrote

The divergent theories of Professor Markel’s killing surfaced as attorneys laid out their cases and testimony finally began in the trial of a Miami couple charged in the alleged murder-for-hire plot.

Defense attorneys for Sigfredo Garcia and Katherine Magbanua sought to distance their clients from prosecutors’ theory that the pair carried out the grisly end of a scheme financed by the family of Markel’s ex-wife Wendi Adelson. Investigators say the motive “stemmed from the desperate desire of the Adelson family” that Wendi and the couple’s two young sons be allowed to move to South Florida in the fallout of a contentious divorce with Markel.

Magbanua is the accused conduit between the Adelsons and the killers, Garcia and his friend Luis Rivera. Prosecutors say they drove from Miami to Tallahassee to shoot Markel in July 2014. The pivotal question is why the Adelson family is not facing charges, Kawass told jurors during her 30-minute opening. She asked them to follow the evidence, which prosecutors will present piecemeal.

“There is no direct evidence (Magbanua) was involved. Zero. And that’s because she wasn’t involved. She had absolutely nothing to do with this case,” she said. “The government made it very clear who is behind the killing of Dan Markel. Why aren’t the Adelsons here? Why aren’t they charged? Because they don’t have the evidence to do it.”

Details of the Tallahassee Police Department probable cause affidavit released the morning of June 2, 2016 reveal the route taken by murder suspect, Sigfredo Garcia.

Before the two defense attorneys made their case, prosecutor Georgia Cappleman traced the murder-for-hire allegations.

“Wendi Adelson had a problem and the name of that problem was Dan Markel. And the solution to that problem was Sigfredo Garcia, Katherine Magbanua and Luis Rivera. I believe that you will be convinced the state is not pulling a fast one on you but rather that Katherine Magbanua was hired to solicit Garcia to in turn solicit Rivera to come to Tallahassee and execute Mr. Markel in cold blood.”

Garcia’s attorney began his opening statements by pointing out that the third man charged, Luis Rivera, only received a seven-year sentence for his confession. But the statements to investigators by the state’s key witness were rife with inconsistencies, he told the jury.

The Tallahassee Democrat article is here.