The arrest of Donna Adelson: A family ensnared in murder

E(Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
E(Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Images source: © GETTY | NurPhoto

7:52 AM EST, January 18, 2024

Dramatic arrest at Miami Airport

In November 2023, a stunning turn of events unfolded at Miami International Airport as 73-year-old Donna Adelson was apprehended moments before she could board a one-way flight to Vietnam. This arrest, captured on bodycam, marked a significant development in a long-running murder-for-hire plot that tragically ended the life of her then-son-in-law, Dan Markel, in 2014. The footage shows a distraught Adelson resisting the handover of her cell phone to the police, a moment her husband, Harvey, vehemently protested against​​​​.

The plot unravels

Adelson's capture came just a week after her son, Charlie Adelson, was convicted for orchestrating the murder of Markel, a Harvard-educated law professor and FSU faculty member. This grim plot was set against the backdrop of a bitter custody dispute involving Markel and his ex-wife, Wendi Adelson, who is Donna's daughter and Charlie's sister. Prosecutors argue that Donna and Charlie conspired to eliminate Markel to resolve this custody battle in their favor. Their intent, as suggested by the prosecution, was to prevent Markel from moving with the children away from Tallahassee, where the family was based​​​​.

Inside the investigation

Investigations into the case intensified following recorded jailhouse conversations between Donna and Charlie Adelson. These conversations revealed Donna's contemplations of suicide or fleeing to a non-extradition country. Prosecutors highlighted Donna Adelson's alleged involvement in orchestrating the murder, and her financial capability to escape prosecution was a significant concern. This led to her dramatic arrest as she was about to leave U.S. soil, presumably to avoid legal consequences​​.

The legal proceedings

Following her arrest, Donna Adelson made her first court appearance in November 2023, where she was formally charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy, and abetting in connection with Markel's death. The murder, a cold and calculated act, saw Markel fatally shot in his own garage. Meanwhile, Charlie Adelson, Donna's son, is serving a life sentence for his role in the murder-for-hire plot. Others involved, including Sigfredo Garcia and Katherine Magbanua, are also serving life sentences for their parts in the heinous crime​​.

This case serves as a stark reminder of how deep-seated family disputes can tragically escalate into criminal acts. The involvement of multiple family members in such a heinous crime adds layers of complexity and tragedy to an already sorrowful story. The legal proceedings and eventual outcomes of this case will undoubtedly continue to draw public attention and scrutiny, underscoring the profound consequences of such actions.

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