Just one week after her son was convicted of killing her ex-son-in-law, Donna Adelson was taken into custody at Miami International Airport on charges of orchestrating the 2014 killing amid a contentious child custody battle.
Ms. Adelson, 73, appeared in court Tuesday charged with masterminding the 2014 killing of Dan Markel, a 41-year-old University of Florida law professor who was shot and killed outside his Tallahassee home.
Last week, Ms. Adelson's oral surgeon son, Dr. Charlie Adelson, 47, was found guilty in Leon County of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation to commit murder. He faces a mandatory life sentence when he is sentenced next month.
The killing was arranged through a friend, Katie Magbanua, who hired her ex-husband Sigfredo “Tuto” Garcia and his friend, Latin Kings leader Luis Rivera to carry out the killing. Magbanua and Garcia are serving life sentences and Rivera is serving 19 years after pleading guilty to second-degree murder and testifying against the others.
Then, in a crazy twist on Monday night, Ms. Adelson became the fourth person arrested in the plot, with authorities taking her into custody just as she and her husband were about to board a flight to Vietnam via Dubai. tickets. The two countries do not have an extradition treaty with the United States.
The family matriarch had been on prosecutors' radar for some time, according to Leon County State's Attorney Jack Campbell, who said the Associated Press that while he believed his prosecutors already had enough evidence to convict Ms. Adelson before Monday, plans to arrest her had to be accelerated when investigators learned of her plans to leave the country.
“It would be complicated and really difficult to try to bring them back, depending on where they ended up in the world,” Mr Campbell said. “The arrest wasn't just based on the flight, it played a role in the timing.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, Ms. Adelson was being held Tuesday in the Miami-Dade County Jail without bond pending transfer to Tallahassee.
Prosecutors have repeatedly said Ms. Adelson “hated” her ex-son-in-law Markel, who was in a bitter custody battle with his ex-wife, lawyer Wendi Adelson. She had a court order barring her from moving from Tallahassee back to South Florida with their two young sons.
Authorities say the Adelsons offered Markel $1 million to let his ex-wife and sons move in, but when he refused, Charlie Adelson and other family members began plotting his death.
On July 18, 2014, the father of two was murdered outside his home in Tallahassee.
Just 48 hours later, Wendi Adelson and the two boys moved into a house within walking distance of the Adelson family home, prosecutors said. She later changed her sons last name from Markel to Adelson.
Neither Wendi nor her father, dentist Harvey Adelson, have been charged and have always denied involvement.
The Adelsons immediately became suspects after Markel's murder. Wendi Adelson told detectives the killing could have been arranged on her behalf because her parents – including her mother Donna Adelson, were “very angry with Markel.”
An investigation began, and in 2016, an FBI agent posing as an extortionist approached Donna Adelson outside her home and demanded $5,000 not to turn over information about the shooting to investigators.
This sparked a series of calls and meetings between Ms. Adelson and her son. In the first call, she told him they needed to discuss “some documents” and that “you probably have a general idea of what I'm talking about.”
And in a key email sent in July 2013, she told her daughter “It's time to take control of your life and not let Jibbers think he's just ‘winning' anything by staying in Tallahassee, eight hours away from the only family you have. , and lose what will be a job that will give you and your children advantages they could never otherwise enjoy.'
“Let's show this [expletive] what will make him absolutely miserable,” the email continued. “You know his weak points. money, religion, control'.
“You have 5 weeks before your court date,” he wrote, underlining that text. “I know you have a hearth that keeps you very busy. However, the rest of your life, and by extension Dad's and yes, even Charlie's, will be affected by how well you can perform/act before July 31st.'
During Charlie Adelson's trial this year, it was revealed in court that he had paid the girlfriend – Magbanua – $138,000 for the hit, which she split with the killers. She had also been given a used Lexus, a job at the family's dental practice, with payments totaling more than $56,000.
Magbanua had previously joked that he hired a hit man to kill Markel as a divorce gift, but he bought her a television instead.
Charlie Adelson was arrested last year after he was seen on video inside a Mexican restaurant with Magbanua discussing how he should meet with the extortionist and agree to a one-time payment.