MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A 73-year-old Miami Beach grandmother was arrested on Monday at Miami International Airport and she was awaiting extradition to Leon County on a warrant related to her former son-in-law’s murder in 2014 in Tallahassee.
Donna Adelson and her husband Dr. Harvey Adelson, a dentist, bought one-way tickets and were planning to board a flight to Dubai on their way to Saigon, Vietnam, according to investigators, court records show.
Miami-Dade correctional officers booked Donna Adelson on Monday night at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center, and she appeared in Miami-Dade County bond court on Tuesday morning.
Her case is the fifth in an alleged murder-for-hire plot with connections to Miami-Dade.
On Nov. 6, a jury in Leon County convicted Adelson’s son Dr. Charlie Adelson, a periodontist who lived in Fort Lauderdale, of charges related to hiring the hitmen who killed his former brother-in-law Daniel Markel, a law professor at Florida State University.
Records show investigators listened to Charlie Adelson’s jail calls, as Donna Adelson told him about “plans for a suicide” and “to flee to a non-extradition country” after creating trusts to make sure that her grandchildren were taken care of.
Prosecutors described Charlie Adelson, 47, as the mastermind of Markel’s murder. Katherine “Katie” Magbanua, who was his girlfriend at the time, testified to connecting him to Sigfredo “Tuto” Garcia and Luis “Tato” Rivera, the convicted hitmen from Miami-Dade.
Garcia is the father of Magbanua’s kids, and Rivera admitted he was a Latin King gang leader in northern Miami-Dade and a close friend of Garcia and Magbanua.
Markel was shot in the head twice on July 18, 2014, in his parked car, in Tallahassee. He was just outside of his home after dropping off his two sons at a daycare, and he died about 14 hours later in the hospital, according to the FBI.
Markel and his ex-wife, Wendi Adelson, an attorney who filed for divorce in 2012, were in a child custody dispute. Records show Markel had asked the court to limit his sons’ time with their grandmother Donna Adelson due to her alleged disparaging remarks.
Their disagreements included the boys’ place of residence. Markel, who was born in Canada and wanted to continue to work at FSU, wanted his sons to be near him in Tallahassee, and Wendi Adelson wanted them to be near her parents in Miami Beach.
Rivera admitted to buying the gun and renting the Toyota Prius that was used for the murder, records show. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for 19 years in prison in 2016 and testified against Garcia and Magbanua, who were convicted of first-degree murder, sentenced to life in prison, and are appealing their cases.
Records also show Wendi Adelson told detectives that a murder-for-hire plot was a possibility, and said that her brother “commented” that he had looked into hiring a hitman, but it was cheaper to buy her a television as a divorce gift. Her mother set an appointment for her TV repair on the day of the murder, according to investigators.
Wendi Adelson’s ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Lacasse, a professor of social work at FSU, testified she had told him she feared her brother was serious about hiring a hitman. He also said he feared Wendi Adelson and her brother were trying to frame him for Markel’s murder.
On Tuesday, while in the custody of Miami-Dade corrections, Charlie Adelson, was awaiting a December sentencing for first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, and solicitation to commit first-degree murder.
Donna Adelson is facing charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, and solicitation to commit first-degree murder.
Wendi Adelson and her father, Harvey Adelson, have not been charged. Prosecutors said the investigation in the case was ongoing.
Read sections of the probable cause affidavit in Donna Adelson’s case
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