Florida Dentist Spends 35 Hours Calling His Mom From Jail After His Murder Conviction for Hiring a Latin Kings Hitman To Kill His Brother-in-Law; Soon She Is Arrested as Well

A former state representative, county commissioner and mayor is now speaking out on Ms. Adelson’s behalf, saying her health is so frail she could die in jail, and that the murder was masterminded by the common-law husband of her son’s ex-girlfriend.

Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation/Courtroom Feed
Donna Adelson (left) has been charged with conspiring with her son Charlie (center) to order the contract killing of her ex-son-in-law, Professor Dan Markel (right). Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation/Courtroom Feed

The Florida dentist recently convicted in the contract murder of his brother-in-law spent 35 hours calling his mother from jail, according to the Tallahassee Democrat, all before his mother was arrested for the same murder and thrown into the same jail as her son. 

Charlie Adelson is currently behind bars, awaiting being formally sentenced to life in prison, after a jury found him guilty early last month in the contract murder of Dan Markel, a celebrated law professor and the ex-husband of his sister, Wendi. A week after his conviction, his mother was arrested at Miami International Airport as she boarded a flight to Vietnam via Dubai; neither destination has an extradition treaty with America. 

Donna, 73, and Charlie, 47, are currently being held at the Leon County Detention Facility. Prior to his mother’s arrest on November 13, Charlie reportedly spent an “astonishing” amount of times calling a phone that belonged to Ms. Adelson, according to the Democrat. It’s unclear if Charlie was only communicating with his mother or if other people were involved in the calls, but the jail’s call log showed 2,118 minutes – more than 35 hours – worth of calls to that phone number. 

The content of these phone calls helped lead to Ms. Adelson’s arrest, after she, according to prosecutors, made a number of self-incriminating comments. This was despite the Adelsons being well-aware (or at least they should have been well aware) that all calls made from the jail are monitored, recorded, and fair game for prosecutors. Already, the case against the Adelsons has relied on wiretaps on their phones and surreptitiously recorded conversations at restaurants.

Dan Markel and Wendy Adelson, married for six years, feuded until the end. File Photo.

According to arrest records, some of the jailhouse conversations between the mother and son saw Ms. Adelson “telling Charles Adelson that she is getting things in order, creating trusts, and making sure her grandchildren are taken care of” in addition to “[discussing] plans for a suicide” as well as “plans to flee to a non-extradition country.” It was these alleged plans that led the authorities to arrest Ms. Adelson earlier than planned.

Assistant State Attorney Georgia Cappleman confirmed Ms. Adelson’s phone was confiscated upon her arrest, but she did say there was “no reason” Donna’s husband, dentist Harvey Adelson, “could not have her calls forwarded to his phone now though.” 

Her statement came after claims the phone number might still be being used by the Adelson family. A Tallahassee Democrat employee called the number attached to the phone and an unidentified man answered and asked if it was Charlie on the other end of the line. Harvey Adelson has not been charged in the murder, but he had joined his wife in trying to fly to Vietnam the day she was arrested. 

Charlie’s conviction was the fourth guilty verdict in the 2014 killing of Mr. Markel, a Harvard-trained law professor who was gunned down just outside his modest home in Tallahassee. Before his death, Mr. Markel was embroiled in a nasty child custody battle with Wendi. Prosecutors alleged the Adelsons hired two hitmen, Latin Kings boss Luis Rivera and his friend Sigfredo Garcia, to kill Mr. Markel because he was refusing to let his ex-wife move with their children to Miami, where her family lives. 

Donna Adelson appears in court after her arrest trying to board a flight to Vietnam via Dubai. Courtroom feed

The two hitmen have long ago been convicted in the murder along with Garcia’s common-law wife, Katie Magbanua. She, according to prosecutors, was the link between the wealthy Adelson family, who own a successful dental practice, and the Latin Kings because she used to date Charlie.

Now, prosecutors are circling Ms. Adelson because they believe she, an enraged grandmother, conspired with Charlie, and others, to kill Mr. Markel. Along with wanting her daughter, Wendi, to be able to move closer to the rest of the Adelsons clan in Miami, prosecutors also point to a legal motion filed by Mr. Markel as motivation for her role in the murder. Under the motion, Ms. Adelson would have to be supervised when visiting Mr. Markel and Wendi’s children.

Hitmen Sigfredo Garcia, the father of Katie Magbanua’s two children, and Luis Rivera, a high-ranking member of the Latin Kings. File Photo.

But Dr. Benjamin Graber has been vocal about his support for Ms. Adelson. The former Florida state representative, Broward County commissioner and Broward County mayor now practices gynecology at Coral Springs, Florida – the same city the Adelsons are from. He has been friends with Ms. Adelson for 40 years and recently wrote an opinion piece for the Tallahassee Democrat calling for her to  be “treated better” and insisting that she is innocent.

“Donna Adelson is a 73-year-old grandmother who raised her children to be model citizens, students, humanitarians and respectful,” he wrote. “Medically now, she is frail, emotionally distraught and drained. She is a threat to no person, but the system is a threat to her health and life. It may kill her before a trial can occur. Her punishment is cruel, ‘beyond the pale’ and misguided.”

Dr. Graber added that “she is innocent and proper accommodation for her well-being must be provided. Once the experts in societal, psychological, and medical profiles express their opinions legally it may well paint a different picture of this tragedy.”

In Dr. Graber’s opinion, the “tragic, shock-full, and awful event” that was Mr. Markel’s death stemmed from a “a toxic love triangle” between Charlie, Magbanua, and Garcia. A love triangle where “two competing macho men” vied for Magbanua as she “[played] one against the other using jealousy and competition to get what she [needed].”

Katie Magbanua, Charlie Adelsen’s ex-girlfriend, convicted of Dan Markel’s murder, testified against Mr. Adelsen. Courtroom Feed.

“From Sigfredo, she wants love and devotion for herself and children. From Charlie, she wants love and devotion, security and gifts, and possibly marriage or a way out of her predicament in life,” Dr. Graber wrote. “Sigfredo [Garcia] was the motivated killer. In his warped mind, he shot Dan Markel, but it was done with Charlie in mind. It was a symbolic killing of his rival for Katherine whom he despised. It was not done by Luis, the gang friend who would be considered the more experienced one.”

Dr. Graber also expresses his doubt that an “an educated, meticulous person” like Charlie would ever carry out such a “clumsy” murder. Garcia, in his opinion, likely heard about the Adelsons’ issues with Mr. Markel and figured he could commit the murder and set up Charlie to “take the fall.”

Whether these claims will ever gets any traction is unknown. But it’s important to remember the case being brought against Ms. Adelson is highly circumstantial. Prosecutors will use her recorded phone calls, attempted flight and documented emails to try to prove “consciousness of guilt,” but only time will tell if their case prevails.


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