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Dentist gets life in prison for hitmen murder of his brother-in-law

The man who helped plan the murder-for-hire of a Florida State University professor, also his former brother-in-law, will spend life in prison.
Dentist gets life in prison for hitmen murder of his brother-in-law
Posted at 4:44 PM, Dec 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-12 16:44:45-05

A wealthy Florida periodontist will serve life in prison without the possibility of parole for his part in the murder of his former brother-in-law.

Charlie Adelson had been convicted of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and solicitation of first-degree murder in the killing of Phil Markel.

Phil Markel, the father of the victim, spoke eloquently about his only son's life before the judge gave Charlie an opportunity to speak before the sentence was imposed. He simply stated, "I maintain my innocence." 

Markel, a beloved Florida State University law professor, was gunned down while pulling into the garage of his Tallahassee home on July 18, 2014.

It took nearly a decade for justice to prevail, but a Leon County jury ultimately found that Charlie had orchestrated the murder seemingly at the behest of his mother, Donna Adelson.

At the time of the murder, Markel was in a bitter child custody fight with Wendi Adelson — his ex-wife, Charlie's sister and Donna's daughter — over their two preschool-aged sons. 

By all accounts, Donna was so desperate to have her grandsons and daughter in South Florida with her that she allegedly enlisted Charlie to arrange Markel's killing after Wendi was unsuccessful in her petition to relocate from Tallahassee.

Charlie was found to have orchestrated the murder-for-hire plot by having his girlfriend, Katherine Magbanua, recruit the father of her two children, Sigfredo Garcia, who then recruited his childhood friend, Luis Rivera, to shoot Markel.

All have been tried and convicted, with Magbanua and Garcia serving life in prison for first-degree murder and Rivera serving a 19-year sentence after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.

Prosecutors connected Magbanua, Garcia and Rivera fairly quickly, but the Adelsons' involvement was much harder to prove. 

The family was virtually untouchable until wiretaps of phone calls between Charlie and Donna came to light, along with state-of-the-art FBI audio equipment that picked up an incriminating conversation between Charlie and Magbanua at a noisy restaurant.

SEE MORE: Mother arrested after trying to hire hitman to kill her 3-year-old son

The FBI originally weren't able to decipher what was being said in this secretly-recorded conversation, but they did in 2022, leading to Charlie's indictment.

On Nov. 6, Charlie was convicted of first-degree murder, conspiracy and solicitation. Exactly one week later, Donna was arrested on the same charges. She was attempting to board a one-way flight to Vietnam when authorities stopped her on the jetway.

Wendi and her father, Harvey Adelson, have not faced charges related to Markel's death. Although Wendi was Markel's ex-wife, prosecutors are still piecing together how much, if anything, she knew.

Harvey — who, along with Donna, had been a pillar of their community of Coral Springs — ran a successful dental practice for many years. The Adelsons had millions in the bank, and Charlie was known to drive a Ferrari with a license plate that read "MAESTRO."

Donna and Harvey were active in their local synagogue and nurtured their kids' academic prowess. That dedication produced children who went on to graduate from law school, dental school, and medical school (though the Adelsons' oldest son, a physician, is estranged from the family).

Under any other circumstances, the Adelsons would likely be gathering to light the sixth Hanukkah candle Tuesday night. Instead, Charlie and Donna will spend the holidays in the Leon County Jail, just a few miles away from the home where Markel's life ended so violently.


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