Charlie Adelson sentenced in Dentist Mastermind Murder Trial

Posted at 8:55 AM, December 11, 2023 and last updated 9:03 PM, December 11, 2023

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (COURT TV) — Charlie Adelson, the wealthy Florida periodontist convicted of first-degree murder and other charges related to the death of his brother-in-law, has been formally sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Charlie Adelson looks over his shoulder at the courtroom gallery before his sentencing Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023. (Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat/Pool)

Phil Markel, the father of victim Dan Markel , spoke eloquently about his only son’s life before the judge gave Adelson an opportunity to speak before the sentence was imposed. Adelson simply stated, “I maintain my innocence.”

Markel, a devoted father and 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 Adelson had orchestrated the murder seemingly at the behest of his mother, Donna Adelson.

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

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.

FILE – Dan Markel (Florida State University)

Charlie orchestrated the murder-for-hire plot by having his girlfriend, Katherine Magbanua, recruit Sigfredo Garcia and Luis Rivera to shoot Markel. Magbanua, Garcia and Rivera have already been tried and convicted.

READ MORE: FL v. Adelson: Dentist Mastermind Murder Trial

Prosecutors connected Magbanua, Garcia and Rivera fairly quickly, but the Adelsons’ involvement was much harder to prove. The Adelsons were 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. Charlie wasn’t indicted until 2022 because before that, the FBI couldn’t decipher what was being said in a secretly-recorded conversation between Charlie and Magbanua at the restaurant.

Donna Adelson reacts to statements made about her treatment at the Leon County Jail by LSCO Chief Norman Mack during a motion hearing on Monday, Dec. 11, 2023. (Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat/Pool)

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.

Florida sentencing guidelines all but dictated that Charlie would spend the rest of his life in prison with no chance of parole. Such a fate would be hard for anyone to contemplate, let alone a millionaire who drove a Ferrari with a license plate that said ‘MAESTRO’. Court TV’s cameras were on him as the judge formally sealed his fate.

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.

Wendi Adelson, the ex-wife of Florida State law professor Dan Markel who was shot and killed in 2014, looks at a photo displayed on a projector in the courtroom before answering a question asked about the image.

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. 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 (the Adelsons’ oldest son, a physician, is estranged from the family).

Under any other circumstances, the Adelsons would likely be gathering to light the fifth Hanukkah candle tonight. 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.