By: GRACE WONG
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Court TV) — Charlie Adelson’s ex-girlfriend and codefendant Katherine Magbanua – who in two previous trials swore she had nothing to do with the murder of Dan Markel testified Monday that Charles Adelson masterminded and paid for the 2014 murder of his ex-brother-in-law.
Magbanua admitted she lied when she testified in her other trials that she was innocent but was telling the truth now about her role in the murder to “help the family gain closure.” She said she recruited her ex-boyfriend to carry out the hit job after Adelson asked her during Halloween of 2013 if she knew of anyone that could ‘hurt someone,’ and she thought of her ex-Sigfredo Garcia.
“He was planting the seed this needed to get done,” she said. “Toward June and July, he was more adamant about the job getting done.”
Magbanua said she participated in the murder-for-hire plot for financial gain and as a favor to Charlie. She claimed she did not know who the target was and had not even heard the name Dan Markel until her own murder trial, which, after a mistrial, ended in a conviction and life sentence in 2022.
Magbanua testified Adelson gave her an envelope, which she believed contained the printout of the target’s picture and information which she then gave to Garcia.
Magbanua said she went to the defendant’s house after the murder.
“I wasn’t in a panic,” she said. “Charlie was when I opened the door, he was frantic. He had a gun in his hand and was all over the place.”
Magbanua went on to say that Charlie gave her the money stapled in a Ziplock bag within a paper bag. She described the money as moldy and believed that his mother had washed it before dropping it off at Adelson’s home the night before.
“All of a sudden, he had money. It was stacked and sorted,” she said.
Magbanua denied arguing, threatening, or telling Adelson that his family would suffer the same fate as Markel if he didn’t pay her. She flatly denied blackmailing him.
In text messages exchanged between them after the breakup, the two appeared to remain close and fond of each other.
In one text exchange dated February 24, 2015, Magbanua says, “I always know how to make you smile I love you.”
Adelson texts in response, “I love you too.”
The text exchanges were displayed to show jurors that the two remained friends and their exchanges never reflected hostility or betrayed any sign that Magbanua was blackmailing Adelson as the defense claims.
Bank records reveal that the Adelson Institute was making regular payments twice a month from October 2014 to the spring of 2016, which the defense contends were not inconsistent with extortion.
Prosecutors presented a series of text exchanges between Charles and his mother Donna that appear to show the Adelsons’ growing resentment toward Markel.
- In one exchange on Feb 14, 2014, Donna texts Charlie complaining about Markel injecting himself in one of the boys’ soccer games.
- Donna: “The asshole showed up at soccer yesterday, and when she tried to leave with the boys he said, “No stay here and play with Abba.”
- Wendi told the boys Abba had to leave, and he said, ‘No I don’t’.
- Donna goes on to complain that Markel emailed Wendi the next day vowing to take the matter up with the court.
- Donna writes, “Such a f**ker! It was Wendi’s day. He is allowed to attend the children’s activity, but that’s where it ends.”
Prosecutors also called two Adelson Institute employees who testified that Katherine Magbanua was not an employee of the dental practice, and they knew her to be a patient and the defendant’s girlfriend.