Prosecutors: Donna Adelson discussed plans to flee U.S. before booking flights

Posted at 5:01 PM, November 14, 2023 and last updated 8:33 PM, November 14, 2023


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Court TV) — In an interview on Tuesday afternoon, Leon County State Attorney Jack Campbell revealed that Donna Adelson was arrested on a jetway at Miami International Airport while trying to leave the country. Court documents indicate that before her arrest, Donna spoke to her son about getting her affairs in order and leaving the country after he was convicted in a murder-for-hire plot.

Donna Adelson was arrested on an out-of-county warrant on Nov. 13 after purchasing tickets to Vietnam. She is charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and solicitation to commit first-degree murder. Donna’s son, Charlie Adelson, was convicted on the same charges last week in the murder of FSU law professor Dan Markel.

Booking photo of Donna Adelson

Donna Adelson was booked into the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami-Dade County on an out-of-county warrant. Her former son-in-law, Daniel Markel, was murdered in 2014. Adelson’s son, Charlie Adelson, was convicted of Markel’s murder last week. (Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation)

In a probable cause affidavit obtained by Court TV, prosecutors said that after her son’s conviction, Donna had multiple phone calls with Charlie in which she told him she “is getting things in order, creating trusts, and making sure her grandchildren are taken care of.”

READ MORE: Who’s who in the Dentist Mastermind Murder Trial

Prosecutors argued in court during Charlie’s trial that part of the motivation behind killing Markel was access to his two children with Donna’s daughter, Wendi. The couple had gone through an acrimonious divorce and the court would not allow Wendi to move to South Florida from Tallahassee to be closer to Donna and the rest of her family.

Campbell told Court TV that Donna was taken into custody at the airport, where she had arrived with her husband after purchasing plane tickets to Vietnam. Prosecutors did not specify whether the tickets were round-trip or one-way — but said that the tickets, purchased on Nov. 7 to depart on Nov. 13 — would have taken the couple to Asia after a stop in Dubai.

Campbell that while they had been investigating Donna for some time, her travel plans forced them to move up their timeline.

“It changed our timeline, it didn’t change our intent. … When we found that she was leaving the country, extradition would have been an issue. We started talking to some of our federal partners … and that was when the decision was made we needed to kind of expedite.”

Prosecutors said in phone calls with Charlie, Donna discussed plans for suicide as well as plans to flee to a non-extradition country. Vietnam has no formal extradition treaty with the United States.

When Donna made her first appearance in a Miami court on Nov. 14, she appeared to be wearing a protective suit. She waived extradition to Leon County.

Campbell said that when Donna arrives back in Leon County, prosecutors will request that she not be allowed to have any contact with her son.