In return for his comments and cooperation with prosecutors, Rivera entered a guilty plea and was given a 19-year sentence that would run concurrently with a federal prison on an unrelated crime. He said in a 2019 testimony that Sigfredo Garcia was with him when Markel was killed.
Charlie Adelson, a Fort Lauderdale periodontist, is on trial for murder in Leon County, and the trial is on its third day. The murder-for-hire of Florida State University law professor Dan Markel is one of Tallahassee’s most stunning crimes, and Adelson is accused of planning its execution.
Luis Rivera is going to testify once again on Monday morning. In 2016, he entered a guilty plea to second-degree murder.
Adelson is charged with planning the assassination and hiring two men from Miami, Sigfredo Garcia, his close friend, and Latin Kings gang boss Luis Rivera, to carry out the killing. Garcia, Rivera, and the other of Garcia’s daughter, Katherine Magbanua, who was formerly Adelson’s girlfriend, have all previously been found guilty of the murder.
Luis Rivera takes the witness stand
Daniel Rashbaum guided Luis Rivera and the jury through the details of Rivera’s involvement in the 2014 murder-for-hire conspiracy prior to his testimony.
“Everything you knew about the murder plot came from Sigfredo?” Rashbaum asked.
“Yes, sir,” Rivera said.
He added that everything they did in the murder had to go through Katherine Magbanua.
Rashbaum said Sigfredo Garcia and Magbanua lied to to Rivera from the start. They lied about the the purpose of the trip to Tallahassee, about the lady on the street and the money he received, Rashabum said.
Rashbaum asked if it was possible Sigfredo Garcia and Katherine Magbanua lied about the extortion plot.
“I don’t know,” Rivera said.
He said he thought they were just going to rob Dan Markel, but Magbanua and Garcia said they had to murder him. Garcia told Rivera they were just going to watch Markel and not actually kill him on the first trip.
On the day of the murder, Rivera testified that he saw Markel drop his kids off at daycare that morning. He wanted to be sure the kids weren’t around.
“I (didn’t) want to do that in front of the kids,” he said.
The initial plan was for Rivera to be the shooter, but he refused and didn’t want to be the one to pull the trigger — Garcia stepped in.
As Rashbaum closes, he has Rivera clarify that he was in the Latin Kings gang.
“That was a criminal gang?” Rashbaum asked.
“That’s what you want to call it, I call it a family,” Rivera said.
The Latin Kings had “absolutely nothing to do” with the murder, he said.
“I can promise you that,” he said. “I don’t even know these people.”
Before this trial, Rivera said he’s never even laid eyes on Charlie Adelson.
Katherine Magbanua testifies for the third time about the murder-for-hire
Katherine Magbanua has testified in the Markel murder case three times today, but this is the first time she claims to have spoken the truth.
“I believe the truth needed to come out now because the family needed some type of closure,” Magbanua said.She claimed to have lied to protect herself, but no one had given her anything in return for her years of quiet.
She said that while the murder-for-hire scheme was a favor for Charlie Adelson, the money was the real driving force behind it.
Who came up with the idea to kill Dan Markel?” Georgia Cappleman, assistant state attorney, enquired.
“Charlie,” said Magbanua.
Magbanua knew a man who could do the task Adelson sought. She said Adelson informed her that his sister was experiencing conflict with her former spouse and was fighting for custody of her children.
Magbanua didn’t even know Markel’s name at the time of his death; all she knew was that he was Wendi Adelson’s spouse.
“He painted this picture that this was a terrible man and he was making his family go through a lot,” she claimed.He handed her a sealed letter one random evening at Adelson’s home, instructing her not to touch or open it. He wore gloves so that his fingerprints wouldn’t show.
Magbanua said, “He was very specific about me not opening it.”
Adelson began sowing the seeds of completion in the month of the murder, she added, and was growing more determined.
She said that the money she ultimately was paid for the work was carefully stashed away in a plastic bag inside a brown bag that had a shopping bag on top of it, and that the bag was stapled in the corner. According to Magbanua, the reason the $100 notes were moldy is because his mother cleaned them.
Adelson had never had cash on hand in his home, and his parents had just stopped by giving her the impression that the money was theirs.
Daniel Rashbaum grills Katherine Magbanua
When Magbanua was originally tried, a plea agreement was offered, but she turned it down. Why, Rashbaum questioned her.
Because I couldn’t give up the father of my children in order to give up Charlie,” she said.
According to Rashbaum, there are only two options available to her for leaving prison: using a coffin or assisting the government. Magbanua said that she was attempting an appeal.
She said, “I lied to save myself during my trials.” “I’m not saving myself, I’m telling the truth this time.”
She was questioned by Rashbaum, who wanted to know whether she was working with the state to go home. She disputed this, saying that she was doing everything alone and that her lawyers weren’t even there.
“Two hours into your first interview, you still were not admitting you were a part of the murder,” Rashbaum said.
“Yes, I found it difficult to admit, and I still do,” Magbanua said.
She acknowledged being aware of the “bad joke” in which Adelson said that a TV was a less expensive divorce gift than a hitman.
She said, “He feels like he is untouchable.” “He knew he was hiring a hitman.”
Magbanua said Adelson was the “mastermind” behind the murderous scheme, but she denied being it.
You’re hoping (the state) helps you right?” Hashbaum enquired.
“I want to see my kids again, of course,” she said.