The resolution of the murder case involving the esteemed FSU professor, Dan Markel, proved to be a prolonged endeavor for the law enforcement authorities. Engaged in a contentious custody dispute with his ex-wife Wendi Adelson, Markel met a grim fate outside his Tallahassee residence in 2014. The investigations have led to a total of five arrests, with key individuals including Katie Magbanua, Sigfredo Garcia, and Luis Rivera being implicated. In the scrutinizing episode of ‘Dateline: Family Matters,’ the roles played by these individuals in the murder are explored, shedding light on the motivations behind their crimes.
Who Are Katie Magbanua, Sigfredo Garcia and Luis Rivera?
Dan Markel fell victim to a fatal attack outside his Tallahassee residence on July 19, 2014. Law enforcement successfully tracked a silver pine mica Toyota Prius, captured by nearby CCTV cameras, which fled from the crime scene. It wasn’t until two years later that the police established a connection between the vehicle and Sigfredo Garcia and Luis Rivera. Publicized through an arrest affidavit, authorities believed that the duo had been surveilling Markel for several days, lodging in nearby motels during that period. On the morning of the murder, they trailed Markel as he carried out his routine, including a visit to the gym, ultimately shooting him outside his home around 11 a.m.
On June 17, 2016, both Luis Rivera and Sigfredo Garcia were indicted on first-degree charges related to the murder of Dan Markel. At the time of the indictment, Rivera had already been in custody on unrelated federal charges since 2014 and was serving a 12-and-a-half-year sentence for a racketeering conspiracy, having been identified as the leader of the Miami-based gang Latin Kings. Rivera opted to plead guilty to the charge of second-degree murder and received a 19-year sentence. In exchange for his plea, he provided law enforcement with detailed information about the crime.
Rivera revealed that he was approached by Garcia to carry out the murder, with Garcia being the one who pulled the trigger. He further disclosed that the instigator behind the crime was Katherine “Katie” Magbanua, the mother of two children belonging to Garcia. In October 2016, Katherine “Katie” Magbanua was taken into custody, leading to a joint trial for Sigfredo Garcia and Magbanua that commenced in October 2019. Both faced charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and solicitation of murder.
During the trial, law enforcement alleged that the murder had been orchestrated at the behest of Charles Adelson, Dan Markel’s brother-in-law. The motive behind the crime was purportedly Charles Adelson’s desire to end the custody battle between him and his sister. Allegedly, he paid Garcia and Magbanua $100,000 to carry out the act. Sigfredo Garcia was found guilty on the charges, receiving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, along with an additional 30 years for conspiracy. However, the verdict for Magbanua remained inconclusive, and she continued to be held in jail pending a retrial.
Katie Magbanua, Sigfredo Garcia and Luis Rivera are in Prison Today
Katie Magbanua’s second trial commenced on May 16, 2022, with Luis Rivera testifying against her. This time, she was found guilty of first-degree murder, murder conspiracy, and solicitation to commit murder. Magbanua received a life sentence without the possibility of parole, along with two additional 30-year terms for the other charges. By April 2022, Charles Adelson had also been arrested, and his trial started in October 2023.
During the trial, Magbanua testified against Adelson, revealing that she had previously lied. She disclosed that she was Charles Adelson’s girlfriend at the time of the crime and had acted as the intermediary between him and Garcia and Rivera. During Adelson’s trial, it became known that he had paid Magbanua $138,000, with thousands of dollars more to follow in the subsequent months. Additionally, he had placed her on the payroll of the family’s dental practice.
Katherine Magbanua, now 31 years old, is currently serving her sentence at the Lowell Correctional Institution Annex and will spend the rest of her life there. In her testimony against Charles Adelson, she revealed that she had initially tried to conceal his name, as she was reluctant to incriminate Garcia as well. Garcia is serving his life sentence at the Florida State Prison in Raiford. Meanwhile, Luis Rivera is currently held at a federal prison facility in Arizona and is expected to be transferred to the Florida Department of Corrections to complete his sentence related to Dan Markel’s death.