Charlie Adelson trial Day 2: An ex-friend, ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, officers, lawyer & an accomplice step up
Charlie Adelson. Image via WCTV.

adelson wctv
'I don’t want to be here at all.'

This is a long one, but the tl;dr is … well, even that’s pretty long, too.

So, if you want a recap of what happened on Day 2 of Charlie Adelson’s trial for the murder of Dan Markel, buckle in and put on your best pair of front-snapping reading classes (in honor of Judge Robert Wheeler, of course).

Judge Stephen Everett presided with steadiness and humor. Prosecutors Georgia Cappleman and Sarah Kathryn Dugan were at the state’s table, Dan Rashbaum and Kate Myers at the defense, and a gaggle of reporters, YouTube commentators, family members and friends were in the gallery. Florida Politics had Karen Cyphers on-site providing coverage.

Here’s the run of the show.

Wendi Adelson: The Defense defends her, but she’s recalled to stand over contested statement

On Friday morning, Rashbaum picked up where he left off with Wendi Adelson, ex-wife of Markel, who is named as an unindicted co-conspirator and state witness.

His line of questioning seemed determined to demonstrate that Wendi didn’t really want to leave Tallahassee — the top motive the state claims for this murder. He had Wendi testify that she had been setting up dates with men, looking at property listings for houses, and looking at school enrollment options for her kids in Tallahassee. He elicited from Wendi that she was scheduled to speak at a convocation in August 2014 and to have her quasi-fictional book featured at Florida State, which she described as “the highlight of my career.”

Rashbaum spent 30 minutes making Wendi recount all the various plans she made in Tallahassee for dates after July 18, 2014, when Dan was shot: Parent visits, meetings with divorce attorneys, meetings with other professors, and birthday parties for her children.

He used day care drop-off schedules to show that accomplice Luis Rivera could never have seen Wendi and the boys outside of Dan’s home on July 17, because the kids were at school that morning. But no such evidence was presented about mornings in early June, when the hit men had also staked out Markel’s home before being spooked by a woman they believed was “the lady” who had hired them.

Rashbaum’s questioning of Wendi gave her a chance to reframe her story — a defense within a defense.

Then Assistant State Attorney Cappleman came on redirect.

“This isn’t your trial, is it?” she asked Wendi, and question by question methodically dismantled what the defense had tried to piece together for her. In this testimony, Wendi was forced to make claims, under oath, which contradict other evidence, such as who the main character of her book was modeled after and how often the Markels are allowed to be in touch with their grandchildren.

Wendi claimed that the Markels are allowed to see their grandsons whenever they ask to, which is false, and went so far as to claim that the law the Markels fought to pass in order to gain visitation with their grandchildren is “unconstitutional.” Following that statement, Judge Everett instructed the jury to disregard Wendi’s assertion about the constitutionality of any Florida Statute.

But the real challenge of Wendi’s narrative came through three subsequent witnesses: Officer Bill Brannon, ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Lacasse, and Dan’s divorce attorney, Stephen Webster. And, about an hour after Wendi left Tallahassee, she was called back against her will once more — to answer just a few more critical questions, opening the door for Lacasse to share one of the most chilling pieces of evidence in this case. More on that later.

Officer Bill Brannon: Wendi drove up to a lively crime scene

Brannon was in charge of securing the crime scene and maintaining one of the two roadblocks on Trescott Drive. Contrary to what Wendi had just said, Brannon testified that the roadblock Wendi would have encountered on her circuitous July 18 drive to ABC Liquor was far from Centerville — that she would have to drive a considerable distance onto Trescott to see it.

And, from where the roadblock was, the crime scene was visible with significant activity.

“There were several law enforcement vehicles, three to four marked patrol cars, one crime scene van marked police, and three or so unmarked units,” Brannon testified in 2022. Police lights were on, and crime scene tape was up between Markel’s home and his neighbor. In other words, the activity on Trescott unmistakably centered around the house that her ex-husband lived in and had been in that very morning with their two shared children.

Brannon witnessed a vehicle identified as Wendi’s minivan pull up to the scene, and abruptly turn around and leave. In prior testimony, Brannon said this struck him as unusual compared to the behavior of other vehicles, which typically pause, look, and consider what route they’d take next. By contrast, this minivan turned around quickly and peeled away.

On cross-examination, Rashbaum wanted Brannon to get more specific about how many houses down from the crime scene the roadblock was, on which he wasn’t clear. But on redirect, Cappleman had Brannon clarify: from where the roadblock stood, the lively crime scene was fully visible at the time and place Wendi was seen that day.

Attorney Stephen Webster: Divorce was contentious, and Wendi should have been held in contempt

Tallahassee lawyer Webster represented Dan Markel in his divorce and was called as a state witness for the first time. His testimony strongly confirmed the level of acrimony in the divorce. Cappleman asked Webster about the motion Markel was planning to file to hold Wendi in contempt, after he discovered she was hiding money from her disclosures.

“She’s a lawyer. She should have been held in contempt,” Webster said of Wendi, “She didn’t disclose things on her financial affidavit … at the end of the day, you could lose your law license over that.”

Cappleman then asked Webster if he agreed with Wendi when she testified that everyone believed Markel’s motion would fail.

“No,” Webster corrected, “I would not have got involved if I thought he was going to lose on the contempt,” sharing how his own reputation depends on the reputation of his clients — and that he would never have accepted a case that would cause him to disrespect a judge or the court.

Webster testified that Dan was not planning to move away from Tallahassee, contrary to what Wendi had told the jury.

Rashbaum’s questions for Webster were brief.

“You never went to court with Professor Markel, did you?” Rashbaum asked Webster.

“No, he was killed before I got the chance,” Webster replied.

Ex-girlfriend June Umchinda: “Her “memory isn’t remembering” key details, but she recalls stapled money

“All Points Bulletin on our next witness,” Judge Everett said. Charlie’s ex-girlfriend Umchinda was missing in action when she was supposed to appear. She is among the more reluctant witnesses, still having feelings for Charlie, despite what she had previously shared with the FBI was his relentless cheating on her.

“Well, the girl he’s pregnant with, I’ve caught him with her,” she had told Agent Patrick Sanford and Investigator Sherrie Bennett in 2018.

“And you still describe him as perfect …” Sanford led.

“Well, yeah, the murdering and cheating …” Umchinda replied before agreeing that, besides those things, he was great.

In the previous two trials, Umchinda was withholding and clearly uncomfortable sharing with a jury what she had previously admitted to law enforcement years prior. In this trial, Umchinda’s discomfort appeared substantially greater.

Once found, Umchinda entered the courtroom and exchanged smiles with Charlie. Cappleman had Umchinda walk through the timeline of their relationship, which began in 2015, saw an official breakup in 2017 followed by on-and-off-again and casual contact. The last time they spoke was a day or two before his arrest.

“Do you still have feelings for Mr. Adelson as we still sit here today?” Cappleman asked.

“There’s something still there … I care about him,” she said. The two were serious at the time the FBI bump had occurred, seeing each other daily, but their relationship changed after after.

It was only after a June 17, 2016 run-in with a reporter (who mistook Umchinda for Katherine Magbanua and “embarrassed” Umchinda by taking her photo while she was sporting a Band-Aid on her arm) did Umchinda start to realize that her boyfriend may be involved in Markel’s death.

Charlie had told Umchinda not to talk to the police if they came to the house and had been acting strangely for the past many weeks. Their usual routine was disrupted, and Umchinda started to notice that Charlie had been talking to Katie a lot, and at odd hours.

“Did Mr. Adelson ever show any interest or curiosity to you in who had killed his brother-in-law?” Cappleman asked.

“He just said he didn’t know who did it. It was like an unsolved mystery,” Umchinda replied.

But then Cappleman had Umchinda review her prior interview with Sanford and Bennett in which Umchinda claimed Charlie never expressed curiosity about who had killed Markel.

“That’s what was weird to me,” Umchinda had said in this interview, “It was always like ‘if you didn’t do it, who do you think did it?’ He never showed any sympathy or anything.”

Then, Cappleman asked Umchinda to list who Charlie had dated before her. It wasn’t Katie — there were a few other women between Katie and Umchinda. This is relevant, considering that when bumped by the FBI, Charlie tells Katie that he was only calling her because she was his “last ex-girlfriend.”

Umchinda said that after Katie was arrested in October 2016, Charlie started behaving like someone who was being accused of murder. He was “super stressed” and was “scary” to be around at least once, Umchinda said. He got a second phone, and possibly even a third phone in that time frame, started communicating exclusively through WhatsApp, and kept guns close by in the bedroom. Umchinda also testified that Donna Adelson was distressed during this period, taking painkillers and seeming stressed — but Donna never expressed curiosity about who killed Markel.

Umchinda mentioned that Charlie and Wendi had been fighting about the case and weren’t on speaking terms for some time because of this case — a curious thing to report, considering Wendi swears she never talked about the case with her family.

Perhaps most importantly, Umchinda again testified that Charlie had the peculiar habit of stapling his $100 bills together into bundles.

“After your breakup, did Charlie make any big-ticket purchases for you … a car? A condo?” Cappleman asked. Umchinda said no.

Rashbaum’s cross-examination began by establishing that neither he — nor any of his colleagues — had contacted Umchinda at any point. He asked Umchinda whether she was aware that the barbed wire around Charlie’s house, the camera systems, and the guns he kept in his nightstand were all installed just after Markel’s murder. The same was true, Rashbaum said at the Adelson Institute. Further, Rashbaum had Umchinda attest that Charlie had taken many trips overseas and always came back.

“Has Charlie ever told you to lie?” Rashbaum asked.

“Yes,” She said before correcting her answer to “No.” She thought the question was whether Charlie had ever told her “a” lie.

Professor Jeffrey Lacasse: Former boyfriend heard “chilling statement” and may have been framed

Lacasse — Wendi’s ex-boyfriend who she dated up until the murder — is a professor at Florida State and has been among the most compelling and illuminating witnesses in this case. Lacasse sat for law enforcement interviews multiple times over the years — not only at their request, but by his own efforts, as he began to piece together layers of evidence.

Within days of the homicide, Lacasse seemingly solved the crime — telling law enforcement not only that they should be looking at Charlie but at Wendi as well. And, as more evidence was released to the public, some issues Lacasse raised in the very first days gained even greater meaning and context.

Wendi and Lacasse began seeing each other in August 2013, non-exclusively, and in early 2014 their relationship became serious. He has testified that:

— Wendi was devastated by the denial of her motion to relocate and felt stuck in Tallahassee; she was upset about the motion to limit contact between her mother and the boys — and took this motion seriously; and that the topic of the divorce was constant in Wendi’s conversations.

— Before the murder, he and Wendi had met Katie Magbanua and Charlie Adelson for dinner in Miami, where Katie talked about Sigfredo Garcia’s criminal history, and, after dinner, Charlie bragged about having connections on “both sides of the track.”

— Wendi had canceled a trip with Lacasse to visit his family, scheduled July 11-17, 2014, saying she was worried they’d get delayed and not get back in time to get the boys from school on July 18. Lacasse thought that was unusual, considering they’d planned to return a full day prior.

— In the months leading up to Dan’s murder, Wendi had become erratic, bringing him on a “roller coaster ride” where she would intermittently distance herself and then “love bomb” him, including with suggestions that he would move in with her and have the boys call him “daddy.” He had started to notice lies and inconsistencies in Wendi’s accounts, believed he had caught her cheating on him throughout their relationship (allegations which were later confirmed by investigators), and by the time of the murder he had reached a point of peak confusion. He felt he was being strung along but didn’t know for what.

— Wendi insisted that Lacasse watch an entire movie with her and the kids on the broken TV — despite another working TV available to them in the home. He described the damage to the TV as being caused by a hard impact, with a cracked screen resulting in a highly pixelated display — the type of damage he doesn’t believe could have been caused by the kids.

— Lacasse was one of at least three witnesses to whom Wendi told her brother’s hit man “joke.” However, Lacasse was also told a far more serious statement: Just five days before the murder, Lacasse says Wendi asked to confide something in him — that Charlie had very seriously looked into “all possible options” to take care of the “Danny Markel problem” including looking into hiring a hit man the prior Summer, and that it would have cost $15,000 or $50,000. He describes this as a “chilling” statement that made his stomach flip. He said that Wendi was “very serious” when confiding this in him and that he then shared this statement with another friend prior to the murder and told law enforcement about it immediately after the murder. “I knew that joke; this was something different,” Lacasse said.

— After the murder, Lacasse and Wendi spoke, and she shared that she’d been out to dinner with Charlie for what her brother called a “celebration dinner.”

Lacasse’s testimony also suggests Wendi may have even attempted to frame him for the murder itself.

Some indications of this include:

— Wendi was the only local person who knew that Lacasse was going to be leaving town the morning of both hit attempts — the first in June and, of course, the day of the actual murder in July.

— A few days prior to the homicide, Lacasse shared how he and Wendi had gone on a final date — “the most awkward yoga session in history” — immediately after which he perceived Wendi was breaking things off. He turned to walk away, “feeling sad,” but Wendi called after him, taking a “deep interest” in his Friday, July 18 travel plans and asking whether he was still leaving for Tennessee on Friday at 11 a.m., along with a series of other questions about his route that struck him as odd, considering the new status of their relationship.

— Disturbingly, Wendi knew Lacasse would be traveling within miles of Markel’s house at the time of the murder in a 2004 four-door metallic sedan, similar in appearance to the various cars the hit men had rented on their trips north. Lacasse had decided at the last minute to leave town the night before, though he didn’t tell Wendi that he was doing this. Cappleman asked what might have happened if Lacasse had kept to his original travel plans, to which Lacasse said his “life might have gotten very complicated.”

Rashbaum was aggressive on cross-examination. He challenged Lacasse’s account of the dinner with Katie and Charlie and insinuated Lacasse was simply bitter over the breakup.

Regarding the bad joke about the TV and Wendi’s confiding in him that Charlie had investigated hiring a hit man, Rashbaum asked if Lacasse had ever gone to the police, which Lacasse said he had not. Rashbaum got heated and questioned Lacasse’s motives in talking about Wendi to investigators, accusing him of waiting too long to tell investigators certain things. But Lacasse was calm in his reply. “I decided to man up,” Lacasse said.

“Isn’t it true that those comments never happened and you’re angry that this family is trying to frame you for murder?” Rashbaum yelled.

“Everything I’ve said is true,” Lacasse replied.

Cappleman on redirect asked Lacasse, “How many notes do you have in reference to this case over the last nine years?”

“I’m a researcher, an analytic person,” Lacasse replied, speaking of the process he used to compile his thoughts in the aftermath of the murder.

Cappleman also asked why Lacasse didn’t go to the police after Wendi disclosed that Charlie had legitimately looked into hiring a hit man the summer prior.

“It was in the past tense,” Lacasse said, “I didn’t know there was an active murder plot.”

“In hindsight, should you have gone to the police with this information?” Cappleman asked, to which Lacasse said resolutely, “Yes.”

Lacasse may be recalled for further testimony, as Rashbaum has requested his notes.

Ryan Fitzpatrick: Charlie’s former buddy unloads on the “Maestro”

Fitzpatrick is a former friend and business partner of Charlie Adeson. The two had known each other for 15 years, first meeting through mutual friends. Fitzpatrick knew Charlie’s parents and sister well. He has met the Markel’s grandsons, too.

Fitzpatrick said nobody in the Adelson family liked Markel and that his buddy had a lot of girlfriends. He had met Katie in passing. Cappleman asked whether Charlie was relieved or worried after Katie was arrested, and he testified that the latter was true — he was upset and agitated after her arrest.

Cappleman asked Fitzpatrick about a falling out in their friendship in 2018.

“I’m not a big fan,” Fitzpatrick said of Charlie. “I’ve said it to him.”

“Are you here to bring him down?” Cappleman asked.

“I don’t want to be here at all,” Fitzpatrick replied.

In Magbanua’s 2022 trial, Fitzpatrick described Charlie as “paranoid” with cameras around his home, always suspicious of everyone, and a regular user of marijuana and steroids. Those behaviors only got worse after the bump, Fitzpatrick said. He and their “large group” of friends noticed how Charlie’s behavior changed. The “Maestro” (as he called himself with friends) became more erratic, more paranoid. They never confronted Charlie about Markel’s murder, but Charlie did tell his friends he was innocent and that the case was “nonsense.” At the same time, however, Charlie made comments that sounded less than innocent. “You can get away with murder,” Fitzpatrick claimed Charlie had told him, “You just have to keep your mouth shut.”

Rashbaum asked Fitzpatrick whether he was aware of an affidavit that was released calling for Charlie’s arrest, which occurred around the time of Katie’s arrest, not to mention extensive media coverage and the Bump itself. And, then challenged whether Fitzpatrick had ever stolen from Charlie.

Charlie had alleged Fitzpatrick embezzled from their shared business and demanded money back. Fitzpatrick replied to him in a series of text messages including the following:

“I don’t owe you shit. I’ll be on the phone with the FBI today. Get your affairs in order;” “You open your mouth, and I’ll open mine;” “I dare you to threaten me again, I’ll get on the phone with the FBI, you murderer;” and “Get fucked, you belong in jail.”

“I want to propose a wager. An over/under on Life+,” Fitzpatrick had written on a True Crime website days before testifying, which Rashbaum took as an attempt by a jilted friend to hurt Charlie out of spite.

“It’s free speech,” Fitzpatrick replied.

Luis Rivera: Accomplice says the “lady wanted her kids back” and they were hired by “the dentist”

Rivera, a lifelong friend of Sigfredo Garcia, cooperated with law enforcement early after his arrest for his participation Markel’s murder and has testified in the prior two trials. Details of his participation are detailed extensively here.

Some highlights of his testimony this year include:

— Katie got the money for the hit job from “the people” — “the dentist” and Wendi, his sister

— His understanding of why he was hired to commit the murder was “to get the kids back,” meaning Wendi’s kids

— The job was in no way related to his gang affiliation

— Cappleman asked if Rivera had gotten any information about Markel’s schedule or address from a blog to which Rivera replied, “The blog was Wendi”

— Katie knew the murder had been done before Garcia called her

— Rivera wanted to go rob Wendi — “the lady” — instead while in Tallahassee, but Garcia insisted that the job had to be done

“The defense is saying that you and Garcia did this on your own,” Cappleman said.

“No!” Rivera said, laughing, “Good one.”

“If you had known that it was the dentist that had the money, would you have been just as likely to rob the dentist?” Cappleman followed.

“Absolutely,” Rivera replied.

Cross-examination and redirect of Rivera will begin on Monday morning.


Florida Politics provides ongoing coverage of the Markel murder case, which is drawing international media attention to Florida’s capital city. Our reporting draws from sources including contributor Cyphers of Sachs Media, who, with attorney Jason Solomon, advocates with the grassroots group “Justice for Dan” to draw attention to the case and provide analysis relevant to Florida’s political, advocacy and legal communities.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


  • Gonzo Mom

    October 27, 2023 at 9:12 pm

    Thank you for this thorough recap!

  • SaveFloridaSprings

    October 27, 2023 at 11:03 pm

    Sincere sympathy for Prof Markel’s family and friends. and for Prof Lacasse.

  • Standard101

    October 28, 2023 at 9:32 am

    Great recap, as always. Very thorough. . Hilarious to hear defense acting indignant that Lacasse didn’t go to the police over something said from the past, yet his whole defense is that his client was being extorted for 9 years but never went to the police or told his family who was in “danger”. Lol. Jeff L was undoubtedly a mark from the beginning it seems. That’s why she kept dating. I didn’t realize the potential first hit was also when he drove out of town. Wow when they said that.

  • Earl Pitts "America's BIG VOICE on The Right" American

    October 28, 2023 at 11:45 am

    Good mornting America,
    I just hope that I, Earl Pitts American, am not whizzing on anybody’s Lucky Charms on this fine Saturday mornting ….
    State Atty Campbell in the liberal district which includes totally liberal Leon County is once again swinging for the fences in his Field of Dreams pea-brain fantasy of getting a big Nationally Covered News Story.
    The 2016 murder is finally being brought to trial seven long years later. So far National News is not helping Campbell achieve his dream.
    And I really hate to bring this “sensative” (to white liberals) truth nugget up …. BUT:
    Had the Markel’s and Adelson’s been Black. And had Dan been a Prof. at predominatly Black FAMU – State Atty Campbell would have wrapped up this case, tied a pretty bow on it, and swept the entire thing under the rug of history FIVE years ago.
    Thank you America,
    *And although my words of truth above are 100% true, I realize most Dook 4 Brains Leftists of “The Causacian Pursuasion” will reject and attempt to censure me because they dont want the pain of the world knowing the truth. I am hopefull these golden nuggets of wisdom from Earl somehow slip thru the nets of censureship.*

  • Timothy Fidler

    October 31, 2023 at 5:39 am

    June denies that the Adelsons ever bought her the aptmtnt in Boca Raton (I have the full address) yet it was bought for cash in 2020 from one J Hirsh . I have been told online that June posted documents in Faceb that showed that her parents had paid for it. I know where Junes FB account is and I can ‘t see anything. Can anyone advise if any such documents exist. Thank you in advance TEF

  • Glad to Win back [Ex][[ Dr.m a c ]],,,,, y a ho o,,,,,co m.........................

    November 7, 2023 at 4:47 am


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