Charlie Adelson gets life sentence for someone else’s problem; Phil Markel moves courtroom to tears

Adelson WPTV
'Thank you. Today is a good day.'

A sister’s fixer sentenced

By all accounts, Charlie Adelson didn’t care too much where his sister Wendi Adelson lived. He had his own life — a lucrative career as a traveling periodontist with side gigs in real estate, investments, steroid peddling, and more; a Ferrari, a limo, and a boat; a house with a pool and hot tub on the Ft. Lauderdale intercoastal; plenty of girlfriends, and plenty of time to enjoy it all.

Charlie was encouraging of Wendi’s deep desire to leave Tallahassee, sure, but it wasn’t really his problem when the divorce court conclusively ruled that Wendi (or rather, the two children she shared with Dan Markel) would have to stay in Leon County as long as Markel himself was living there.

Relocation was Wendi’s problem, but by extension, a source of great stress for their mother Donna Adelson, who desperately wanted Wendi and her grandsons to live near her in South Florida.

A few months after this ruling, in late fall 2013, Wendi seemed resigned to the fact that she’d have to stay put (or, at least, was putting on the appearance of such), and started looking at real estate in Tallahassee. But on Oct. 31, 2013, Charlie convinced her to put the brakes on those plans, and Wendi “pulled the plug” on the purchase of a home. He reported this change of heart to Donna, who responded with much delight.

It turns out that Oct. 31 was the same day Charlie first conspired with Katherine Magbanua to solicit hit men to kill his former brother-in-law. With this plan in motion, there would be no sense in Wendi buying a house in Tallahassee. Indeed, immediately after Markel was murdered by contract killers in July 201, Wendi moved to Miami, first into a luxurious South Beach condo with her parents and then very nearby.

Wendi changed the last name of the boys from Markel to Adelson. The hit men moved on with their lives, and Charlie with his. Charlie fathered a son of his own, although he wasn’t burdened by having to be a full-time father, and the family’s fortunes grew. The lives that Wendi, Donna, and Charlie had envisioned for themselves — without an inconvenient Markel in the picture — all seemed to be very much fulfilled.

But the cost was great.

First, the hit men got arrested. One of them — Luis Rivera — confessed pretty quickly about who hired him and Sigfredo Garcia to drive from Miami to Tallahassee to kill Markel, and why they had done so.

“The lady wanted her kids back,” said Rivera of Wendi, who he knew of as “the dentist’s” sister. Later, in Charlie’s trial, when asked if they’d received information about Markel’s whereabouts from a blog, Rivera replied that, “Wendi was the blog.”

Then, Magbanua — the middleman — was arrested. Then Charlie. And just weeks ago, Donna.

Wendi herself has been named as an unindicted co-conspirator in Markel’s murder, and Harvey — for whatever his role was — surely lives with the cloud of his family’s deeds hanging over his every move.

But despite the consequences it has brought to their lives, these members of the conspiracy aren’t actually the victims of this crime. Rather, the victims are members of Markel’s family and friend circles — none more so than his sons, Benjamin and Lincoln, his sister Shelly and her husband and children, and his parents Ruth and Phil.

The victim’s father speaks

To a silent, attentive courtroom, Phil read his family’s victim impact statement via Zoom. It was the first time Phil had made such a remark. He began by recounting Dan’s birth — at 10 pounds — an experience Phil was lucky to be witness to.

“My son had incredible intelligence, energy, and warmth,” the heartbroken father said. “He loved to socialize, dance, cook, entertain, and play sports and dedicated himself wholeheartedly to everything he did.”

Phil continued about how Dan’s “desire of improvement and commitment to excellence was a defining characteristic of his short life” and commended how Dan had become an influential legal scholar and full-tenured law professor, highly unusual at his age.

But beyond being a prolific writer and thinker, Phil described Dan’s greatest joy as being a father.

“Danny’s marriage produced two boys, Benjamin and Lincoln, who were his absolute world and the love of his life. Dan arranged his entire life around these two boys,” Phil said, sharing how Dan would even meet his sons for breakfast at preschool, sit in their circle and read and tell stories there.

Despite the distance to his family in Canada, “Dan felt the boys had to know and be a part of the family.” He would Skype with his father over dinner, tablet at the table, so they could all be together even from afar.

“Dan’s life was abruptly cut short, and he was abruptly taken from me, his boys and the rest of his family, friends and colleagues. My life has been in total disarray since Dan’s murder. Many nights I wake up in the middle of the night in terrible sweat with thoughts of Dan’s murder and all that has happened,” Phil continued about the unthinkable pain he must live with every day. “I miss him with all my heart.”

Compounding the Markels’ tragedy of losing Dan, they have also lost a meaningful connection with his sons.

“Danny is never coming back. We continue to hope and pray for justice and a return to normalcy of playing a role in the lives of our two grandsons. We still do not have a meaningful relationship with them. Visits are limited and very controlled. For six years we were denied any and all visits with the boys,” Phil shared, going on to explain how they’ve only been allowed two limited, supervised visits in the last two years. “Not only have I lost my son, but I have effectively lost two of my grandkids as well. Even their family names have been changed from Markel to Adelson.”

While the family fought successfully for the passage of the Markel Act, to expand options for grandparents to petition courts for visitation, “our relationship with Ben and Lincoln has not been materially improved,” Phil said. “In my opinion, Wendi was focused on improving her public image” through and after the passage of the bill and has only extended invitations to satisfy her ability to publicly claim a repaired connection.

As evidence of this duplicity, Phil shared how the Markels had initially been invited to the ceremonial portion of Benjamin’s 2022 bar mitzvah, albeit not the party afterward. But immediately after Charlie’s arrest, “Wendi rescinded the invitation to the bar mitzvah.” Wendi had told the Markels that given the arrest, she would be postponing or canceling the event — but that didn’t happen. Instead, the Adelsons went on to have a large party — all without the Markel family’s presence or participation.

“Missing out on this important part of Ben’s life was painful,” Phil said before sharing how the family is expecting a similar lack of invitation to Lincoln’s bar mitzvah this year. “I have very little hope that we will be allowed to participate.”

Beyond the impact on himself, Dan’s mother, and sister, Phil lamented that “Ben and Lincoln must go through their lives without their father, who loved them with all his being” and that the two boys have been “deprived of Dan’s entire family.”

“I truly believe they have been brainwashed,” the grandfather said of what the boys must think of their father and his family, before turning to what happens from here, and what the family hopes for Charlie’s sentencing.

“Both Ruth and I are approaching 80 years of age. The wheels of justice turn very slowly, but so far, we are grateful they are still turning. The Adelson family, in particular, Charlie Adelson, has been a major part of our heartbreak, the loss of Danny, and our two grandsons. We ask for the maximum sentence,” Phil said. “Thank you. Today is a good day.”

People wiped quiet tears in the gallery, but Charlie was stoic as Phil spoke. Unlike Donna, who yesterday was visibly and verbally emotive throughout her arraignment, Charlie was still. But even knowing his fate was sealed already by the state’s mandatory life sentence for this conviction, Charlie did offer one remark of his own. Standing, Charlie said, “I’d just like to say, I maintain my innocence.”

Assistant State Attorney Georgia Cappleman followed, asking Judge Stephen Everett for maximum and consecutive sentences for counts two and three, conspiracy and solicitation.

Charlie’s lawyer, Daniel Rashbaum — who had previously represented Donna and Harvey and still appears to aid in their defense — also spoke briefly. “We understand the situation,” he told Everett. “We ask that the counts be brought concurrently.”

That’s not what happened.

“I am going to adjudicate you guilty of all three at this time,” Judge Everett said, “You are sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of release or parole” followed by consecutive, maximum sentences of 30 years for solicitation and 30 years for conspiracy.

Charlie continued to stand; little emotion visible. Perhaps he was feeling remorse — not about the impact of this crime on the Markel family, but on his own.

How did Wendi’s relocation problem turn into something that Charlie would compromise his own life to solve? How can Wendi move on with her own life — perhaps even becoming the trustee of the family’s millions, largely earned by Charlie himself — while Charlie’s biggest satisfaction will now come from a limited prison commissary?

These are questions Charlie will now have the rest of his life to contemplate. Or rather, the rest of his life, plus 60 years in whatever version of the afterlife follows.


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 Karen 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.


  • Sonja Fitch

    December 13, 2023 at 1:41 pm

    Money and Power killed a man and destroyed his family. Justice done!

  • DGV

    December 14, 2023 at 1:51 pm

    One of the most thoughtful articles written on this case. His involvement, given what he had and that he wasn’t directly impacted, defies logic. The result is one step closer to justice, but certainly not the end of the road.

  • Mrs. G

    December 14, 2023 at 3:57 pm

    The whole thing is a tragedy all around. Let’s all try to do better.

  • Sean

    December 14, 2023 at 9:25 pm

    Bad bad bad mother. She made Charlie act the man, got his sister former husband killed. Problem started.

  • Cecelia Duncan

    December 15, 2023 at 7:55 am

    What a WICKED family! To deprive the Markels of not being at their gransons bar mitzvah is a total slap in the face to Dan’s parents! I now do not have ANY sympathy for Wendi Adelson,
    and I see WHY the post about her have been EXTREMELY critical. Granted, I understand she’s under the BAD influence of an evil, vicious, WITCH of a mother, but when is she going to GROW up and face the reality of her mothers HORRIBLE effect on her life, Charlie’s life, her sons life, and the Markel’s lives? It’s already DEVESTATING that they lost their son, Dan Markel, to murder. But like Dan’s father said in his impact statement, they have lost, to a certain degree, the very IMPORTANT connection to their grandsons! Donna Adelson is a family annihilator who destroyed, not only her own family, but the lives of others also. I hope the court puts ALL of the Adelsons in jail and gives the boys to the Markels. This is the only satisfying ending to this saga.

  • Michelle P

    December 15, 2023 at 8:06 pm

    Excellent article that articulates the bizarre dynamics of the Adelson family.
    I do wonder how they rationalize it all, if they think it was all worth it just to get Dan out of their lives? How do you go on with your lives (religious lives at that) knowing you had someone murdered? Baffling. .

Comments are closed.


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