Florida dentist gets life in prison in death of his ex-brother-in-law, a prominent professor

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A judge sentenced a South Florida dentist to life in prison on Tuesday in the shooting death of his former brother-in-law, a prominent professor at Florida State University, following a bitter custody battle.

Charlie Adelson, 47, was found guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy and solicitation last month in the 2014 killing of Dan Markel, who was gunned down in his car outside his Tallahassee home. Prosecutors contended that Adelson paid to have Markel killed, and jurors took just three hours to find him guilty.

“I would just like to say that I maintain my innocence,” a stoic Adelson told the judge, who also sentenced him to 30 consecutive years on the lesser counts.

Prosecutors laid out a case of wire taps and secretly recorded conversations that implicated Adelson during the eight-day trial.

Markel’s father, Phil Markel, said he and his family have “suffered tremendously” adding that he not only lost his son, but also lost a relationship with his grandsons, who were 3 and 4 years old when their father was killed.

Their mother — Adelson’s sister Wendi Adelson, who has denied involvement and has not been charged — shared custody of the boys since her divorce from Markel. She wanted to move from Tallahassee to South Florida to be closer to her family, but a judge had ruled that she couldn’t relocate without Markel’s consent, and he refused because he didn't want the children to move so far away.

Prosecutors told jurors that Adelson used his girlfriend, Katherine Magbanua, to hire the father of her two children, Sigfredo Garcia, to commit the murder. They said Garcia in turn enlisted the help of his childhood friend, Luis Rivera. Magbanua and Garcia are now serving life sentences for first-degree murder, and Rivera is serving a 19-year sentence after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for testifying against them.

Adelson testified that prosecutors got the facts of the case wrong. He told jurors that he felt a sense of relief to finally tell the public that he was a victim of extortion and not the mastermind of a murder plot.

In a twist, the 73-year-old matriarch of the Adelson family was arrested at Miami International Airport on charges of orchestrating the hit-man murder of her ex-son-in-law, one week after her son was convicted in Tallahassee. Donna Adelson was about to use one-way tickets to board a flight to Dubai and Vietnam, countries that do not have an extradition treaty with the United States.

She remained held without bond in the Leon County Jail on Tuesday. Jail records don't list an attorney for her. She faces the same charges her son was convicted on.