In a courtroom in Tallahassee, Florida, a South Florida dentist named Charlie Adelson took the stand on Thursday to defend himself against charges in a murder-for-hire case. Adelson, whose sister Wendi was engaged in a contentious custody battle with Florida State University professor Daniel Markel, claimed that he was a victim of extortion by the killers and had no involvement in the plot to kill Markel.
Adelson testified that his ex-girlfriend, Katherine Magbanua, informed him that her ex-boyfriend had committed the crime and was now demanding over $300,000 from Adelson or else he would be killed as well. Adelson adamantly refused to be part of such a scheme, stating, “I’m not going to be part of paying for a murder. This is insane.” He believed that he was being extorted by Magbanua.
The custody battle between Wendi Adelson and Daniel Markel had been a source of intense conflict. Wendi desired to move the children to South Florida to be closer to her family, but a judge ruled against her, preventing the relocation. Markel refused to move to South Florida. It was during this time that Adelson’s family offered Markel $1 million to move, with Adelson offering to pay one-third of the cost. Adelson shared these details and the contentious custody battle with Magbanua, who he was dating at the time.
According to Adelson’s testimony, Magbanua asked if he would need to take out a loan to pay his share, to which he replied that he could simply write a check. Adelson also claimed to have made a joke about buying his sister a $5,000 television instead of hiring a hitman. However, he emphasized that it was only a bad joke and that he never intended to hire a hitman.
When Magbanua informed Adelson that her friend had killed Markel, she stated that it was because she had shared the details of the custody battle and the $1 million payment offer. Adelson recalled her saying, “Listen, this is all my fault. I had no idea that anything was going to happen. It was totally my fault.” In response, Adelson gave Magbanua $138,000 in cash from his safe and agreed to pay the killers $3,000 a month. Adelson did not report the situation to the police out of fear for his own safety.
Adelson maintained that he did not believe Magbanua was part of the extortion plot or the murder, but rather was trying to protect him from the killers. He revealed that Magbanua later informed him that she was not receiving any of the extortion money and, despite their breakup, he agreed to give her $1,000 a month to assist with her children’s health insurance.
Prosecutors are scheduled to cross-examine Adelson on Friday as the trial continues.