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Crime News Family Crimes

Mom of Dentist Convicted in Brother-in-Law's Murder Plot is Arrested Days After He's Found Guilty

Donna Adelson, 73, has been charged with murder, conspiracy and solicitation in the 2014 death of her son-in-law, Dan Markel, a former Florida State University law professor.

By Gina Salamone
A police handout of Donna Adelson

An elderly Florida woman has been charged in the 2014 death of her former son-in-law, just a week after her own son was convicted in the alleged murder-for-hire plot.

Donna Adelson, 73, was arrested Monday at Miami International Airport — where she and her husband had one-way tickets Vietnam — in connection to the fatal shooting of Florida State University law professor Dan Markel, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

RELATED: Florida Dentist Convicted in 2014 Murder-For-Hire Plot Against Brother-in-Law

What is Donna Adelson charged with in connection to Dan Markel's death?

The Miami resident was taken into custody on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy and solicitation in the shooting death of Markel, the same charges that her dentist son Charles Adelson was convicted of on November 6.

Why was Dan Markel killed?

Markel was shot twice in the head on July 18, 2014 while sitting in his car in the garage at his home. Prosecutors have said that a murder-for-hire plot against him was concocted by family members of his ex-wife, Wendi Adelson, who was involved in a bitter custody battle with Markel over their two kids. Wendi wanted to move with their sons from Tallahassee to South Florida so she could be near her family, prosecutors alleged, but a judge had ruled against her relocation petition.

A Police hand out of Charlie Adelson

Why were Donna Adelson's one-way tickets to Vietnam alarming to authorities? 

The FBI and other law enforcement stopped Adelson and her husband, Harvey Adelson, at the airport, where they were in possession of tickets to Vietnam with a two-day stop in Dubai, according to State Attorney Jack Campbell, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. The U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with Vietnam, meaning the Asian country would have had no obligation to take part in sending Aldelson back to the U.S., had she been charged or found guilty of any extraditable offenses.

Campbell told the Democrat that the planned Vietnam trip prompted authorities “to make a decision quickly" on Adelson's arrest, and speed up the state's timing even though they say they'd already had enough evidence to take her into custody.

“That’s what forced our hand,” Campbell told the news outlet. "We started talking to some of our law enforcement partners about the complexities of trying to bring someone back from either Dubai or Vietnam. And that might be a very complicated and lengthy process. So that’s why we had to make a decision quickly."

RELATED: Woman Receives Life In Murder-For-Hire Plot To Kill Her Ex's Former Brother-In-Law

The state attorney added that Adelson's attempt to get on a flight to Vietnam flight would be used in court if her case goes to trial. Adelson's efforts to try to leave the U.S. on Monday came two days before a grand jury was set to meet at the Leon County Courthouse. Campbell told the Democrat that first-degree murder charges must go through a grand jury. 

Court records released Tuesday and obtained by the Democrat include phone calls between Adelson and her son Charles after his conviction. According to the affidavit, the calls, which were monitored, included conversations "in which Donna Sue Adelson is telling Charles Adelson that she is getting things in order, creating trusts, and making sure her grandchildren are taken care of." The court records also state that, "Donna discusses plans for a suicide, but also discusses plans to flee to a non-extradition country," according to the Democrat.

Campbell said that there's not enough evidence to arrest Adelson's husband, Harvey. 

Police handouts of Charlie Adelson and Katherine Magbanua

Four others have already been convicted in Dan Markel's murder

Charles was found guilty of the murder-for-hire plot of his brother-in-law on November 6, and faces up to life in prison. Prosecutors alleged he'd paid Sigfredo Garcia and Luis Rivera to kill Markel, and that Charles' then-girlfriend, Katherine Magbanua, put him in touch with the men. 

RELATED: Florida Woman Guilty In Professor’s 'Barbaric' 2014 Murder-For-Hire Slaying

Magbanua was found guilty last year of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation of murder and sentenced to life in prison, plus two 30-year sentences that would run consecutively with the life term. Garcia was convicted in 2019 of first-degree murder in the plot, along with conspiracy to commit murder, and was sentenced to life in prison. Rivera took a plea deal on second-degree murder charges in 2016 in exchange for testifying against Magbanua and Garcia, and he was sentenced to 19 years in prison in the case.

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