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Florida Grandmother's Wild Arrest in Murder-For-Hire Plot of Law Professor Seen in New Bodycam Footage

“The jetway takedown was a free-for-all: Donna trying to resist, the FBI agent grabbing her phone from her in a scuffle that ended with the mother in handcuffs,” said Dateline correspondent Dennis Murphy.

By Jill Sederstrom
Dan Markel featured on Dateline

This modern day Shakespearian tale showcasing the depth one wealthy Florida family was willing to go to in order to get what they wanted has a wild new chapter. 

An all-new Dateline NBC, airing Friday, January 19 at 9/8c, will include newly obtained police footage of Florida grandmother Donna Adelson being arrested at the airport as she’s trying to flee the country.

What happened as Florida grandmother Donna Adelson was arrested in Dan Markel's murder?

“The jetway takedown was a free-for-all: Donna trying to resist, the FBI agent grabbing her phone from her in a scuffle that ended with the mother in handcuffs and enroute to the county jail,” Dateline correspondent Dennis Murphy told NBC Insider. “Now she’s in a Tallahassee lock-up awaiting trial. What a case, what twists and turns all the way through.”

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The shocking arrest is the latest development in the murder-for-hire plot of law professor Dan Markel, who was gunned down at his home in July of 2014. 

Markel’s former brother-in-law, the successful dentist Charlie Adelson, is already behind bars for masterminding the plot, but there’s so much of the story yet to be told.

Dennis Murphy featured on Dateline

As the official synopsis for the episode explains: “Dateline reports on the stunning new twist in the murder-for-hire plot involving a prominent Florida family that left law professor Dan Markel dead and a grandmother arrested. The two-hour special features the latest details following the dramatic trial of Markel’s former brother-in-law Charlie Adelson, as well as newly obtained police bodycam footage of the arrest of Markel’s former mother-in-law Donna Adelson.”

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Donna will now face the same murder charges her son was already convicted of after she was taken down at Miami International Airport trying to board a plane to Vietnam. A preview clip of Friday’s episode includes scenes from the dramatic arrest. 

“It all began like a typical vacation. A pair of senior citizens check their luggage and headed for the gate,” Murphy explains in the preview. “Then a team of federal agents and police officers swarm the jetway.”

Murphy called the latest arrest “the headsnapper” of the nearly 10-year long case that has involved a long and complex list of characters.

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“I hope viewers reflect on some of the Shakespearian passion we touch on here," Murphy told NBC Insider. "How did anger and resentment, that should have ended in divorce court, become one family besieging another? Ending with in-laws killing in-laws. How did hate get so out of control that the brother in law — a successful dentist — engaged a former girlfriend to recruit two hitmen from Miami’s criminal underworld to kill this distinguished law professor and father of his two nephews? Hunted down and shot twice in the head.”

Ruth Markel featured on Dateline

The Dateline episode features interviews with Markel’s parents, Ruth and Phil Markel, friends Josh Berman and David Lat, defense attorney Dan Rashbaum, and others.

The story is more than just a “police procedural,” according to Murphy, but is “about probing the darkest recesses of the human mind in search of an answer to that all but unanswerable question: Why?”  

It’s a story Dateline has covered before, but Friday’s episode will include new details and footage chronicling the latest chapter in the dark tale.

“Trust me, you haven’t heard most of this before! And it’s not over yet,” Murphy said. “The shoes may very well keep dropping. Stay tuned.”

Watch Dateline’s new two-hour “Family Matters” episode Friday, January 19 at 9/8c on NBC, or stream it the following day on Peacock.

And for more Dateline, sign up for the show's official newsletter and check out its podcast.

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