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‘20/20’ investigates Florida dentist who hired hit men to kill his ex-brother-in-law

Friday’s episode of ‘20/20’ covers Charles Adelson, who was convicted this week of orchestrating the murder of his former brother-in-law, Dan Markel

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Charlie Adelson rubs his face during his trial for the murder of Dan Markel.

Charlie Adelson rubs his face during his trial for the murder of Dan Markel on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, in Tallahassee, Fla. Adelson, a Florida dentist on trial in a murder-for-hire case involving the 2014 slaying of his ex-brother-in-law, claims he was a victim of extortion by the killers.

Alicia Devine, Tallahassee Democrat via Associated Press

Friday’s episode of “20/20” details the murder of Dan Markel, who was gunned down at his Florida home in 2014 by two hit men hired by his former brother-in-law.

The release of “First Divorced. Then Dead” comes as the case is experiencing a surge in media coverage. “20/20” often investigates older cases, but Friday’s episode comes just days after the man charged with orchestrating Markel’s murder, Charles Adelson, was convicted, per CNN.

Who was Dan Markel?

Dan Markel was a law professor at Florida State University in Tallahassee, per The Associated Press. Prior to his death, he was embroiled in a custody battle with his ex-wife, Wendi Adelson, over their two children. Wendi was from South Florida and hoped to move home with her children after her divorce, but a judge ruled she could not relocate without Markel’s consent.

On July 18, 2014, Markel was shot twice in the head while in his car outside his home and died shortly after at a hospital, per ABC.

Investigators looked into Markel’s ex-wife and her family and learned that Wendi’s brother, Charles Adelson, had made threats against Markel’s life in the past, per ABC. However, they were unable to immediately find incriminating evidence against him and continued their investigation. 

In May 2016, police charged Luis Rivera and Sigfredo Garcia with Markel’s murder, per ABC. Investigators soon learned that Garcia’s former girlfriend, Katie Magbanua, had dated Charlie Adelson from 2013 to 2015, and Rivera alleged Magbanua had put him in contact with Adelson to commit the murder.

Who is Charles Adelson?

Charles “Charlie” Adelson is a dentist from Miami. According to The Associated Press, he testified in court that his family had offered Markel $1 million to let his sister, Wendi, move home to South Florida with the couple’s children.

Prosecutors argued that Adelson had hired Rivera and Garcia to kill Markel in order to ensure his sister would have full custody of her children. They also alleged that the Adelsons’ mother, Donna, played a role in the scheme, per the Tallahassee Democrat.

During the trial, Charles Adelson claimed he was a victim of extortion and had not asked Rivera and Garcia to kill anyone, per The Associated Press. But he was ultimately convicted of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and solicitation of first-degree murder on Monday afternoon.

Adelson’s sentencing date is set for Dec. 12. According to CNN, his first-degree murder conviction carries a mandatory life sentence. 

Friday night’s “20/20” episode, “First Divorced. Then Dead,” will premiere at 7 p.m. MST on ABC and will be available for streaming on Hulu on Saturday.