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NEW VIDEO: Katherine Magbanua and others take the stand in Charlie Adelson murder trial

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Posted at 8:54 AM, Oct 30, 2023

TALLAHASSE, Fla. (WTXL) — ABC 27's Kendall Brandt is in the courtroom for opening statements and witness testimony in the trial of Charlie Adelson. He is accused of hiring hitmen to murder FSU Law professor Dan Markel in 2014 in his Betton Hills home during a custody dispute between Markel and Adelson's sister, Wendi.

Click here for our coverage from when Adelson was arrested last year.

UPDATE 10/30/2023 3:55 P.M.

Tallahassee Police Sargent Chris Corbitt took the stand. He worked on this case.

He explained parts of the investigation that lead them to Adelson.

UPDATE 10/30/2023 3:30 P.M.

Sargent Corey Hale took the stand. He worked on investigating the murder of Markel.

He said Jeffrey Lacasse, Wendi Adelson's boyfriend around the time of the murder, told TPD that Wendi Adelson told him she was going for a "...celebration dinner..." a week after his initial interview with police.

UPDATE 10/30/2023 2:23 P.M.

The prosecution called a financial expert, Mary Hull, to the stand. She was a financial investigator for Florida’s Department of Financial Services in 2016.

Hull reviewed the incomes of Charlie, Donna, Harvey and Wendi Adelson. She also looked over any income received by Katherine Magbanua.

She said she also reviewed checks given to Magbanua from the Adelson Institute.

Hull also detailed purchases made by the people involved in the murder. First, she started with Rivera.

She said Rivera bought two vehicles in July 2014. Hull also said Rivera no longer took large sums of cash out of his bank account until four months after the murder.

Next, the questioning focused on Garcia. Hull said he bought three vehicles in the months after the murder in 2014.

The state then asked about Magbanua. Hull said she received 44 checks from the Adelson Institute all signed by Donna Adelson, Charlie Adelson's mother.

UPDATE 10/30/2023 12:20 P.M.

The state called another Adelson Institute employee to the stand. Erika Johnson said she worked there for about 11 years.

She said she worked at the front desk and also worked as Adelson's assistant.

She said she knew Katherine Magbanua as a patient and Adelson's girlfriend. Johnson said she never knew Magbanua to work at the dental practice.

UPDATE 10/30/2023 12:09 P.M.

An employee of the Adelson Institute, Clariza Lebredo, took the stand. She said she has known the Adelson family for over 40 years.

Assistant State Attorney Sarah Dugan asked her if she knew Katherine Magbanua, Charlie's girlfriend, who has been convicted of the murder of Markel. Lebredo said yes.

She testified that she knew Magbanua as a one-time patient at the dental office.

UPDATE 10/30/2023 11:08 A.M.

The defense got their chance to cross-examine Katherine Magbanua. She was dating Charlie Adelson at the time of the murder. The prosecution claims that Magbanua solicited help from Luis Rivera and Sigfredo Garica to murder Markel at Adelson's request.

Dan Rashbaum, Adelson's attorney, asked her if Adelson was involved. She said she would not give up Adelson in her trial because it would involve giving the father of her children, Sigfredo Garcia, who pulled the trigger on July 18, 2014 in Dan Markel's garage.

Rashbaum then pressed Magbanua about a pending appeal she has pending in her case in Leon County. He claims that her only two ways out of prison: "...in a casket..." or by turning on Adelson.

The defense then turned their attention to interviews Magbanua gave to police, the state attorney's office and the FBI. Rashbaum claims that she lied several times during her conversations with law enforcement.

Magbanua said she lied because she was trying to protect herself.

"This is something I have suppressed for a long time, sir," Magbanua said.

Rashbaum also asked Magbanua if she received cash payments of $2,000 dollars each month on top of checks from the Adelson Institute. She said those payments were not made to her.

Magbanua said she was sleeping with Garcia at the same time she was dating Adelson.

UPDATE 10/30/2023 10:18 A.M.

Katherine Magbanua has been called to testify. She was dating Charlie Adelson at the time of the murder. The prosecution claims that Magbanua solicited help from Luis Rivera and Sigfredo Garica to murder Markel at Adelson's request.

Magbanua said she lied when she took the stand in her own trial. She said she was in middle of Adelson and the hitmen.

"The truth needs to come out," Magbanua said.

Dressed in prison clothing, Magbanua testified that Adelson said his mother was not eating or sleeping due to her daughter's custody battle with Markel.

She also testified that the father of her children, Garcia, saw Adelson with her. Magbanua said he cut her and Adelson off in his car.

Magbanua testified that Adelson gave her a paper inside a sealed envelope. She said Adelson told her to not touch or open it. She also testified that the defendant told her he wore gloves to avoid DNA on the envelope.

Magbanua said she went to Adelson's home the night of the murder. She said he was in a frantic state when she got there and had a gun in his hand.

The witness also testified that she received payment for the murder the morning after. Magbanua said the money was wet and moldy. She testified that she believed at the time Charlie's parents washed it.

Georgia Cappleman, the prosecutor on the case, then moved on to ask Magbanua about "the bump." She is referring to when a FBI special agent went undercover to speak with the Adelson family about the crime. The agent posed as an associate of Luis Rivera that claimed he didn't get his cut for the murder.

Magbanua said she spoke with no one but Adelson about the bump. She also reviewed the transcript of a recorded conversation she had with Adelson in 2016 at a pizza restaurant. She said the transcript was accurate.

Cappleman also presented the jury and Magbanua with a list of code words the state claims Adelson used in conversations with Magbanua. When Cappleman showed the list of code words and meanings to Magbanua, she said it was accurate.

UPDATE 10/30/2023 9:10 A.M.

The prosecution questioned Rivera. Prosecutor Georgia Cappleman asked Rivera if he knew for sure Garcia was lying to him. Rivera said no.

The assistant state attorney then asked Rivera if Garcia ever mentioned "the dentist" when traveling to Tallahassee for the murder.

"He said nothing about him," Rivera said.

UPDATE 10/30/2023 9:07 A.M.

Luis Rivera took the stand for his second day of testimony. The defense is pressing Rivera about Garcia and Magbanua's requests when asking Rivera to participate in the shooting.

Rashbaum asked Rivera if it was possible if Sigfredo Garcia, who was convicted of murder in 2019, lied to him about seeing Wendi on the street.

"Who knows," Rivera said.

The defense claims Sigfredo Garcia tried to run Adelson off the road. Rashbaum said in his opening statement that Garcia hated Adelson because he was dating his high school sweetheart, Katherine Magbanua.

Rashbaum asked Rivera if he knew this. He said no.

Rivera said he did not want to kill Markel on his first trip to Tallahassee. He said they saw him with his children. Rivera said this gave him pause.

Rivera then testified him and Garcia went back to Tallahassee on July 18, 2014. He said Garcia pulled the trigger in Markel's garage.