NEW VIDEO: Luis Rivera takes the stand in Charlie Adelson murder trial

Posted at 8:43 AM, Oct 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-27 18:40:58-04

TALLAHASSEE, 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 10/27/2023 3:05 P.M.

Jeff Lacasse came back on the stand and told the jury that Wendi said Charlie looked at hiring a hitman to "take care of the Danny Markel problem."

Lacasse said it was not a joke.

"This was serious," Lacasse said.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 2:57 P.M.

Wendi Adelson was called back to the stand. She denies Jeff Lacasse's claim that she said Adelson explored "all options" when taking care of their problem with Markel.

Wendi also said Charlie and her never called the dinner a celebration dinner to Lacasse.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 2:53 P.M.

The defense is cross-examining Umchinda.

Rashbaum asked if she knew or spoke to him or anyone else on the legal team prior to the trial. She said no.

Rashbaum said Adelson started putting a gun in his bedroom after Markel's murder.

Umchinda said she felt safe in Charlie Adelson's home.

She said no. Umchinda said death threats Adelson received made her nervous.

"I kind of felt unsafe with people recognizing us," Umchinda said.

Rashbaum asked Umchinda if Adelson has ever told her to lie. She initially said yes. She clarified and said she thought he was asking if he ever told her lies.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 2:36 P.M.

June Umchinda was called to the stand. She was Adelson's girlfriend at the time of the arrest.

There was a brief recess. The state could not find June Umchinda in the courthouse.

Umchinda entered the courtroom around 1:44 p.m.

She said she met Adelson in 2015.

Umchinda said they broke up in 2017 but she spoke with him the day before the arrest. She said she still has feelings for him.

Umchinda said she was confused for Magbanua by a reporter in June. That's when she learned about the murder.

Umchinda said Adelson told her not to talk to the police.

Umchinda said she saw Magbanua's name come up on his phone around this time.

Adelson's ex-girlfriend said she was not aware of Magbanua was working for the Adelson Institute at the time they were dating.

Umchinda said Adelson slept in a bedroom with a gun. She testified that he had a safe, stapled money and that "...hundreds were like ones to him."

Umchinda said Adelson was not speaking with Wendi because of something about the case.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 1:35 P.M.

Rashbaum started crossing Webster at 1:33 p.m.

He said he did many criminal defense cases in the past but not many divorces.

Rashbaum asked Webster if he saw that Markel's lawyer quit eventually.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 1:31 P.M.

The state called Stephen Webster to the stand. Webster was Markel's attorney at the time handling his custody battle.

Webster said he spoke with Markel the morning of the murder.

He said he took the case for Markel because he thought Wendi should be held in contempt based on information from Markel.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 11:54 A.M.

Defense attorney Rashbaum moved on to asking Lacasse about his knowledge of the divorce filings.

He asked Lacasse what his thoughts were on the custody filing Markel made about Wendi's parents.

He ended his cross. Capplemen went back to the lecturn. She asked if Lacasse knew if Charlie Adelson or Katherine Magbanua conspired to murder Dan Markel. He said no.

The jury was then released for lunch.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 11:47 A.M.

The defense cross-examined Lacasse again. He asked if Katherine Magbanua was trying to get Wendi to give information about her divorce and Markel.

Rashbaum asked if Lacasse texted Charlie after meeting. Lacasse said yes. The defense attorney then asked if Lacasse likes to "hang out with the criminal element."

Lacasse responded by saying that he was just texting him to be polite to his new girlfriend's brother.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 11:39 A.M.

Lacasse said Wendi told him that Adelson looked at "all possible options" to "take care of the Dan Markel problem" the year prior.

"She was dead serious about it," Lacasse said. "I had a reaction to it. My stomach flipped."

Rashbaum asked why Lacasse did not go to the police.

Lacasse said he did not know it was a present threat. He said he even consulted a friend.

"Maybe I should have called the police," Lacasse said.

Rashbaum is asking why Lacasse did not go to the police. Lacasse said he did not know it was a present threat.

Rashbaum finished his cross.

Cappleman asked Rashbaum if there were any other issues. The defense attorney said yes. He also filed a motion in limine about the "celebration dinner."

The issue here is that Wendi said the dinner was never called a celebration dinner by her or Charlie. The witness, Lacasse, contradicted that statement.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 11:22 A.M.

Everett is not going to allow impeachment of Wendi's testimony at this time.

He said the motion in limine filed by the defense did not pertain to impeachment. The judge said the motion in limine only applied to substantive evidence. However, he said the contradiction of Lacasse and Adelson impacted the defense's strategy.

Lacassee is coming back to the stand.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 11:03 A.M.

Jeff Lacasse took the stand. He dated Wendi Adelson at the time of the custody battle.

He said he went on a group date with Katherine Magbanua, Charlie Adelson and Wendi.

Lacasse notes hearing about Magbanua's ex, Sigfredo Garcia, having a criminal record.

"I did raise my eyebrows at that," Lacasse said.

After, Lacasse testified that Charlie seemed to brag about knowing criminals.

"He mentioned having contacts on both sides of the tracks," Lacasse said. "He also had people he knew that were criminal."

Lacasse said the custody battle weighed on Wendi while they were dating.

He said she was a "...nervous wreck..." on the night of June 2, 2014 when she came to his home.

He also noted the state of a broken TV Wendi had around the time of the murder.

Lacasse said the broken TV looked like someone punched it or something was thrown at it.

Cappleman then moved on to asking him about a fight Wendi and Lacasse had in a hotel in Gainesville.

Lacasse said he had heard she was seeing other men. He said she had made promises to her like him moving in and having her children call him "daddy."

Cappleman asked about the last couple of times he saw her before the murder.

Lacasse said they went to a movie and back to her home on July 13, 2014.

Lacasse said she had a serious tone and relocation was a topic.

Cappleman asked what she said. Lacasse went on to say she asked him, "Can I tell you something in confidence?"

Rashbaum stood up to object via motion in limine, meaning he is requesting to exclude witness testimony from Lacasse.

Cappleman is suggesting Wendi Adelson's testimony may be impeached.

Rashbaum said the claim is based on double-hearsay and cannot be impeached.

"I've been jumping up and down to avoid a mistrial," Rashbaum said.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 10:22 A.M.

The jury returned from a bathroom break.

TPD Officer Bill Brannon just took the stand. He wrote the incident report the day of the shooting.

Brannon says the scene was blocked off from a couple of homes down and at Trescott and Centerville Road.

Cappleman asked if Wendi driving up by the scene would have been seen nearby.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 10:05 A.M.

Cappleman asked if she was upset that her brother never told her that someone else had allegedly killed her brother.

"I am more mad about someone murdering the father of my children," Wendi said.

Wendi Adelson left the stand just after 10 a.m. Cappleman said she could be called back at another point in the trial.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 10:02 A.M.

Cappleman asked about Wendi's thoughts on Ruth Markel asking the court to consider options if Wendi was arrested. She said she was upset Ruth Markel was trying to put her children in foster care.

"I know that my children don't belong in foster care," Wendi said.

Cappleman said they only suggested foster care in for the time it took for the Markel parents to fly to Florida.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 9:58 A.M.

Cappleman asked Wendi about a book she wrote during her marriage to Markel. The book was about a lawyer who married a college professor and ended up unhappy in her marriage. She asked if the town in the book, Hiawassee Springs, was modeled after Tallahassee.

Later, Wendi said she was not familiar with the indictment against her brother. Cappleman had her look at the charges.

Cappleman asked about the FBI bump, where a FBI agent posed as a blackmailer. Wendi said her mom or brother did not call her to talk about the run-in.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 9:48 A.M.

Wendi said she restricted access to her children from the Markel Family after she said Ruth Markel inquired about getting custody in case Wendi was arrested.

"I was afraid they were going to put my children in foster care," Wendi said.

Rashbaum then ended his cross shortly after.

Prosecutor Georgia Cappleman asked her about her plans to move to Tallahassee. She asked if she bought a home or rented one. Wendi said no. Wendi said she left because she felt unsafe.

Cappleman then moved on to ask her about a book she had written during her marriage with Markel.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 9:37 A.M.

The defense attorney asked if Wendi Adelson had seen that Trescott Drive, the street Dan Markel's home was on, was blocked with crime scene tape the day of the murder. Wendi said yes.

Wendi testified that she went to the ABC Liquors on Thomasville Road and went through Trescott to get there. She said then saw the crime scene tape.

Wendi said this explains the bourbon found in her passenger seat the day of the murder.

She then said she went to a restaurant with friends where police then notified her of the shooting.

Rashbaum asked Wendi if she cooperated. She testified that her computer, phone and car were searched. She was interviewed and checked for gunshot residue.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 9:27 A.M.

Rashbaum asked Wendi if she remembers dropping the children off at school the day before the murder. She had to refresh her memory, but said yes. She also said Markel picked the children up at the end of the day at 4:45 p.m.

Rashbaum then asked Wendi if she would have been seen in the area of the home with the children on this afternoon. She said no.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 9:23 A.M.

Rashbaum asked Wendi if her address was publicly listed at the time of the murder.

"I think so," she said.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 9:18 A.M.

Defense attorney Dan Rashbaum asked Wendi Adelson if she knew Sigfredo Garcia had watched a dinner she had in 2014 with a man she was dating at the time, Charlie and Katherine Magbanua. She said no.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 9:14 A.M.

Wendi Adelson said she planned a birthday party for her son for early August of 2014.

Rashbaum also asked her if she planned on going on a trip to New Jersey for a wedding. Wendi says that was the case. The defense attorney asked her after, "Why did you make your flight return to Tallahassee?"

"Because that's where I lived," Wendi said.

Prosecutor Georgia Cappleman grilled Wendi Thursday asking why she moved down to South Florida so quickly after the murder.

Cappleman also asked Wendi if she felt trapped in Tallahassee. She said no.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 9:00 A.M.

During cross-examination, Wendi Adelson testified that she was planning on speaking at a FSU convocation in August 2014. She said her brother was excited. Rashbaum asked her if he described it as "...(profanity) awesome." Wendi said yes.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 8:58 A.M.

Wendi Adelson is being cross-examined by defense attorney Dan Rashbaum. He asked her if she remembers actively dating in Tallahassee at the time of the murder. She said she used online dating websites and set up dates for the weeks after the murder.

Wendi also was asked if she looked for homes in the area. She told Rashbaum that she looked at 40 open houses in Tallahassee in 2014.

This follows yesterday's examination by Prosecutor Georgia Cappleman where she asked Wendi specific details about a home she had placed an offer on and backed out. Wendi responded by saying she did not remember what happened with the home sale falling through. Wendi said the house could have been too much for her to afford.

UPDATE 10/27/2023 8:40 A.M.

Wendi Adelson arrived at the courthouse around 8:30 a.m. She is set continue her testimony for a second day in the trial.

Wendi is the sister of Charlie Adelson, the man being accused of the murder.

Wendi was married to Dan Markel. The couple officially divorced a year before his murder.