June 6, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
In the end, we may be able to file this case under the heading “The Atrocities People Commit in Child Custody Cases.” It’s about a murder that occurred in July of 2014. At the time I didn’t post a piece on it because the information connecting the murder to the custody case was far too sketchy to draw conclusions from. But now the police have arrested a man they believe committed the murder and have stated they believe the motive to stem from the custody case. Here’s the latest (Tallahassee Democrat, 6/4/16).
On July 18, 2014, Florida law professor Daniel Markel was gunned down in the driveway of his Tallahassee, Florida home. He and his wife, Wendi Adelson, also a law professor, were in the middle of a divorce and had agreed to a 50/50 split of parenting time for their two children. A family court judge had signed off on their agreement regarding a split of the familial assets.
She filed for divorce on Sept. 10, 2012, and it became final with a marital settlement agreement on July 31, 2013, just less than a year before Markel was killed. The agreement included a 50/50 custody arrangement and shared parenting guidelines. Markel would have to pay Adelson $841 per month as well as a $120,000 lump sum payment. He got the house. Investments accounts, vehicles and other property were divided between the two.
That should have been the end of the case, but sadly, it was only the beginning. From the start, Adelson and her mother and father had shown signs of wanting to control Markel’s access to the children, both during the divorce and afterward. For example, when Daniel returned home from a business trip in September of 2012, he found their house virtually empty. Adelson had removed almost all the furniture and other assets and, of course, the children. She’d also drained the couple’s bank and investment accounts. She left behind only documents related to the divorce case she’d filed.
It took Markel weeks to locate her and the children at her parents’ house in Coral Springs in South Florida.
Following the divorce, in March, 2014, Adelson asked the court to allow her to move to Coral Springs, almost 500 miles from Tallahassee. That would have effectively denied Markel significant time with his kids. The judge denied her motion. There followed increasingly acrimonious motions and countermotions on both sides making it clear that the separation, divorce and custody arrangement had resolved nothing.
Subsequent court filings showed they tussled over everything: financial disclosures, family heirlooms, signing the boys up for soccer, snacks at McDonald’s, how often they Skyped their dad, kindergarten plans.
Their war was waged in back-and-forth court motions, peppered with personal and moral attacks.
The real turmoil centered on where to raise the couple’s children.
Police say email evidence indicates Adelson’s parents, particularly her mother Donna Adelson, wanted her daughter to coerce Markel into allowing the boys to move to South Florida.
A month and a half before the divorce was final, Adelson’s attorney asked that she and the boys be permitted to relocate to Coral Springs. Adelson argued the boys would have familial support there because much of her extended family lived in the area. Also, she was offered a position at a South Florida law firm that offered more pay and opportunity for advancement.
In the filing, Adelson appeared intent to gain majority custody of the children, saying she does not believe that a 50/50 time-sharing arrangement is in the children’s best interest.
That motion was denied by Judge Barbara Hobbs and Markel hit back.
Five months before he’d be killed â€” on Valentine’s Day 2014 â€” Markel went on the offensive.
That day he filed a 14-page motion to enforce financial provisions of the couple’s marital settlement agreement.
Markel claimed Adelson filed a false and misleading financial disclosure form that shorted her assets by more than $240,000. He also said she raided the couple’s safe deposit box, taking a 2-carat diamond ring belonging to Markel’s late great-aunt, a Holocaust survivor.
Adelson, his filing said, was not a helpless character in this drama and she helped herself to over $600,000 in cash, liquid equities and other assets upon separation.
Her wealthy parents, he contended, placed her in a financial cocoon and by paying her legal fees, she was able to take the most aggressive and unsubstantiated legal postures possible.
Adelson of course responded with extreme claims of her own. And Markel upped the ante, this time bringing Adelson’s mother Donna into the game.
Convinced Adelson was limiting his time with and access to the children, on March 26, 2014, Markel had his attorney file a 16-page motion seeking to enforce parenting rules detailed in their divorce agreement.
In it, amid a litany of accusations concerning the boys’ day-to-day lives, Adelson’s mother, Donna, was targeted.
The motion calls Donna Adelson a source of "parental alienation efforts," and condemns his ex-wife for violating their parenting agreement by letting her mother take care of the boys without first asking if Markel could watch them.
The motion asserted that on three occasions, after the children spent time with Donna Adelson, the boys reported to Markel, Grandma says you’re stupid. When Markel asked why she would say that, the boys replied, She says you are trying to take her ˜Sunshines” from her.
As a result, Markel, among enforcement of several aspects of their parenting plan, asked the court to prohibit Donna Adelson from having unsupervised time with the boys.
Those motions were never heard. Daniel Markel was murdered before the judge could make a ruling.
Now the police believe that the battle over parenting time that was brewing provided the motive for murder. But who committed the murder? Certainly not Wendi Adelson nor her mother.
Tallahassee police have arrested Sigfredo Garcia in the killing and suspect and gang leader Luis Rivera as his accomplice. Interestingly, the affidavit supporting the arrest notes that Garcia is the father of the children of one Katherine Magbanua who’s the girlfriend of Charles Adelson, Wendi’s brother. Garcia and Rivera apparently cased Markel’s property prior to the killing, rented a car in Miami two days before, drove to Tallahassee, followed Markel on his errands that day, followed him home and shot him as he sat in his car in his driveway.
At this point, the evidence against Garcia looks too sketchy to support a conviction, but, with him in custody, my guess is that he’ll provide information sufficient for more arrests. Rumors abound that various people may be planning to flee the state. If Garcia and Rivera committed this crime, someone paid them to do it. After all, before they walked up to his car that day, neither Garcia nor Rivera had ever met Daniel Markel.
This case is just barely heating up.
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#custodybattle, #parentalalienation, #DanielMarkel, #WendiAdelson