Florida mom whose son hired hitman to kill his brother-in-law arrested in murder investigation

Nov. 14, 2023, 11:55 PM UTC

The mother of a Florida dentist who was convicted in a murder – for – hire plot over a custody dispute was arrested Monday night on allegations linked to the 2014 killing, court and jail records show.

Donna Sue Adelson, 73, was being held in a Miami jail on suspicion of murder and other crimes after she booked Nov. 13 airline tickets with her husband to Vietnam, which does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S., according to jail records and an arrest warrant obtained Tuesday by NBC News. 

After Charles Adelson’s Nov. 6 conviction in the 2014 murder of his former brother-in-law, Florida State University law professor Dan Markel, Donna Adelson was captured on recorded phone calls to her son’s jail telling him that she was considering leaving the country.

Donna Adelson listens to Judge Mindy Glazer at Miami-Dade Circuit Court on Tuesday after she was arrested at Miami International Airport on Monday evening. NBC South Florida In the calls, the warrant says, “Donna Sue Adelson is telling Charles Adelson that she is getting things in order, creating trusts and making sure her grandchildren are taken care of. Donna discusses plans for a suicide, but also discusses plans to flee to a non-extradition country.” 

“Donna Sue Adelson has considerable financial resources to accomplish this,” the warrant adds.

Dan Markel, Florida State University law professor. Florida State University She and her husband were taken into custody at Miami International Airport, Second Judicial District State Attorney Jack Campbell told the Tallahassee Democrat. 

Campbell, who did not respond to a request for comment, told the newspaper that Adelson’s husband was not arrested.

In addition to a first-degree murder charge, Donna Adelson was also accused of solicitation and conspiracy, according to the warrant. 

The warrant says Donna Adelson and her husband had the means to finance Markel’s killing and provide ongoing compensation to Katherine Magbanua, an ex-girlfriend of Charles Adelson’s who was convicted of first-degree murder in the slaying last year.

Charlie Adelson in court during closing arguments in Tallahassee, Fla., on Nov. 6. Alicia Devine / Pool via AP file Prosecutors had accused Magbanua of hiring Sigfredo Garcia, the father of her two children, to carry out the murder. Garcia enlisted a childhood friend to help.

The friend pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for testifying against Garcia and Magbanua.

Authorities said the plot hinged on a dispute between Markel and his ex-wife, Wendi Adelson — Donna Adelson’s daughter and Charles Adelson’s sister — over the custody agreement for their two children. 

After the divorce, Wendi Adelson had wanted to move with the children from Tallahassee to South Florida to be closer to family, but a judge ruled against her. According to the warrant, Donna Adelson “repeatedly tried to convince Wendi to coerce Markel” into moving across the state.

Donna Adelson suggested offering Markel $1 million to make the move, with different family members dividing the payment into thirds, according to the warrant.

“Donna also suggested that Wendi threaten to convert Markel’s children to Catholicism knowing Markel was very observant in his Jewish faith and that the religious practices of the children were of the utmost importance to Markel,” the warrant says.

At a court appearance Tuesday, Donna Adelson remained silent while a judge read the charges against her, the Democrat reported. She is expected to be extradited to Leon County by the end of the month, according to the newspaper.

A lawyer for Donna Adelson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tim Stelloh

Tim Stelloh is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.

Associated Press

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