‘Dateline‘s Tallahassee Trap’ explores a homicide that occurred in Florida in 2014. When an esteemed law professor, who had graduated from Harvard Law School, was killed in the driveway of his Tallahassee residence, the entire community was shaken. Everyone wondered who would want to kill the divorced father of two? Well, authorities eventually found the answer— it was a murder of hire plot that took Dan Markel’s life. In this article, we take a look at the two men who were eventually convicted for the crime.
Who Are Luis Rivera and Sigfredo Garcia?
Luis Rivera was actually the leader of the North Miami branch of the infamous Latin Kings gang. He was also the person who had rented the green Prius that was seen driving out of Dan’s house after he was killed. Along with him was his childhood friend, Sigfredo “Tuto” Garcia, who had a rap sheet that included 20 run-ins with the law. The men were placed at the crime scene around the time of the murder with the help of phone records and GPS data.
The police were left wondering what vendetta the two men had against Dan, as no apparent connection between them surfaced. Soon, they found their answer. Garcia had an on-again-off-again relationship with Katherine “Katie” Magbanua, and they even had two children. In 2013, however, Katie started dating Charlie Adelson, who was Dan’s former brother-in-law. It turned out that the Adelson family really wanted their daughter, Wendi, to relocate to South Florida with her children, where they owned and operated a dental clinic.
In the few months after Dan’s murder, Katie had been receiving paycheques from the Adelson’s clinic even though she did not work for them. These were signed by Charlie’s mother, Donna. In August 2016, the FBI set up a sting operation so that they could get a confession from Katie’s boyfriend and mother on tape. In one recording, the undercover agent pretended to be the brother of one of the suspects, and said, “I wanted to let you know that my brother… he helped your family with this problem your family had up north. He’s going through some rough times and I want to make sure that you take care of what he’s going through.”
Donna reiterated that she was not aware of what the undercover agent was talking about. The latter handed her a photo of Dan and demanded $5000 before walking away. After this, she called up her son, and although they had a suspicious conversation, authorities were never able to get their confessions recorded on tape. The family has denied all claims of hiring the men to kill Dan.
Rivera was already in a federal prison in Arizona on another charge, and so prosecutors offered him a plea bargain— a second-degree murder charge that would save him from the death penalty if he detailed his involvement in the crime. In October 2016, he accepted this deal and told authorities that Tuto had asked him to come along. Rivera continued, “He said he was going to pay me to go with him, because he didn’t want to go by himself. I asked him, who’s —— hiring me? He’s like, ‘Katie [Magbanua] told me this lady’s going to hire me, but I want you to go with me. I’ll give you $35,000.’ I said, ‘All right, for the drive? All right.’”
Rivera stated he only found out about the plan when they were en route to Tallahassee. He asked his friend why they were going to kill Dan, and Tuto told him it was because “the lady” wanted full custody of her children. Both of them then tailed the law professor for a few days. On that fateful day, Rivera claimed that Tuto had pressed the trigger, after which they left the residence and kept on driving.
Where Are Luis Rivera and Sigfredo Garcia Today?
Luis Rivera was sentenced to 19 years in prison for his involvement in the crime, which is to be served concurrently with his previous 12-year sentence for a federal charge. The trials of Sigfredo Garcia and Katherine Magbanua were combined and took place in October 2019. Tuto was found guilty on first-degree murder charges and was awarded a life sentence without the possibility of parole. He was also sentenced to 30-years for conspiracy to commit murder but was not given the death penalty. Although no one from the Adelson family has been arrested despite their suspicious activities, Saam Zangeneh, Tuto’s lawyer, told the jury at the trial, “People are chomping to get the Adelsons and let me tell you, rightfully so. There is substantially more evidence against the Adelsons than there is against Sigfredo Garcia.”
Katherine Magbanua’s trial, however, was inconclusive due to a hung jury. The retrial will occur in December 2020 after the date was pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic. Dan’s parents, Phil and Ruth, released a statement post the verdict— “We understand that due process takes patience. We pray that this next phase of the legal process moves quickly, and that all those responsible for Dan’s murder are held accountable.”
Read More: Where is Katherine Magbanua Now?