Donna Adelson Was Arrested in Connection to a Murder-for-Hire Plot — Where Is She Now?

Prosecutors do not plan on offering Donna Adelson a plea deal as she faces a conviction of first-degree murder.

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Feb. 13 2024, Published 1:36 p.m. ET

Donna Adelson and Darn Markel
Source: YouTube/WTXL (video images)

Donna Adelson and Darn Markel

It's been nearly ten years since Dan Markel was brutally shot to death outside of his Florida home. The Florida State University Law School professor was on the other side of a contentious divorce from his ex-wife Wendi Adelson, but the fighting was far from over. The former couple was arguing over "personal property, finances and allegations from Markel that his former mother-in-law, Donna Adelson, was disparaging him during her visits with the couple's two young sons," per ABC News.

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This all ended in July 2014 when Markel was found dead in his car. Naturally authorities looked Wendi who was extremely cooperative. Soon, they received a tip about Wendi's brother Charlie. A murder-for-hire plot was uncovered and in November 2023, Charlie was sentenced to life in prison. He was the fourth person held responsible for the heinous crime. His mother Donna was arrested on week after her son's sentencing while she was attempting to leave the country. Donna Adelson is now in police custody.

Donna Adelson
Source: YouTube/Law&Crime Trials (video still)

Donna Adelson in court for her arraignment in December 2023

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Where is Donna Adelson now? She is awaiting trial for first-degree murder.

Adelson will have plenty of time to ask herself how she got to where she is as Leon Circuit Judge Stephen Everett set a trial date for Sept. 30, 2024 reported the Tallahassee Democrat. The 73 year-old grandmother is "accused of first-degree murder in the 2014 killing of her former son-in-law, Dan Markel." When Everett asked the state if there will be a plea offer, Assistant State Attorney Sarah Kathryn Dugan replied, "Not that I know of," but she would let the court know if that changed.

Former Senior Homicide Prosecutor Bernarda Villanova spoke with COURT TV about what the lack of plea deal actually means. "The reason why is because the case is not a slam shut case," said Villanova. "It's not a very very strong case, and there are no guarantees when you take a case to trial." In all likelihood, prosecutors are waiting to see if anyone else will flip as the trial date inches closer.

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What evidence do police have that implicates Donna Adelson in the murder-for-hire plot?

Police began focusing on Donna after hearing alarming jailhouse calls between her and Charlie, via ABC 7 Chicago. In them, Donna was hammering out plans to flee the country. "We've been looking it up over and over, because things change," she said to Charlie. "f there is extradition from Vietnam? Because we, we've looked at all the places, I mean, I could go to Korea and China, but there's no extradition, but looking for places where there's no extradition."

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Of course Donna isn't the only parent suffering. Ruth Markel sat down with CBS News to discuss what life has been like for her since her son's murder. When he was killed in 2014, "he became known as the slain professor in Florida, and I became known as the mother of the slain professor in Florida," she told the outlet. However, she is already working to change the way the public views victims in these situations.

"One of the things that I started to notice is that the victims are really underexposed in the court system and in the public," said Ruth. "You just see them and the court (suspects), so the point is that the victim suddenly becomes invisible." To process what she went through, Ruth wrote a book titled The Unveiling: A Mother's Reflection on Murder, Grief, and Trial Life. It's written from several perspectives she herself experienced during this horrific process.

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