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Katherine Magbanua faces a jury again in the murder of acclaimed Florida State law professor Dan Markel. The second week of trial testimony starts today.
In the retrial that began on May 18, Magbanua faces charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation of murder in connection with Markel’s broad-daylight shooting in July 2014.
She is suspected of being the conduit between the hitmen and Markel’s former in-laws who have been implicated as the masterminds and financiers of what investigators say was a murder for hire.
What follows is a regularly updated reporter’s notebook account of the day’s proceedings from Karl Etters, who has covered all the twists in the case for the last seven years. Follow him on Twitter here.
Jurors will return to the courtroom in the second week of Magbanua’s murder trial to hear her attorneys cross examine Tallahassee Police Department digital forensics Sgt. Chris Corbett.
Corbett last week detailed the web of phone calls between Magbanua, her longtime boyfriend Sigfredo Garcia and Charlie Adelson the day Markel was murdered and the day after.
Also coming to the stand Monday for the first time is Jessica Rodriguez, Markel killer Luis Rivera’s one-time girlfriend. Prosecutors will also delve into Magbanua’s finances.
Those day-of communications not only show the movements around Tallahassee of Garcia and his friend Rivera as they stalked Markel, but also what prosecutors say was them relaying information that murder had been completed to Magabanua.
She spoke with Garcia at about 12:30 p.m. when his phone was turned back on for the first time since Markel was killed just after 10 a.m.
Cell tower data showed Garcia and Rivera were on their way back to Miami. Rivera testified he overheard Garcia saying “the job is done,” to which she allegedly replied. “I know.”
Rivera took a plea deal for his cooperation with prosecutors. He got a 19-year sentence, though it runs concurrently with a 12-year sentence he was already serving in an unrelated federal case. Garcia was convicted of Markel’s murder in 2019 and is serving a life sentence.
Corbett testified the calls continued the next day when Rivera said he met with Garcia and Magbanua to split the $100,000 prosecutors allege was paid for the murder.
Corbett also noted that Rivera contacted an associate to get in touch with Garcia so they could divvy up the money.
Corbett told jurors that he cannot say with certainty where people are based on the data, but instead where the nearest cellphone tower would be located.
But he said, based on analysis of cell data, that Rivera, Magbanua and Garcia all met up at Rivera’s house the evening of the murder and again the next morning.
After that, Magbanua never contacted Garcia’s number again, indicative of him ditching the phone, Corbett said. Throughout, Magbanua is communicating with Charlie Adelson and Garcia.
Prosecutors will call financial analysts in the hopes of portraying a spike of cash deposits they say were payment for the murder.
Police found between Markel’s killing in July 2014 and Nov. 2015, Magbanua deposited more than $56,000 in cash into her bank account. The deposits, according to arrest records, were made mostly through ATMs in increments of $300 to $2,000.
But her attorneys have contended that Magbanua worked jobs as a bottle girl in a Miami club that would account for the influx of cash.
Contact Karl Etters at firstname.lastname@example.org or @KarlEtters on Twitter.
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