The Mysterious Murder of FSU Professor Dan Markel

It has been more than a year since Dan Markel was found shot at his Tallahassee, Florida home on the morning of July 18, 2014.  He was talking on the phone as he pulled into his garage and told the person on the other line that someone was in his driveway.  He was shot once in the head through his open window.  One of his neighbors heard a loud bang and went to his house to investigate.  He found the professor bleeding, but still alive.  He reported that the driver side window appeared “bashed”.  He called 911 and reported seeing a silver Toyota Prius driving away from the scene.  A month later, it was revealed that emergency medical response was delayed because the dispatcher misclassified the call as less serious.

At the time of his death, Markel was involved in contentious post-divorce proceedings with his ex-wife Wendi Adelson, also a professor at FSU.  Adelson wanted to move to south Florida with their two children, but Markel wanted to prohibit her from doing so.

Markel was a highly regarded and popular professor.

He was a professor of law at Florida State University and was known in legal academia for his works on retribution in criminal law and the role of punishment in the justice system.  He co-authored a 2009 book exploring the intersection between crime, punishment, and family.  His law review articles (including those published in the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review) often included arguments for the abolition of the death penalty. He also critiqued the use of shaming as a punishment in the Vanderbilt Law Review.  He wrote op-ed pieces for the New York Times, Slate, and the Atlantic, among others.

He was most recently a consultant for the defense in a federal prosecution involving Rabbis accused of extortion.  Mendel Epstein and 9 other men were accused of kidnapping and assaulting Orthodox Jewish men who refused to grant their wives a get (a document required for divorce under Jewish law).

He was an alum of Harvard University and Emmanuel College, Cambridge.  Before teaching, he was a white-collar criminal defense attorney in Washington, D.C.

Despite his popularity, he also made enemies.  Reports suggest his murder may have something to do with online criticism he received recently or his legal consulting work.  Markel often sparred online with critics.  He was physically threatened by at least one particularly nasty commenter on the now-defunct site Inside the Law School Scam blogspot.

“So yes, ‘all means necessary’ are important to shutting people like YOU down,” said the writer, who went by the profile athiestATLlawyer.

The writer may have been a disgruntled student because he called Markel a “law school scammer”.    Despite, his acclaimed career, he was often rated badly by disgruntled students and critics often talked badly of him, calling him “aloof” and a “control freak”.  Markel was also a co-founder of the PrawfsBlawg site.

The crime is still unsolved.  It’s frustrating to those who knew the 41-year-old father of two.  His friends worry that the case has gone cold.  Markel’s former colleague, Mark Spottswood fears that Markel’s death is already becoming a distant memory.

“Ultimately, what we have is a lot of anger,” Spottswood said.

Investigators do not believe that the crime was a robbery gone wrong, but that Markel was an “intended target”.

Markel’s final hours are fairly well known, but who killed him and why is not.  Witnesses reported seeing him drop off his sons at Creative Preschool.  He went to the FSU College of Law and his synagogue, Congregation Shomrei Torah the morning he was killed.

“The Dan Markel case has a lot of those attributes to it. It’s a whodunit. He was very well known in the community. He was well liked in the community. He was well liked in the nation and many people have attachments to Mr. Markel in some way, shape or form,” said the TPD.

There were many tributes to the professor across the country following his death.

The reward for information leading to an arrest in the killing of Florida State University College of Law professor Dan Markel is $25,000. Community members with information regarding the investigation are asked to call (850) 574-TIPS or (850) 891-4462. All information is confidential.