Newly released bodycam video captured the dramatic moment the Adelson family matriarch was taken into custody at the Miami International Airport for her alleged role in aiding in the plotting of her son-in-law’s murder.
The November 2023 arrest came just a week after her son Charlie Adelson was convicted of hiring two hit men to kill FSU law professor Dan Markel in 2014.
Ms Adelson was slapped with charges of first-degree murder and solicitation of murder for aiding to plot Markel’s murder over a contentious custody battle involving her daughter Wendi Adelson. She has pleaded not guilty.
The bodycam footage was released in January, a month after Ms Adelson’s attorneys filed an emergency motion alleging she was subjected to “cruel and unusual punishment,” in Leon County Detention Facility and requested the court to release her on house arrest.
In an exclusive Dateline NBC clip provided to The Independent, Steven Epstein, an attorney and author of the book about the Dan Markel case, Extreme Punishment, reveals the moment Ms Adelson is stopped by authorities seconds before boarding the plane.
“They were literally boarding the plane on the jetway,” Mr Epstein said. “They are boarding the plane. They believe they are about to make their great escape.”
But the authorities led by Tallahassee FBI Agent Pat Sanford swooped in and stopped her.
“But Pat Sanford is there and literally sees the phone in Donna’s hand and grabs for it because he has a search warrant,” Mr Epstein tells Dateline.
“Donna yanks it away from him as if she’s got power and control – and next thing you know she’s got her hands behind her back and she’s marching in the opposite direction off the jetway with a gaggle of officers behind her. And Harvey utterly helpless to do anything.”
Friday’s all-new Dateline that airs at 9pm ET promises new details in the murder-for-hire plot including the newly obtained bodycam footage released this week.
Dramatic bodycam video of the arrest was released this week, the latest in the murder-for-hire plot saga.
The FbI agent can be heard on the video announcing to Ms Adelson that she’s under arrest for Markel’s murder. When he attempts to take her phone, her husband demands to know why they need her phone. The officer says that the phone is evidence and takes the phone.
As officers handcuff Ms Adelson, her husband begs to accompany her but police refuse and ask him to take their bags and leave. She is heard saying, “My husband is almost 80-years-old. He cannot come with me?”
They continue to plead with officers until Ms Adelson gives up, tells her husband to order an Uber for himself and kisses him goodbye.
Ms Adelson is then escorted by police through the airport and out to a waiting patrol car where she sits emotionless in the backseat.
She’s transported to Dade County Jail for processing and later taken to Leon County Detention Facility.
Last month, Ms Adelson was arraigned on charges in connection to Markel’s murder. She shook her head and shrieked “Oh my God” when claims were made about her alleged plot to kill herself.
Her jaw dropped when a jail official explained to Judge Stephen Everett that she was in solitary confinement because she allegedly made comments that she “wanted to die” and also made suicidal statements on jailhouse calls.
Ms Adelson’s son Charlie Adelson was sentenced last month to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder. Leon Circuit Judge Stephen Everett also sentenced him to 30 years on the conspiracy and solicitation charges, to be served consecutively.
When given the opportunity to speak, the 47-year-old dentist gave a short statement, telling the court: “I just want to say I maintain my innocence.”
Jailhouse calls emerged in recent weeks that involved Ms Adelson telling her son that she was “getting things in order, creating trusts, and making sure her grandchildren are taken care of.”
She was the fourth person to be arrested – the latest twist in the 2014 killing that was arranged by Charlie Adelson’s former girlfriend, Katie Magbanua, who hired her ex-husband Sigfredo “Tuto” Garcia and his friend Latin Kings leader Luis Rivera to carry out the murder.
Magbanua and Garcia are serving life sentences and Rivera is serving a 19-year sentence after pleading guilty to second-degree murder and testifying against the others.
Prosecutors argue that the Adelsons conspired to get rid of Markel after a bitter custody dispute between Markel and his ex-wife, Wendi Adelson, Donna’s daughter.
Wendi, who has denied involvement with the murder and testified under immunity at several trials, has not been charged. Neither has her father, Harvey Adelson.
On Friday, Dateline‘s report takes viewers back through the dramatic trial of Markel’s former brother-in-law Charlie Adelson, who was found guilty of masterminding the plot, and will include the latest on the jailhouse calls between Adelson and his mother.
“We’re not sure what Charlie was getting at when he spoke to his mother on that jailhouse call” and said it was like watching ‘Dateline,’” according to a preview for the all-new episode.
Dateline’s two-hour all-new episode Family Matters airs on Friday, 19 January at 9pm ET on NBC.