A Florida State University criminal law professor was pulling into his driveway and talking on his cell phone when he was fatally shot, ABC News has learned exclusively.
Professor Dan Markel, 41, was shot July 18, dying hours later.
The killer was waiting for Markel outside his home in Tallahassee’s Betton Hills section, a source told ABC News, and followed Markel into the garage, shooting him in the side of the head through the window of his car.
The bullet entered just beneath Markel’s jawline.
Markel was alive when cops arrived, with the keys in the ignition of his car, before being pronounced dead at the hospital hours later, police said. Markel was apparently on the phone at the time of the shooting, remarking to the person on the phone that someone was in the driveway, ABC News has learned.
A police report has revealed more information about the shooting, specifying that a neighbor, apparently different from the person on the phone, heard a single gunshot. That neighbor called 911 and reported seeing a silver Toyota Prius drive away from the scene. Police later released a grainy surveillance image of that car.
Tamara Demko, a longtime friend of Markel’s, was stunned by the shooting.
“I cannot imagine a person wanting to hurt him. I don’t think any of his friends can,” Demko said.
Two days before he died, Markel posted a blog to his website, PrawfsBlawg.blogs.com, about the death penalty, the same website on which he received threatening comments in 2012 after a writer alleged he had censored anonymous comments.
Reggie Garcia, a friend of Markel’s, wondered whether Markel’s blog and other law endeavors could have motivated the attack.
“Is it possible his scholarship and literature created some enemies? It’s as possible as any of the other scenarios,” Garcia said.
Markel left behind two young sons and an ex-wife, Wendi Jill Adelson, also an FSU professor. Their divorce was acrimonious, punctuated by dozens of court dockets, hearings and a protracted custody battle over their two boys. Markel described the day Adelson left him as his “Pearl Harbor,” friends told ABC News. Markel told friends that, without warning, Adelson had packed up the house and the children and left while he was away on a business trip.
Police spent hours questioning Adelson, and questioned many others who knew him well, but have named no suspects.
The new details reveal why police have classified Markel as the shooter’s intended target, ABC News Chief Legal Affairs Anchor Dan Abrams said.
“Now we know why the authorities were so quick to say they believed this was a targeted killing and the neighbors don’t need to worry,” Abrams said.
The fact that a Prius was possibly being driven by the shooter was also notable, Abrams said.
“A Prius isn’t a typical hit-man vehicle," he said. "[Was it] the person who wants to protect the environment and kill someone?”