crimesider

"Vehicle of interest" sought in murder of FSU professor

Tallahassee police released this image of what they say is a vehicle of interest in the murder of Florida State University law professor Daniel Markel.

CBS affiliate WCTV

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Tallahassee police released a photo of a vehicle of interest Wednesday in connection with the death of Florida State University law school professor Daniel Markel, who, authorities say, was found shot in the head at his Tallahassee home last week.

Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo also asked Wednesday for anyone with surveillance in the area to contact police.

The car pictured in the photo appears to be a silver or light green Toyota Prius, though police will not confirm that. Authorities stressed that the vehicle is only a vehicle of interest, as it may have been a resident, passerby or delivery driver. They would not comment on where the vehicle was seen but did ask that anyone with information on the vehicle call police.

good-markel-from-fsu.jpg

Dan Markel

CBS News

Detectives say Markel was shot in the head at his Tallahassee home in broad daylight on Friday, July 18. Authorities will not say whether the 41-year-old was shot from the front or back or whether he was found inside the house or outside.

But they have made on detail perfectly clear: Whoever did it wanted Markel dead.

The shooting of the popular lawyer has stunned his friends, colleagues and residents of his well-to-do community in Florida's state capital, who demanded to know whether Markel had surprised an armed burglar or robber. No, Police Chief DeLeo said - this was a premeditated murder.

Markel, 41, was born in Toronto, was the father of two boys and a 2001 graduate of Harvard Law School. He practiced white-collar criminal defense and civil litigation before joining the Florida State law school as a faculty member in 2005. He was tenured in 2010.

Bob Jarvis, a Nova Southeastern University law professor, said there are numerous reasons police withhold crime details from the public, even when seeking tips. Prosecutors worry about affecting the jury pool, and police are always concerned with false confessions and copycat criminals, he said.

"It's a way to test anybody who's either making a confession, who's trying to pin the blame on somebody else," Jarvis said. "It's a truth-telling test.

"You don't want confusion. If there's something unique about the killer or the killer's M.O., you'd like to keep that under wraps."

Markel finalized a contentious divorce from his ex-wife, Wendi Adelson, in 2013. The two had equally split custody of sons Benjamin and Lincoln, but they had follow-up litigation over money settlements. At one point, Adelson, who also teaches law at Florida State, hoped to move back to her hometown in South Florida.

"She's a basket case, she's totally, totally shocked over what happened," said Adelson's lawyer, Jimmy Judkins. "Gone from having children with two parents to children with one parent with no warning."

"She's scared to death for her children. She's scared to death for herself."

Judkins said Adelson has cooperated with police and has not been asked to remain in the area.

Tamara Demko met Markel at Harvard Law School, and the two had been friends ever since. She saw him regularly in Tallahassee and created a web page for the Dan Markel Memorial fund to raise money for his sons. The site collected more than $18,000 in the first day.

Demko sobbed as she remembered the way he gave everyone nicknames and how he doted on his sons. She described his love for academia and said he was devoted to his Jewish faith.

"My heart is just shattered," Demko said. "I just don't know what I'm going to do without him in my life. He's been a part of it for so long."

The family has also asked for donations to go to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada, Canadian Magen David Adom, the Shomrei Torah Synagogue or Harvard Hillel.

"He took joy in life and his friends," Demko said. "He loved sharing his life with all the people that he met along the way."

David Wilkins has been a Harvard Law School professor since 1986 and remained in contact with Markel over the years. Markel's death has been an ongoing topic in the law community - where he was well-known among other scholars for his writings in blogs and scholarly publications, several focused on crime and punishment.

"He loved people as much as he loved ideas," Wilkins said. "He loved talking about ideas to people. I think that's what drew a lot of people to him."

Anyone with information is asked to call a tip line set up by the Tallahassee Police Department at (850) 891-4462. All tips are confidential.

CrimeStoppers has increased a reward for information leading to an arrest from $1,000 to $3,000.