FSU Professor Dan Markel's Mysterious Murder Shocks Law Community

Emails and Facebook notices began pinging around Florida's legal community Saturday with the unbelievable news: Florida State University's nationally respected professor and legal scholar Dan Markel was dead. Shock soon turned to outrage when police confirmed that Markel, who was only 41 years old, had been shot inside his Tallahassee home.

This morning, detectives have added more mystery to a case that's reverberating in legal circles around the nation. Markel, Tallahassee police say, was the "intended victim" of the murder and not the target of a random burglary gone wrong.

"The investigation has provided no indication that this case is connected to a burglary or robbery," the police announced in a release this morning. "There is no evidence this is a random act."

Ruling out a botched home invasion only deepens the questions, though, about who would want to kill Markel.

The professor, who earned his undergrad and law degrees at Harvard, with a master's in philosophy at Cambridge wedged in between, was a national expert in the evolving intersection of the internet and legal theory. His work on the matter often appeared on popular news sites such as Slate and the New York Times rather than in musty legal publications.

And he founded his own popular web forum, Prawfsblawg, where the other contributors posted a heartfelt obituary this weekend.

"His boundless energy was at the center of this community; it made it run, it gave it life," reads the eulogy from ten other legal scholars. "We are stunned and bereaved by his loss, and our thoughts go to his two little boys, who were precious to him, and to his family."

In Tallahassee, police are still digging into exactly what happened to Markel. They arrived at his house on upscale Trescott Drive around 11 a.m. Friday after neighbors reported hearing a gunshot. Inside, they found Markel wounded and bleeding. The professor died the next day at a local hospital.

Police are still looking for witnesses in the neighborhood but this morning have ruled out a robbery as the motive.

Markel, who has two young sons, is recently divorced from another law scholar, Wendi Adelson, who heads FSU's Public Interest Law Center. Adelson is "distraught," a Tallahassee police spokesman tells the media this morning, and is cooperating with police.

Anyone with more information about Markel's death should call a special tip line set up in Tallahassee: 850-891-4462.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink