Murdered law professor ‘brought people together’

Dan Markel

TORONTO — More than 300 friends and family gathered to pay their respects to Toronto native Dan Markel, a Florida State University law professor who was gunned down July 18 in his upscale Tallahassee home.

Tallahassee police say Markel was shot in the head and was the “intended target.” The city’s violent crimes unit said the case is being investigated as a homicide, but no suspects have been identified.

On July 25, Tallahassee police increased the reward for tips leading to Markel's killer to $3,000 from $1,000. They also released a four-page redacted police report that said Markel was shot in his garage, with the keys in his car and its doors unlocked. It also said the person who reported the crime saw a white or silver Prius or “a Prius “type’ of vehicle” in the area.

The police have circulated a photo of a silver Prius, but stressed that it’s “only a vehicle of interest, as it may have been a resident, passerby or delivery driver.” They said they’ve received more than 50 tips in the case so far.

Police were called to Markel’s home by a neighbour who heard a loud bang around 11 a.m. on July 18. He died the following morning in hospital.

“The initial investigation has provided no indication that this case is connected to a burglary or robbery, and investigators are assuring residents there is no evidence this was a random act,” police said in a statement.

At Markel's funeral on July 24, held at Benjamin’s Park Memorial Chapel and officiated by Rabbi Aaron Flanzraich, nine people spoke about Markel, a 41-year-old father of two young boys, a respected professor, a devoted Jew, and a great friend.

“Danny was a person of strong principles and strong opinions,” said his sister, Shelly Markel.

“Intelligent and articulate, he was proud of all his accomplishments, but there was one thing that towered above his pride; his commitment and love for his boys, Benjamin and Lincoln… He always knew his priority was his boys.”

Steve Frank, a friend and former college roommate, said, “who among us was more of a mensch than this gentle soul, with his mischievous wit, his profound love of life, of good food, friends and family?… He lived his all-to-brief life to its fullest. He savoured every moment. He brought people together and he brought them joy.”

Another friend, Josh Berman, talked about the countless, deep meaningful relationships he developed and maintained.

“These past few days, I’ve been thinking about what could qualify me to speak in the presence of this astonishing group of people. I told myself it’s because Dan considered me one of his best friends. Then I think, he felt exactly the same way about everyone here, and for that matter, all his friends around the country and the world,” Berman said.

“I don’t think Danny played by the same rules. I think his heart was just different.”

Rabbi Shaul Robinson, who officiated at Markel’s wedding in 2006 in New York, said being in Toronto for the funeral left him feeling “so broken, but so uplifted.”

“But I want to say that I do have in my heart anger, real anger. And to the monster, I want to say, ‘How dare you? How you dare you take Dan away from Ben and Lincoln, from his parents, from his family, from all of us? How dare you?’”

Last week, students, colleagues, friends and family – including his parents, Phil and Ruth Markel, and his sister, Shelly – held a memorial service at Congregation Shomrei Torah, the Tallahassee synagogue that Markel attended.

Markel was an accomplished legal scholar who graduated from Harvard University and was the founder of a popular legal issues blog called PrawfsBlawg.

“His boundless energy was at the centre of this community,” 10 of his colleagues wrote in a post on the site.

“It made it run, it gave it life. We are stunned and bereaved by his loss… Many, many people loved him and are grieving today. Baruch dayan emet.”