Toronto law prof found murdered in Florida

Dan Markel

A Toronto Jewish family is mourning the death of Toronto native Dan Markel, a Florida State University law professor who was gunned down in his upscale Tallahassee home last week.

Tallahassee police were called to the scene by a neighbour who heard a loud bang around 11 a.m. on July 18. When police arrived, they discovered Markel, 41, who had been shot.

He died the following morning in hospital.

Police believe Markel was the “intended target” in last week’s shooting and released the information after neighbors worried that they were in danger, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

No suspects have been identified, police told the local media July 23.

The city’s violent crimes unit said the case is being investigated as a homicide.

“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. Neighbourhood residents should continue to be vigilant, but it appears at this time that Mr. Markel was the intended victim in this incident,” the unit said in a statement last week.

Markel was divorced recently from his wife, also a Florida State law professor. She is “distraught, devastated, scared to death,” her attorney told the newspaper.

On July 20, students, colleagues, friends and family, including Markel’s parents, Toronto residents Phil and Ruth Markel, and his sister, Shelly Markel, attended a memorial service at Congregation Shomrei Torah, the Tallahassee synagogue Markel attended.

Markel was a father to two young boys, as well as an accomplished legal scholar who graduated from Harvard University and the founder of a popular blog called Prawfsblawg. He is to be buried in Toronto  July 24.

Florida International University law professor Howard Wasserman, said he had been Markel’s friend and colleague since he became a contributor to the blog in 2007.

“We were also in the process of writing an academic article with a third person over the last couple of years,” Wasserman said.

“He was one of the best and most caring people that I’ve had the privilege to know. He cared about people, he always went the extra mile to help somebody out in any way he could. I really enjoyed working with him on the blog and writing the article with him over the last couple years. He was just everything you’d want in an academic colleague. He was incredibly smart, he was an excellent writer, he was open to sharing ideas and he really enjoyed the exchange of ideas,” he said.

“From what I understand he was beloved as a teacher, by the people who knew him, and the academic community all loved and respected him tremendously. He was a good friend and a great person and I think we’re all a little worse off without him.”

Tallahassee police have created a tip line dedicated to this investigation and are offering a $1,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest.

Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo said in a statement that his force “will work tirelessly to follow up on all leads and evidence in this case and our thoughts and prayers are with the Markel family as they endure this terrible tragedy. My investigators will do everything they can to see those responsible for this murder are brought to justice.”