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Police, community seek answers in renowned FSU law professor's slaying

By Javier de Diego and Alina Machado, CNN
updated 5:22 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dan Markel was found fatally wounded after neighbor reports "loud bang" to 911
  • There were no signs of robbery or burglary, but Markel was "target," police say
  • Professor was published in Yale Law Review, The New York Times, Slate, others
  • His ex-wife is "distraught" after crime and unsure why he'd be targeted, lawyer says

(CNN) -- Days after a nationally renowned criminal law professor was found with a gunshot wound to his head, his death is being investigated as a homicide.

Florida State University professor Dan Markel was found in his Tallahassee, Florida, home on Friday. Police say there were no signs of robbery or burglary and have yet to disclose any motive.

According to Tallahassee police, officers found Markel after a neighbor called 911 at about 11 a.m. with reports of a "loud bang."

Markel, 41, was rushed to a local hospital, where he died the following day.

"While we cannot release specific information or details regarding this case, the Violent Crimes Unit is releasing that Mr. Markel's cause of death was a fatal gunshot wound to the head," Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo said in a statement.

By Monday, police had categorized the case as a homicide, and according to Tallahassee Police Department spokesman David Northway, Markel was the intended target.

Police created a tip line and offered a $3,000 reward. Within 24 hours, authorities received several leads, which they are pursuing, Northway said.

Authorities are also asking anyone who was in Markel's neighborhood between 10 a.m. and noon Friday to contact police.

"This includes delivery drivers, visitors to the neighborhood or even pedestrians that were walking in the area who may have seen or heard anything that would lead investigators to the suspect in this case," a police news release says.

Though police assured the community that Markel's killing was not likely a random act, there was still confusion and concern in Tallahassee.

"We were all shocked," former student Tony Fusco told CNN affiliate WCTV. "We didn't know why. We didn't know how. We just heard he was gone, and it was a big shock to all of us."

According to the university, Markel began working at FSU in 2005 after receiving his bachelor's at Harvard College, a master's from the University of Cambridge and a law degree from Harvard.

During his FSU tenure, the Toronto native taught several classes and wrote extensively about criminal law, including articles published in the Yale Law Review, among others.

Markel also founded PrawfsBlawg, a blog focused on law and life, and his writing appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Slate, The Jerusalem Post and The Atlantic Monthly.

On Sunday, friends, family members, students and colleagues gathered at a Tallahassee synagogue to remember the father and scholar, according to WCTV.

"I am filled with awe and appreciation for the support of our friends and family and particularly for the show of admiration, respect and love for Danny from this Tallahassee family," his sister, Shelly Markel, said, according to the station.

On the PrawfsBlawg front page, 10 fellow law professors posted about the respect they had for Markel and the mutual love he shared with his friends and family.

"His boundless energy was at the center of this community; it made it run, it gave it life. 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."

Florida State also issued a statement, saying in part: "His contributions to Florida State University College of Law and the broader legal community are pervasive and lasting. ... We will feel his loss for many years to come."

Markel was divorced from fellow FSU law professor Wendi Adelson last summer, according to her attorney, Jimmy Judkins.

"She is a basket case, distraught, very emotional," said Judkins, who told CNN his client has no idea why this happened.

Police have been in contact with Adelson, the attorney said.

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