Cold-case detectives and friends solve the mystery of the Surfside murder



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Danny Goldman, the son of a banker, was kidnapped from his Surfside home 55 years ago.

Danny Goldman, the son of a banker, was kidnapped from his Surfside home 55 years ago.

On Tuesday night, Miami-Dade Police Cold Case detectives announced they had solved and completed the brazen kidnapping and murder of Danny Goldman, a 17-year-old Surfside banker’s son, 55 years ago.

For a group of his friends and a former mayor of the city where the crime took place, it was a mission accomplished moment.

Danny Goldman

Aside from the collapse of Champlain Towers South in June, the 1966 kidnapping of Goldman was the biggest story to hit sleepy Surfside.

Most South Floridians probably have no idea who Goldman was or his terrible end. But a local attorney and a group of five Miami Beach high graduates who knew Goldman from school and the neighborhood couldn’t forget the case that rocked their teenage years. They became volunteer detectives and worked on the case for 10 years, Uncovering a Mafia connection and much more.

Impressive work. And homicide investigators agreed.

In a video clip, Miami-Dade Det. Jonathan Grossman of the Cold Case Unit said that while the case was being handled, they met lead volunteer detective, attorney Paul Novack, a former Surfside mayor, and what Novack calls the “volunteer investigation team,” contacted. They “provided critical information” that helped identify a man named George Defeis as Goldman’s kidnapper.

Defeis is long dead. A partial fingerprint, a disabled gait when walking and the taxi he took to the crime scene helped build a case against Defeis years later, Goodman explained in the video.

And the group of friends – Novack, along with Anthony Blate, David and Joe Graubart, and Harvey Lisker – produced a surprising revelation. According to the detective team, Goldman’s kidnapping was a retaliatory murder, a Mafia hit that was supposed to look like a kidnapping.

It had nothing to do with ransom and everything to do with Goldman’s father testifying to a federal grand jury in Miami days before the kidnapping about fraud at a bank where the elder Goldman was on the board.

Novack said some of those involved in the bank’s fraud had ties to Meyer Lansky, Santo Trafficante Jr., Joe Cacciatore and Jimmy Hoffa, all of whom had ties to South Florida at the time. Defeis was affiliated with the Trafficante organization, the volunteer detectives who were identified by sifting through documents, interviewing relatives and friends, and tracking down clues that detectives had ignored at the time.

“We uncovered an enormous amount of hidden information. This case has tentacles that you would not believe, ”Novack told the editorial team. Findings include that corrupt sheriffs with links to organized crime may have “lost” evidence in the case.

So why the interest in the kidnapping of Danny Goldman? Novack says he was 8 years old and lived in Surfside when Danny was kidnapped.

“The crime affected the entire community. Nobody locked their doors before this happened, ”he said. That changed because the Goldman kidnapper entered the house through an unlocked sliding glass door at 4:30 a.m. He tied Aaron and Sally Goldman, dragged Danny out, and told the parents he wanted $ 50,000 and would call them later that day. There was never a call.

Danny’s body was never found, but the theory is that his body was dismembered and thrown into the sea. No arrests were made. Both of Goldman’s parents have since died. Novack and the volunteer detectives kept the case alive and shared their findings with investigators of the cold cases.

That was a pleasing team effort. Volunteer detectives were persistent and detective officers listened. The result is some justice for Danny Goldman.


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This story was originally published December 30, 2021 4:14 p.m.


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