A team of civilians, residents of Surfside, took up the task of investigating a 55-year-old cold case and their unwavering efforts led to a closed case.
"It was like a humongous onion. You just had to keep peeling and peeling to get to the center," Paul Novack said.
Novack is one of five Surfside residents who made it their mission to ensure Danny Goldman’s case was not forgotten.
10 years ago, Novack and his colleagues formed a volunteer investigative team and re-opened Danny's cold case. The group began a relentless search for answers along with the Miami-Dade Police Department's Cold Case Unit.
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"For 55 years there were no answers to what happened," Novack said.
The day before his 18th birthday, in March 1966, Danny Goldman was kidnapped from his Surfside home. The intruder demanded a ransom, but the call for the money never came.
"We have reason to believe that Danny was murdered shortly after the kidnapping and his remains were disposed of in the ocean,” Novack said.
The key to cracking the case, Novack says, was to look at the full context of the times.
"What other crimes had occurred? Who were the players? Who were the criminals? The law enforcement people? Who were the judges? Who was everybody," Novack asked.
The group and detectives concluded Danny was killed in retaliation because his father exposed a criminal enterprise.
"Danny's father had been a board member on a local bank and he saw banking practices that concerned him as an investor and he reported them and there was a federal investigation into the bank," Novack said.
After years of pouring through the evidence, investigators discovered the kidnapper was George Defeis, who was affiliated with the Trafficante organization, also known as the Tampa Mafia.
"During the course of the investigation, crucial information was obtained that included Mr. Defeis arriving at the Goldman residence hours before the abduction in a taxi cab. In addition, latent evidence and a detailed subject description provided by Aaron and Sally Goldman to include a distinct walk that Mr. Defeis had due to his disability," Detective Jonathan Grossman of the Miami-Dade Police Department said.
"He passed away in 1980 and while we can’t have him arrested and prosecuted for kidnapping and murder, we can expose the truth about what happened," Novack said.
Danny Goldman's case is now solved but Novack says this is not the end of the road for his volunteer team. He says Danny's case has opened the door to other unsolved murders.