Joseph J. DiMare, 52, was a successful businessman and partner in a family owned food processing corporation. They became dominant in tomatoes with an international business. DiMare lived on Miami Beach and then moved to Keystone Island in North Miami. On March 24, 1961 his body was found in the passenger seat of his Cadillac Fleetwood in nearby Sans Souci Estates, a largely undeveloped residential area adjacent to the Keystone Islands in the City of North Miami. Joe DiMare’s wife Frances ran into a nearby gas station and police were called. Frances DiMare’s account of what had happened was accepted by the police, and was published by the media. These news articles reflect her story:
For six decades the truth about an infamous murder in North Miami has been concealed behind rumors, misleading information, and lies. The volunteers have investigated the 1961 murder and after several years of work, have assembled facts based upon discovered and analyzed evidence. We have shared the information with the police and with the family of the victim. Here is the case, and the essence of our findings for public release.
No one was ever arrested or prosecuted for the murder of international businessman and tomato magnate Joseph DiMare, 52, who had recently moved from Miami Beach to Keystone Point in North Miami. Mr. DiMare grew up in Boston, and with his younger brothers, started selling produce from pushcarts. They developed their partnership into a huge domestic and foreign produce farming, importation, and distribution business. Joseph DiMare would run aspects of the business from Miami, and he frequently traveled across the United States and through Latin America. He and his new wife Frances lived in the Keystone Point home along with his daughter; his sons were living at college but would visit and were in touch with their father frequently.
Joseph DiMare was shot and killed on March 24, 1961. In 2015, the victim’s youngest son, Richard, asked Paul Novack and the volunteer team to look into the case. We had previously identified his father’s homicide as having suspicious connections to other cases that were already on our radar.
We found and carefully looked into all available pieces of information. We moved the investigation forward despite the system being resistant for many years. We obtained the original police reports, press reports, and accounts of what happened. We found startling new information on all of the individuals involved in this horrible crime. Most significantly, the physical evidence has been assembled and re-evaluated with important new discoveries and determinations. The analysis of physical evidence, and substantial other information, has come to a consistent and conclusive set of findings that account for all of the many aspects and elements of the murder.
Relatives of the victim were told for over 58 years that there is no evidence and there is nothing that can be done. On many occasions, police officials were harshly critical of Richard for persistently, continuously, and not always courteously, seeking answers on behalf of his family. He was less than respectful on many occasions, but he was clear in issuing many reminders that he would continue to insist upon attention to the unsolved murder of his father. He frequently complained that police have been disingenuous in failing to earnestly work the case.
We looked back and examined every detail. In charge of the investigation in 1961 was then Chief of Detectives (later Sheriff) T.A. Buchanan and Homicide Captain (later Chief of Detectives) Manson Hill. They were the same lead officials in the case of Danny Goldman (March 1966) and many other cases included on the “Linked Deaths” page on this site. The volunteers’ discoveries prove connectivity of persons and events – there are no “coincidences” here.
Buchanan and Hill faced indictments of their own late in 1966. They were protected because of their knowledge of an extensive, corrupt criminal operation and its participants. Actually, they had more than mere knowledge; they were involved. They were never brought to trial or convicted. We established that their extensive illicit activities were known to federal and local authorities, but not to the public. As we have discovered, they were part of, rather than in opposition to, organized crime activity in South Florida.
Although the victim’s widow, Frances DiMare, 33, gave a story that was acceptable to high level police officials, we have seen ample reason to conclude otherwise. The volunteer citizens’ team found significant information, evidence that was previously ignored, and details never before available to the victim’s family or to the public.
Here is our summary, comparison of statements, and evaluation of evidence in the case.
Multiple news reports repeated Frances’ story. She asserted as follows. She and her husband had left their Keystone Point home to go to dinner; she was driving their Cadillac Fleetwood and he was in the passenger seat. They stopped at an intersection at the south exit from Keystone Point just west of the Broad Causeway at a red light. Two men jumped into the sedan. One of the men pushed a pistol to the back of her head and forced her to drive to a nearby empty lot in Sans Souci Estates. When her husband looked back he was smashed in the face with a pistol butt. She screamed and was also hit with a pistol.
As reported by the Miami Herald, she said that the gunmen ripped off her jewelry. When she disobeyed an order not to turn around, one of the bandits in the back seat hit her with his pistol and knocked her out. When she came to several minutes later, she said the attackers had fled and her husband was slumped against the car door, blood flowing from his head. In a moment of panic, she said she raced through the brambles, bushes and over sharp rocks to a nearby Phillips 66 service station. Police were called.
According to news reports, Frances “said the gunmen beat her with his pistol when she became hysterical as they sought to strip her of her jewelry. She lost consciousness and when she came to found her husband had been shot.”
Another Herald article reported that Frances got to the gas station and told Norman Logan, son of the owner, that “two men had gotten into the car, one in the back, one in the front. The man in the back told him not to turn around but he did and the guy hit him on the head.”
Frances soon gave an “exclusive interview” to the Herald and explained: “When we reached the Causeway-Bayshore intersection, two men jumped into the back seat. I didn’t see where they came from. There was a car behind us, but none was coming up or down the Causeway. I was driving and one of the men held a pistol and told me to do exactly as he said. He told me to drive straight ahead – to the Sans Souci Estates. He ordered me to take a right hand turn off Bayshore Drive, after about a block. My husband asked the men what they wanted. One of them answered that they want his money. They told us to keep our heads to the front, but Joe kept looking back at them, trying to struggle with them. He turned once and one of them smashed him in the face. He turned to me and said “I’m bleeding”. Then he turned back again and they hit him again. That’s when I started screaming. They hit me twice – seemed to know just where to hit because it knocked me out the second time. The next I remember I was lying outside the car on the gravel. They’d taken all my jewelry – about $5,000 worth. Joe was carrying about $400 cash on him, and I learned they got that, too. I’m confident the men were not amateurs. They were calm and methodical. I never got a good look at them, but they didn’t talk like hoodlums. They didn’t talk like college educated men, either. I kept thinking it was a terrible mistake, they men called my husband Frank instead of Joe for some reason. I think that either they mistook Joe for someone else, or they just wanted to rob us. I don’t think they were trying to kill us.”
The murder weapon was a .25 caliber Sata, an Italian auto pistol. It was owned by and registered to Frances DiMare, purchased for her by Joseph DiMare. Casings and projectiles in the car and in Mr. Dimare’s head matched a casing and projectile previously fired from that weapon by Mr. Dimare’s son, Richard, who had kept them.
A box of ammunition of the same brand and caliber was found, right after the murder, in the glove compartment of Dimare’s other vehicle, the one used by Frances, a Cadillac convertible parked at the house in Keystone Point.
At the time of the murder, Mr. DiMare was in the front passenger seat. Frances DiMare was in the driver’s seat, a few feet to the left of the victim.
Mr. DiMare was hit by four .25 rounds. Two rounds were fired from in front of the victim’s face, into the mouth. Two more rounds were fired from the left into the areas immediately in front of and behind his left ear. All four shots were fired a extremely close range, each one leaving gun powder around the wound.
There were nine abrasions or contusions on the victim’s head. The victim had contusions on his left arm and right index finger. Blood was found on the front seat, on the back seat, and on the exterior of the car, flowing down the window and out of the door bottom.
As we were able to confirm again in late 2019, blood was not found on the driver’s seat, on the steering wheel, or on the driver’s door. There was no blood spatter beyond the center of the front seat.
On the exterior of the car, streaks of blood were noticeably swept backward. The blood flow was substantial, reflecting the severity of the wounds and the time involved in bleeding following the shots.
Blood was not found in the victim’s lungs. A faint redness was found on the victim’s jaw. Medical investigation postulated that these findings could indicate that an arm was around the victim’s neck when he was shot, closing off the airway; or alternatively, that the killing shot caused an immediate cessation of respiration.
The victim’s gold ring and diamond cufflinks were not taken from him, he was wearing them when found in the car.
Two men were fishing about 200 yards to the east of where the car was found. They heard nothing, no shots, no commotion.
Frances had no cuts on her feet. Her shoes were found near the car. They appeared to have been “placed”, not strewn about.
When a female deputy was later asked to remove her shoes and run through the course that Frances said she had used to get from the car to the gas station, the deputy’s feet were cut and bruised in numerous places.
The first person that Frances spoke to at the gas station was Norman Logan; according to Logan, “she never once said he (her husband) was shot”.
Patrolman Ben Scola, North Miami Police Department, was the first officer on the scene. “I saw her at the gas station. She didn’t look too messed up. There were some scratches on her face and some specs of blood on her dress. The scratches looked as though she had made them herself by running her hands down her face. She told him that she was either knocked out or unconscious somehow, and that she did not see the shooting.
Shell casings were found in the back seat of the Cadillac. We have photographs that also show, upon enlargement, that there were at least two unfired rounds also sitting on the back seat.
Joseph and Frances DiMare were married for 2 ½ years when he died. He had made a Will, then had it changed after she had left their home a few times to return to her step parents in Martins Ferry, Ohio. The latest Will left half his estate to his wife and half to his children, but the wife’s half was made contingent upon her living with him in their home at the time of his death. Once that change was made, she returned from Ohio to the Keystone Point house.
The murder occurred on March 24, 1961. Mr. DiMare was in Boston between March 19 and March 23 to meet with his brothers, his business partners, about his intention to divorce Frances; his brothers wanted to insure that she was removed from any wills and/or business documents to prevent a disgruntled former wife from becoming a partner. Joseph DiMare returned to Keystone Point to discuss the matters with Frances.
Former Florida Governor Warren Fuller was “advising the family” and said the DiMares were “a devoted couple”. (We discovered that Fuller’s campaigns were funded by organized crime and he used his authority as Governor to put certain gamblers out of business to clear the way for his backers to take over their operations.)
At the time of the murder, Frances was suspected to have had a relationship with Irving Irwin, a hairdresser with a shop in North Miami. Irwin was officially considered a potential chief suspect, as an accomplice to Frances. Police gave the victim’s sons the idea that Irving and his brother, a taxi driver living in Atlanta, were involved in the attack.
On the day of the funeral, Irwin, a hairdresser, came to the DiMare house to help prepare Frances for the day. While he was doing her hair, Richard DiMare looked down at Frances to see her scratches and bruises; there were none. When Frances dressed in one of the bedrooms, other relatives noticed that her feet had no injuries.
We have confirmed with the authorities that when Frances was examined at Jackson Memorial Hospital after being taken there by a detective from the Sans Souci scene, she had no injuries.
After the funeral, family members returned to the Keystone home. As Joseph DiMare’s kids came to the door, Frances told them that they had 24 hours to get their stuff and leave the home which she said was “all mine now”.
Our investigations have found that people living in that same area at that same period of time included: Frank Rosenthal, George DeFeis, John Clarence Cook, Joe Fischetti, Joe Kant, Paul and Delores Costello, Tony Spilotro, Bobby Greenwood, they were all major figures in organized crime.
A month after the murder, an Assistant State Attorney ordered that no one can be permitted to review certain reports or evidence without his specific permission. We have the documentation.
Records we’ve uncovered also indicate that Frances had dealings and associations with attorney William Chester for at least a year prior to the murder. After the murder, attorney Chester represented her in probate proceedings seeking her share of the estate. Frances and William then married and moved to Palm Beach County. They later divorced but continued to be investment and business partners after their divorce.
Chester was not a stranger to scandalous, major cases and people involved in criminal activity. He represented one of the killers of Judge and Mrs. Chillingworth. Their brutal murder occurred in 1955 and the case went to trial in 1961 – starting just two weeks before the DiMare murder. Chester sought a reward after his client pled guilty to his role in the case. The Court denied Chester’s demand for a reward and questioned the ethics of the request.
Judge Chillingworth was likely targeted, we conclude, for his opposition to gambling and gamblers, despite the story about Judge Joe Peel having Chillingworth killed solely for his own career and personal reasons. We believe that the Chillingworth prosecution and defense were ‘managed’ such as to prevent exposure of anyone higher up the chain than Peel. The horrible death of Judge Chillingworth and his wife, thrown into the ocean bound with chains and weights and drowned, sent a chilling message throughout the judiciary of the State of Florida. It is a crime of huge historic proportions that has been incompletely, at best, previously reported in the annals of justice and history.
In 1964 Irving Irwin died in his home. His death was considered a heart attack, natural causes. He was 43. Allegedly he had been under the care of a physician for heart disease for a year, and was seen a month before his death for “angina”. An officer arrived at the home and spoke with the doctor by telephone who said he’d sign the death certificate and there was “no reason to look for anything.” The body was released at the home to a funeral service; no medical examiner investigation, no autopsy, no toxicology.
In 1964, the lead detective in the case, Lt. Jerry Evans, stated that Irwin and his brother were suspected to have taken a $15,000 “pay off” from Frances DiMare for the murder of her husband. In 1961, undisclosed, he had an affair with Frances DiMare during the process of the investigation. In 1981 Evans, then a retired detective who the DiMare family knew had initially handled the DiMare case – recommended that they hire a private investigator. They hired him, paid $5,000, but got no new information and no results. The PI was David Helman, former Chief of Intelligence for the Sheriff’s Department, the Sergeant indicted in 1966 for criminal conspiracy and burglary along with Joe “Chicken” Cacciatore, both men also involved in the Danny Goldman kidnapping. Both were actively involved with organized crime. When he was in the Sheriff’s Office, Helman worked directly for Manson Hill. In 1961 Captain Hill was on the DiMare case from its first day; in 1966 Chief of Detectives Hill supervised the Goldman case from its first day. And there is much more to the chain of events that is being dealt with as part of other cases and the ongoing work into 2020.
Attorney Chester had participated in fraudulent schemes in Palm Beach County in the early 1950’s with Sidney Stein. Sidney Stein was involved with Five Points Bank in the 1960’s, the bank whose dealings led to the kidnapping and murder of Danny Goldman. In the late 1950’s, Chester purchased the law practice of his friend and associate, Joe Peel. Peel’s trial as the alleged “mastermind” of Judge Chillingworth’s murder was underway in Fort Pierce at the time of the murder of Joseph DiMare in North Miami.
Chester was quoted in 1992 as saying that “there is no evidence” against Frances DiMare.
We conclude that the facts of the crime are quite different from the version(s) told by Frances DiMare. Joseph DiMare was shot in the garage of his Keystone Point home. Frances began shooting from the driver’s seat. When the gun jammed because of her wrist motions (“limp wrist” shooting), she removed the magazine and beat on him with the gun butt. The jammed ammunition was dislodged, and she fired again, and again. The volunteers’ examination of a similar comparison firearm and the head wounds show clear consistency with the bottom of that particular firearm with its magazine removed, and images we have of those head wounds.
Frances DiMare did not know that DiMare’s son Richard had, prior to the murder, found the gun in a bedroom drawer and fired a round into the pool. He later gave the shell casing and projectile retrieved from the pool to the police; it matched the ammunition found in Joseph DiMare’s head. The murder weapon was indeed the Sata that Joseph DiMare had purchased for his much younger new wife.
Four shots hit the victim. Two were fired from the left, into the area of his left ear. Two shots were fired into the mouth area, straight, perhaps with him facing left towards the driver. The mouth shots were likely the first two shots to hit him. During the beating his head hit the ash tray. Then he slumped towards the right, with his head hitting the passenger window and door lock area. The two shots near his left ear were fired at that time. One round went through his head, hit the glass passenger side window, and bounced back onto the victim’s tie.
We conclude based upon all of the new and old evidence we have examined – that all of the shots came from the driver’s seat, with the .25 Sata fired very close to the victim’s head – all four shots left gunpowder on his wounds and adjacent skin.
During the shooting, there were at least 2 jams resulting in unfired rounds being ejected into the back seat. Fired rounds threw ejected shell casings toward a 2:00 o’clock direction, landing in the back seat, passenger side – most unlikely if there was a man sitting there. Crime scene photos prove their location and our firearms expert has confirmed the trajectory of ejection being consistent with where they were found. The unfired rounds that had jammed are also visible in the photos.
We have obtained and developed information on potential suspects other than Frances, but it appears that there was, in fact, no one in the back seat. No one jumped into the car at the red light. No paid hitter was using a SATA .25 caliber. No one was seated there when the shells ejected into their final position on the rear seat of the Cadillac. No one was struggling with the victim from the back seat and no one put their arm around the victim’s neck and pulled him backwards. There were no ligature marks on the victim. No one would be holding and pulling the victim’s head backwards close to his own face and head while shots were being fired into the victim’s face and head by his wife in the driver’s seat. It just did not happen that way, the way the story was created and maintained. Despite all the decades of diversion, distortion, and misinformation, the truth can be readily discerned now by anyone.
The swept blood on the exterior of the car shows that the shooting occurred at least minutes before the car was stopped and parked in the brush, not after. We conclude that the shooting occurred at the home, in the garage or driveway, that the SATA pistol was discarded along the way, perhaps into the waterways under the two bridges that Frances drove over on her short path. Frances DiMare then drove the car to the 122 Street location in Sans Souci, exited, left her gloves in the car (again, we have photos), removed and “placed” her shoes and purse, and walked carefully along the undeveloped field towards the gas station. She then ran the last part, coming from behind the station around to its office. She was seen by a 12 year old girl sitting in her father’s car while he filled it with gas.
Frances’ white gloves were covered in blood.
From the home’s location in Keystone Point, it is a 3-4 minute drive to where his body was found in the car at Sans Souci. We drove the route and timed it. He suffered the gunshot wounds, his head resting against the passenger side window. Blood ran down out of the car as it was driven. Frances drove through the brush, parked, got out and walked, then ran up to the gas station, and told her tale.
Medical documentation indicated that the injuries were most probably sustained at 7:15 PM and that death occurred at 7:20 PM.
The victim’s son refused to let the system forget his father’s murder. In the corrupt context of crime and law enforcement in Dade County in the 1960’s, the DiMare case was manipulated and derailed like many others. Justice was not attained, and the public was misled. Physical and scientific evidence was set aside. For decades, officials preferred to ignore the crime rather than to acknowledge that the victim’s son was right about Frances. They threw red herrings in his path and disrespected him. He complained about them near and far. Now the case can emerge from that adversarial situation of stagnation. We have discovered the details as described above, and there is more.
In 2019 the volunteer cold case team discovered that the FBI had, in 1961, two suspects in mind for involvement in the DiMare murder. Were the Irvings in the back seat, or were they involved in the planning and arrangements, along with fellow North Miami resident John Clarence Cook? Informants had told the FBI that two men from Chicago had been in Miami that week and that they may have been involved in the DiMare case after having committed a major robbery just days before.
We have found that both of those men, neither of whom being Irwin or his allegedly complicit brother from Atlanta, are alive today. One apparently is in a witness protection program, and the other is still living in Chicago. We’ve discovered exactly who they are and what their extensive criminal backgrounds are, and one of them was contacted. The victim’s son has reached out and spoken to one of them recently. There is ample reason to believe these two men were involved in other crimes, and that they were in Miami that same week, but there is no reason to believe they were ever in the back seat of the DiMare vehicle. The same is true of the Irwin brothers.
History must now be corrected accordingly. Hopefully there will be peace and closure for the community, the victim’s family, and especially the incredibly perseverant son. Richard DiMare has graciously expressed his appreciation for the work and outcome produced by Paul Novack and the volunteer team. “I am so thankful. My family can finally have a sense of what really happened, understand the crime and what actually happened before, during and after it.”
The light now put upon the case by the volunteer team, and the newly discovered, analyzed, and evaluated evidence, will serve to prevent the intended permanent concealment of facts from being ultimately successful. Joseph DiMare was killed by his wife, Frances DiMare, step mother of Joseph DiMare’s sons and daughter. The truth was concealed by Frances, by her attorney and next husband William Chester, by police handling the case, and by a system that completely failed to properly perform. We have reported our findings to the current detectives of the cold case unit of the county police, and we appreciate their attention and recognition of the culpability of Frances DiMare. “If she were alive, she would be under arrest for first degree premeditated murder.” It is significant that the truth was not buried with her.