A corrupt sheriff’s office, the mob and greed all factored into the decades old mystery of the disappearance of a Surfside teenager.
(Published Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012)
CBS 4 (April 7, 2013)
One day in December, Miami-Dade police detectives drove to a gated community in Southwest Ranches to knock on the door of a 64-year-old woman, hoping her adolescent memories would bring answers to a decades-old question:
What happened to Danny Goldman?
There was a time when that was the biggest mystery in South Florida.
In the early morning hours of March 28, 1966, a portly, graying gunman broke into the Surfside house that 17-year-old Danny Goldman shared with his mother and father. The gunman bound Danny’s parents and demanded $10,000 cash; when no money was found, the attacker left with Danny, threatening to kill the teen if the Goldmans didn’t come up with $25,000 by that evening.
“Do what the man says,” Danny’s father, Aaron Goldman, instructed as the kidnapper took the teen away. They were the last words Goldman said to his son.
The kidnapper never called for the ransom, and Danny Goldman was never seen again. The strange abduction, once the stuff of national headlines, eventually faded from local memory. The crime, which occurred 47 years ago last Thursday, remains unsolved today.
Now a group of volunteers — friends and alums of Miami Beach Senior High, where Danny went to school — are trying to bring new attention to the once-famous kidnapping. Leading the cause is attorney Paul Novack, the former mayor of Surfside.
“It was always a community mystery, from when I was little,” said Novack, who lives near the Goldman house. “We just thought the whole memory of Danny’s existence shouldn’t be buried with his parents” — both of whom died in the past three years.
For the past 12 months, Novack has immersed himself in the case, collecting old police reports and yellowed newspaper clippings, interviewing retired detectives and aging Goldman family friends, hoping, just maybe, to solve the mystery of Danny Goldman’s disappearance — though most of those familiar with the case have since died.
Was the kidnapping just a case of mistaken identity, as Danny’s father speculated in 1966? Or perhaps the Goldman family was targeted for retaliation: At the time of the kidnapping, Aaron Goldman was aiding the FBI in a fraud investigation at a local bank, where he had been a board member.
Novack believes the real story is even more fantastic: an Oliver Stone-meets-James Ellroy tale involving a notorious burglar with ties to both the Mafia and a gang of corrupt cops — the very cops in charge of investigating the Danny Goldman kidnapping.
While Novack’s theory may seem far-fetched, the cold-case unit at the Miami-Dade Police Department thought there was enough to it to reopen the long-dormant case last year.
Which led detectives to Southwest Ranches, to the home of 64-year-old Sharon Ramos, formerly Sharon Lloyd, once the teenage girlfriend of Danny Goldman.
Ramos was a fixture at the Goldman house in the weeks following Danny’s abduction. In the years after the kidnapping, witnesses told police that Ramos might know more about the crime than she originally let on.
Several threads lead from the dusty Goldman files back to Ramos’ father, to her first husband, and to Ramos herself. But of the many questions the cold-case detectives had for Ramos, the most intriguing may have been this:
What did she know about a man named Chicken?
Continue reading: http://flashbackmiami.com/2017/03/21/danny-goldman-kidnapping-cold-case/
SURFSIDE – March 28 1966 – Aaron and Sally Goldman were awakened by an armed man looking for $10,000 the couple supposedly had hidden in their home. When he didn’t find the money, the intruder took the Goldman’s son, Danny, telling the parents that if they wanted their child back – they would need to come up with $25,000.
The kidnapping terrified the quiet community of Surfside. Suddenly families were locking doors and kids weren’t allowed to walk home from school. Across Dade County donations were made to help pay the ransom.
Reporters camped out in front of the Goldman home. Danny’s high school sweetheart, Sharon Lloyd, stood vigil outside the house, often holding a picture of the two of them.
As those first days passed without contact from the kidnapper, the Goldman promised Danny’s abductor they would cooperate, making personal pleas to the press.
“I will deliver the ransom to the location the kidnapper directed,” Aaron Goldman told reporters. “We would indeed be foolish not to work with him in our own interest.”
Days turned to months – and months to years – and years to decades, but Danny was never seen again.
“There was never a recovery of Danny dead or alive,” said Paul Novack, a former mayor for Surfside. “There was never an arrest made, and there are very few cases like that in the history of the country.”
Novack almost eight when Goldman was kidnapped
“The Goldman family house is just down the street from where I live now, and just blocks from where I grew up,” he noted.
The mystery has gnawed at him for a long time. A year ago he set off to try and solve it following the death of Danny’s mother.
“How horribly sad that she passed away without getting any answers,” he said.
Novack believes the $10,000 that gunman was looking for was money the Goldmans were supposedly gathering to ship Danny out of the country so the boy wouldn’t have to sign up for the draft the next day when he turned 18.
But when the intruder didn’t find any cash, it turned into a kidnapping.
An attorney by day turned dogged detective at night, Paul Novack dug into the case discovering long lost reports and statements taken from two career criminals. One pointed at a fellow named Joe Cacciatore.
Chicken Cacciatore, as he was known, was an accomplished thief and burglar closely aligned with mob boss Santo Trafficante Jr.
A serious player, Chicken was known to be operating in Miami Beach at the time of the kidnapping.
But how would Chicken know the Goldman family might have $10,000 hidden in the house to sneak Danny out of the country to avoid the draft?
Well, Novack and his team of Surfside sleuth uncovered report from a second informant identifying another member of the kidnap team. A former rum runner and criminal named Charlie Lloyd – the father of Danny Goldman’s girlfriend Sharon.
It would seem remarkable that police couldn’t have uncovered these connections at the time. But as Novack learned, the Dade County Sheriff’s Office was notoriously crooked in the Sixties.
In fact, one of the Dade Sheriff’s deputies in charge of the Goldman investigation was eventually indicted in an unrelated case six months after the kidnapping.
“He was indicted with Joe Cacciatore for jointly committing burglaries,” Novack said.
Chicken, it seems, would do the crime and the cop would cover up the evidence.
So what really happened to Danny Goldman?
Charlie Lloyd and Chicken Cacciatore are long dead as are the jailhouse snitches, informants and indicted cops.
But police are now wondering if Danny’s old girlfriend might somehow hold the answer.
Because of Novack, Miami Dade Police have reopened the case and they have questioned Sharon several times in recent weeks.
In his search, Novack found a decades old Surfside police report in which a bartender claims a woman – who reportedly identified herself as Danny Goldman’s high school girlfriend – came into the bar and told a story about how the kidnapping went wrong.
“There was two men one of them went into the house, took Danny out,” Novack recalled. “And they brought him to another location and at that other location, he saw somebody he recognized. And that everyone involved got scared and decided that they had to kill Danny at that point.”
Novack said Danny’s body was supposedly cut into pieces and dumped into the Florida Gulf Stream.
“There’s never been a funeral for Danny,” Novack said. “There’s never been a memorial service for Danny. The prayers that Jewish people say for the departed were not said. He was just gone!”
The Goldman family released a statement to CBS4 News that says in part: “Hopefully some final conclusion can be discovered and we can close this sad chapter in our family’s history.”
Sharon Lloyd is now 64 years old. She has been married twice and is living in Broward. In a phone interview she acknowledged detectives are talking to her. But she insists she has no idea what happened to Danny.
Not everyone remembers the moment when they lost the innocence of their childhood. But Paul Novack is reminded of that moment every day.
“Something about the Goldman house is that I drive by it at least twice a day,” says Novack. “It’s a constant reminder of what happened here in 1966.”
What happened in 1966 was suddenly the town of Surfside – Paul Novack’s town – became a place where horrendous crime happened. It began when a robber slipped in through the unlocked back door March 28, 1966, while the Goldman family slept.
The robber demanded $10,000. When the Goldmans didn’t have it, he took their son. Danny Goldman was one day away from his 18th birthday.
At a news conference after the kidnapping, Danny’s father, bank executive Aaron Goldman, pleaded for his son’s return: “Danny’s mother and I have been in a state of shock since Danny’s kidnapping from our home Monday morning. We have raised $25,000 as requested by the abductor expecting his call.”
That call never came. And for 47 years, Danny Goldman’s disappearance has been a mystery — a mystery Paul Novack couldn’t shake. He was seven years old at the time and lived about two blocks from the Goldman house. Suddenly Novack’s family started locking their doors. Parents began hanging around playgrounds to keep an eye on their kids.
For Novack, the very idea that his childhood home was safe, that he would be okay when he walked in the door, that feeling was over. “This wasn’t a boy that just disappeared on his way home from school, vanished,” Novack recalls. “This was a boy that was physically taken out of his family home in front of his parents.”
At the time, Surfside was – and still is – a village on the ocean just north of Miami Beach. There’s a small business district and Spanish Mission-style homes on a strip of land between the beach and the bay.
After the kidnapping, the media hung around for months. Then Danny Goldman’s disappearance faded into just another unsolved crime. Paul Novack went on to become a lawyer and then mayor of Surfside. Six times actually. He asked the police chief to look into the case, but nothing turned up.
Then, a year ago, a friend arrived on Novack’s doorstep carrying a box of papers. Danny’s mother had passed away, leaving bits of evidence and loose ends. “Those notes from Danny’s mother, the original notes in my hand, were inspirational, speaking to us that we had some sort of an obligation not to let the entire story get buried along with Danny’s parents,” Novack says.
So Novack started combing through the evidence. He created a website with documents and original videos. And he recruited about a dozen others to help, including ex-cops and friends. One of them is Joe Graubert, a Surfside city commissioner and a childhood friend of Danny Goldman. Graubert found Novack’s determination infectious.
“His ability to see this as a big picture, not simply some random burglary that went bad is incredible,” Graubert said.
Novack regularly visits the scene of the crime. He doesn’t have to go far to get there — he lives just a few doors away. He walks the property line, imagining how the kidnapping happened. He calls detectives to tell them about his progress.
Whenever he needs inspiration, he goes back to that box of papers kept by Danny Goldman’s mother. In it, there’s a letter she wrote, urging people to keep searching. He says of the note, “This spoke to us. In this form, she sent into the future, don’t forget her son.”
In October, Miami-Dade police reopened the case. And Novack says he has presented investigators with his theory as to what happened. He says he doesn’t want to jeopardize the investigation by revealing his evidence to the public, but Novack is sure one day soon, there will finally be an explanation as to what happened to Danny Goldman.
Danny Goldman. I hadn’t heard the name in almost 47 years and I never expected to unless I was telling the story. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In 1966, I was 26, a newsman for The Associated Press in Miami. In March of that year, I was sent to Surfside, which is just north of Miami Beach. It was the scene of a sensational kidnapping and the stories I wrote were published around the country. The victim was high school senior Daniel Goldman
I never forgot Surfside.
Why? I think there are several reasons. It was the quiet, orderly nature of the setting, the inexplicable aspects of the kidnapping, and the rapidly increasing realization at the time that we–the press–couldn’t fathom what had happened. Then, too, there was the sudden, arbitrary nature of the crime.
Standing near the Goldman home drinking coffee, talking to other reporters, trying to get a few words out of law enforcement officers at the scene, I had basically one expectation — that the good guys would soon provide the story with a happy ending, seizing the kidnapper and rescuing his victim. I expected that law enforcement officials in ties and suits would leave the Goldmans’ Surfside home, where the teenager had been seized the day before he was to turn 18, and announce that their colleagues had slapped the handcuffs on a perpetrator. Life would return to normal.
As days passed, it became clear that the kidnapper, who was never caught and never identified, and Danny Goldman, who was never seen again, had simply vanished.
Who was this kidnapper? Where did he take his victim? Why didn’t he call to explain how a ransom was to be delivered? How could kidnapper and victim simply, suddenly, disappear? Has this kidnapper lived happily ever since, relishing his unpunished crime? Or is he consumed with guilt and regrets? What made him choose this victim at this time and this place? Is the kidnapper still alive? He was described as being in his early 50s in 1966.
I always had the sense that this was the oddest of cases. How could it be that a man who was notably erratic — one could almost say bumbling — remained free despite the enormous resources of the FBI and other police agencies that took up the case?
I expected him to be stopped by a patrol car, taken off a boat or detained at an airport.
The kidnapping was a priority for law enforcement. A 1966 Miami News headline announced: “FBI No. 1 Mystery: The Goldman Case.”
In March of 2013, it will be 47 years since Danny Goldman was taken from his home.
Imagine my surprise, then, when, sitting at my computer, I recently read his name. A news story said this cold case was attracting new attention.
To find out what was going on, I called Paul Novack, an attorney and former Surfside mayor, who has gotten together with others to seek justice for Danny Goldman.
“The case is quite active,” he reported.
He said his group spent thousands of hours gathering material that was passed to law enforcement.
“Details never previously uncovered were compiled and assimilated,” according to the group’s website,www.surfsidekidnapping.org.
“We have been piecing together a puzzle,” Novack told me, “and a picture is developing.”
A spokesman for the Miami-Dade Police Department assured me, “This remains an open investigation.”
“The kidnapper came into the Goldman home looking for $10,000 in cash,” Novack said. When it wasn’t there, he took the teenager and demanded $25,000.
The intruder said if this figure wasn’t paid, the amount would jump to $50,000. He also said he would call that evening. He made no such call, Novack recounted.
The present-day equivalent of $10,000 in 1966 is more than $70,000.
The gun-wielding kidnapper had slipped into the Goldman residence through an unlocked patio door in the early hours, bound the Goldmans with Venetian blind cord and forced the younger Goldman to leave with him in the teenager’s car, which was later found abandoned in Miami Beach.
At the time, a detective suggested that the kidnapper may have been trying to recoup money lost in business dealings with the victim’s father, a contractor. The remark gained wide attention. But nothing came of this.
Now, among much else, Novack’s group touches on the peculiarities of the case.
“The links and ‘coincidences,'” its website says, “are rather amazing.” It goes on to state that “people of national historic significance had at least peripheral and previously unknown connections to the case.”
Case still active? Amazing links? Newly uncovered details? When it comes to this case, nothing surprises me anymore.
Let us hope that, through it all, Danny Goldman finally gets justice.
After years of a cold investigative trail, Miami-Dade Police detectives are again looking at a 46-year-old kidnapping case in Surfside.
Danny Goldman vanished the day before his 18th birthday in 1966.
But Joe Graubart and some of Goldman’s other childhood friends haven’t forgotten him. They have set up a website to drum up publicity, and done some of their own investigating.
“One of the FBI agents of the day said I’ve never seen a case like this before, and I doubt I will ever see a case like this again,” Graubart said.
According to authorities, somebody broke in around the back of the Goldman family’s house back in 1966, tied up Goldman’s parents Aaron and Sally, kidnapped Danny – who was a high school senior – and demanded a ransom.
It was big news in the little town of Surfside when Goldman’s parents made an appeal at the time.
“We have asked the authorities and they have agreed to leave us entirely alone in negotiating with the real kidnapper,” Aaron Goldman said then.
But they never heard from the kidnapper or their son.
Now, detectives are back on the case, thanks to the persistence of Graubart and others.
“We are a civic posse, so to speak, that is on the trail trying to fulfill Sally’s wish,” Graubart said.
Sally Goldman died earlier this year. Her husband, Aaron, passed away in 2010. Neither knew the fate of their only child – but Graubart said the Surfside community deserves to know.
“We think we are actually going to crack this case, of course with the Miami-Dade County cold case squad,” he said.
On March 28, 1966, Daniel Jess Goldman, a 17-year old senior attending Miami Beach Senior High, was kidnapped from the Surfside home where he lived with his parents, Aaron, a contractor and Sally, an interior designer. (No relation to the Tony Goldman family.)
An only child, Danny was turning 18 the next day – and planned to go with his mother to register at the Selective Services office. That never happened.
According to official records, at approximately 5 a.m., a husky male entered the Goldman home through an unlocked sliding glass door. He referred to Aaron and Sally by first name, demanding $10,000 in cash. When told they didn’t have it, he tied them up at gunpoint, ransacked the house and forced Danny to drive him from the scene. Danny’s 1962 white Rambler was found later that afternoon, parked near the City National Bank Building on 71st Street in Miami Beach.
Before leaving, the kidnapper demanded $25,000 in cash from Danny’s parents by 6 p.m., and threatened that if they didn’t deliver it, the ransom would be upped to $50,000.
The Goldmans never heard from the kidnapper – or their son – again. Danny has never been found, alive or dead; the perpetrator never identified or punished.
Aaron Goldman died in 2010; Sally Goldman died in February, 2012. After her death, a page of her handwritten notes were forwarded (by a cousin of Danny’s) to Paul Novack, an attorney and former Mayor of Surfside. The notes, which urged continued interest in Danny’s case, spurred Novack to take action.
He teamed with Surfside residents Joseph Graubart (a city commissioner) and David Graubart (brothers who grew up near the Goldmans); Anthony Blate (a former classmate of Danny’s) and Harvey Lisker to seek justice.
“We decided that Danny should not be forgotten. His kidnapping and possible murder should not be ignored, no matter how cold the case,” explains Novack.
Since March, Novack and his “posse” did research, obtained public records and conducted interviews about the case, which they provided to law enforcement. As a result, the Miami-Dade Police Homicide Bureau is now actively investigating the disappearance of Daniel Jess Goldman.
“If anyone has any information – no matter how small they believe it may be – it could lead to a break in the case and we urge them to come forth,” said Miami-Dade Police Detective Aida Fina-Milian.
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