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A team of Florida residents has helped solve the bizarre case of a teenager who disappeared 55 years ago, according to police.
Daniel Jess Goldman was just 17 when someone kidnapped him from his Surfside home on March 28, 1966 in what appeared to be a hold-for-ransom job, according to the Miami-Dade Police Department. Although Goldman’s body has never been found, homicide bureau detectives say they finally solved the case thanks to the “critical” role of Surfside resident Paul Novack.
Paul Novack, an attorney who served six terms as Surfside’s longest-running mayor, told Oxygen.com how he and a team of five locals worked diligently on the case since 2012.
“Before this crime happened, nobody would lock their doors,” said Novack, who was only 8 when the kidnapping occurred a few blocks from his home. “Once this happened, all the mothers in town were afraid. They didn’t know what happened or who would be next ... hoping for answers that never came.”
In the early morning hours of that March day, someone broke into Daniel Goldman’s home, where he lived with his parents, Aaron and Sally Goldman. Det. John Grossman stated the man has now been identified as George Defeis, who tied the three victims up before forceably removing the teenager from the residence. Defies demanded the parents pay $25,000 ransom at a later time.
The ransom would be the equivalent of nearly $215,000 today.
“The Goldmans were able to free themselves and ultimately called the police,” said Det. Grossman. “Despite their cooperation with authorities, the ransom call they had been anxiously waiting for never came.”
Authorities said they determined Defies was behind the kidnapping by placing him at the Goldman house hours before the crimes. They added that “latent evidence and a detailed subject description” provided by Mr. and Mrs. Goldman led them to Defeis, namely a distinct walk he had “due to a disability.”
Det. Grossman credited Paul Novack and his team for unearthing “crucial information.”
“We did a deep dive into every detail, every person, every event,” Novack told Oxygen.com. “We did not limit ourselves to Danny’s case. We looked at the entire context of the times… I came across George Defeis in another homicide case and started to realize his connections.”
George Defeis was tied to the Trafficante crime family based in Tampa, as reported by NBC Miami.
According to Det. Grossman, Daniel Goldman’s kidnapping and murder was an act of revenge after Aaron Goldman went up against the group known as the Tampa Mafia.
“During the course of the investigation, it was discovered that Aaron Goldman was on the board of directors for a local bank and testified to federal authorities two days prior to the abduction of his son, regarding illegal activities occurring at his bank,” said Grossman. “We believe Daniel’s abduction was retaliation for Aaron’s cooperation with federal authorities.”
George Defeis died in a North Miami nursing home in 1980 following complications with diabetes, according to Novack.
Novack claimed he and his team obtained information proving Goldman died within a day or two after the kidnapping.
“His body was taken to a boat that was in a marina in North Miami Beach,” Novack told Oxygen.com. “His remains were taken out to the Gulf Stream. He was discarded and dismembered into the ocean.”
Novack said he wished someone solved the case years ago, so Defeis have faced charges.
“Since we can’t do that, we still find it extremely important to expose the truth, expose the guilty, the culpable, and open doors that have been locked for six decades,” he said.
Paul Novack, who created the Surfside Kidnapping website, says his door is open as he and his team pursue other cases in the area.
“[Fifty-five] years later, we are finally able to bring Danny’s family closure with the identification of the person responsible for the horrific event that led to his death,” Det. Grossman concluded. “Although George Defeis has died, this is a perfect example of how the Miami-Dade Police Department Cold Case Unit continues to investigate cases, no matter how old they are.”
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