Today, the story of 17-year-old Danny Goldman’s disappearance sounds like the farfetched plot of a movie, but in 1966, it really happened.
On March 28, 1966, a large man with a limp broke into Aaron and Sally Goldman’s home in Surfside, Florida, using an unlocked sliding glass door, People reported. The man wore a hat and pointed a gun at the family, demanding $10,000 in cash and using the couples’ first names. As People noted, $10,000 in 1966 is equivalent to nearly $90,000 today, and the Goldman’s said they didn’t have that much lying around.
The intruder said he’d take a hostage – their son Danny.
“I’m going to hold Danny for security,” he allegedly told the family before increasing his demand to $25,000. He allegedly told them he would call that day at 6 p.m. with more instructions, but he never did. And Danny was never seen again.
Danny’s childhood friend David Graubart told People that at the time he and others “thought he’d be back in two or three days somehow, with this crazy story to tell.”
But that didn’t happen.
Aaron Goldman died in 2010. Sally died two years later. They never found out what happened to their son.
Graubart, his younger brother Joe, and several other friends including Paul Novack soon began spending their own time and resources to find out what happened to their childhood friend – and the truth is wild.
Novack became an attorney and a six-term mayor of Surfside. “One day Joe knocks on my door and tells me he’s got this package of material from Sally Goldman, and he thinks I should have a look at it,” Novack told People.
The package contained a letter from Sally asking people not to forget about her only child. After looking through the contents of the package, Novack and the others, calling themselves “the posse” began to piece together what happened to Danny Goldman nearly 60 years earlier. The group “reviewed tens of thousands of pages of documents, tracked down and interviewed dozens of people and searched multiple archives and vaults,” People reported.
“Basically, our decision was that it would be completely wrong for Danny to be forgotten,” Novack told the outlet. “How does a 17-year-old get taken out of his family home at 5 in the morning, and then years later it’s just almost like it didn’t happen and he didn’t happen? Danny didn’t have brothers or sisters and his parents were gone. We decided it wasn’t going to go down like that.”
For nearly a decade, the group investigated Danny’s disappearance, and finally figured out what happened. Last year, in collaboration with the Miami-Dade Police Department, the group announced that Danny had been kidnapped and killed by mobster George Defeis, who dumped the teen’s body in the Atlantic Ocean with help from another criminal, Joe “Chicken” Cacciatore. Both Defeis and Cacciatore have since died.
Novack was able to link Defeis to the kidnapping by using a rubber glove fragment left at the scene of the crime, which was traced to a clinic in Brooklyn where Defeis had been a patient. That clinic was the only one in the U.S. that used those particular gloves.
“I was able to find out that this particular man who was the kidnapper lived in New York at the time, and was a patient at these community clinics at the time,” Novack told People. “He had access to the one type of unique glove that was found on the floor in the Goldman house.”
Other evidence included taxi cab information showing Defeis arrived at the Goldman house just hours before the kidnapping. Defeis also had a limp, just as Aaron and Sally had told police at the time of the abduction.
The posse determined that the mob killed Danny in retaliation for his father exposing 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 when announcing the findings in 2021.
Even though the case is solved, the friends still feel depression over what happened. Joe Graubert told People that he “feel[s] sad” because “two lives were lost.”
“Sally’s life and Danny’s,” he added. “Danny was kidnapped and murdered, and Sally Goldman’s life was kidnapped and somewhat murdered along with him.”