The Bizarre Case Of Danny Goldman's Kidnapping

For decades, Danny Goldman's kidnapping remained a cold case. Thanks to the determination of a group of individuals, however, the mystery was finally solved 55 years after the incident took place, and it finally gave the residents of Surfside, Florida the answers they've been looking for.

Daniel Jess Goldman, known as Danny, was just a day shy of his 18th birthday when he was abducted at gunpoint from his home in the town of Surfside on March 28, 1966. His parents — Aaron and Sally — said that an unknown individual entered their home through the sliding glass doors at approximately 4:30 a.m. expecting to find $10,000, as reported by Surfside Kidnapping. The Goldmans didn't have that amount of money in the home at that time, and the intruder decided to take their son instead. "I'm going to hold Danny for security for the money. I wanted $10,000 but with the help I'll need now it will double. You get up $25,000. If you don't get it for tonight the price will double tomorrow," the intruder said. The Goldmans were told to wait for instructions at about 6 p.m. that same day.

The Goldman family and details of the kidnapping

Danny Goldman was a senior at Miami Beach Senior High, and he had a keen interest in electronics. He spent his free time tinkering with televisions or being with his girlfriend, Sharon Lloyd. His mother Sally worked as an interior designer, while his father Aaron was a prominent builder and contractor in the area (via Surfside Kidnapping). Danny had made plans with his mother to go and register at the Selective Service office on the day of his birthday.

According to the Charley Project, the intruder called the Goldmans by their first names when he demanded money. Since they didn't have cash, they offered to write him a check but he refused. He then used cords to tie Sally and Aaron's hands behind their backs and secured a knife and scissors on the knots to prevent them from struggling. The intruder then woke Danny and bound him as well before driving off in the teenager's car — a white Nash Rambler. The Goldmans immediately contacted authorities, and they described the abductor as a Caucasian male in his 50s. No other items were touched in the home.

The case turned cold

The Goldmans prepared the ransom money to get their son Danny back. However, the call — nor any other type of contact from the abductor — never came. News reporters flocked to the Goldman home, and Aaron made a statement to the media in hopes of getting the kidnapper's attention. "I will deliver the ransom to the location the kidnapper directed. We would indeed be foolish not to work with him in our own interest," he said, per CBS Miami. But days, weeks, and years passed without a word from the abductor.

The only clues found were Danny's car — which was abandoned at a parking lot — and the tip of a surgical glove that may have been torn off from the kidnapper's hand as he bound the Goldmans, as reported by the Charley Project. The source of the glove was traced, and it was exclusively sold in Canada. It was looked into further, but nothing came of it. Goldman's case turned cold and law enforcement shelved it and categorized it as "administratively closed." The Goldmans both passed away (Aaron in 2010 and Sally in 2012) not knowing what happened to their son.

The case was reinvestigated decades after the kidnapping

Without Aaron and Sally Goldman gone, it seemed that Surfside residents wouldn't get the answer to the decades-long mystery that has plagued their town. That all changed in March 2012 when five Surfside residents decided to take matters into their own hands and seek justice for Danny Goldman, as reported by Surfside Kidnapping. Harvey Lisker, David and Joseph Graubart, Anthony Blate, and former Surfside Mayor Paul Novack looked into the details of the case in hopes of getting an answer. Four of the five mentioned attended the same school as Goldman, and three of them personally knew him.

"We did a deep dive into every detail, every person, every event. We did not limit ourselves to Danny's case. We looked at the entire context of the times," Novack said in an interview with Oxygen. Each member of the group voluntarily dedicated their time going through pieces of evidence and crucial information. "It was like a humongous onion. You just had to keep peeling and peeling to get to the center," said Novack (via NBC Miami). When Sally died, she left a box of documents containing details of Danny's case. Novack and the team went through them, and with the help of friends and former cops, they were able to piece together the events behind Danny's kidnapping.

A mafia connection

One of the clues in the kidnapping was the fact that the intruder called the Goldmans by their first names, which led many to believe that the family was targeted. It was discovered that just months before Danny Goldman was abducted, his father had meetings with the FBI. Aaron Goldman was a board member of a local bank, and he reported fraudulent banking activities that prompted a federal investigation, as reported by NBC Miami. In the late 1950s, banks in Miami were utilized by crime syndicates to conceal and launder money. Suspicious cash flow was observed in accounts owned by associates of high-profile individuals, including Santo Trafficante Jr. (pictured above) — the boss of the Trafficante crime family, also known as the Tampa Mafia.

A total of 19 bank officials were indicted for federal fraud, and Aaron testified against them just two days before Danny's abduction. It was concluded that Danny's kidnapping was done in retaliation against Aaron's testimony. According to Surfside Kidnapping, the group of volunteers approached the Cold Case Unit regarding their findings, and it was discovered that Danny's case had links to other cold cases. Corruption was also rampant in law enforcement at that time, and it is believed that Danny's case was never solved because of a cover-up.

The case was solved after 55 years

One of the Cold Case Unit detectives who worked on Danny Goldman's case was able to identify a man named George Defeis as the abductor. Defeis matched the description that Aaron provided after the incident, and Defeis was also associated with the Trafficante crime family. As reported by NBC Miami, Defeis was also identified by his distinct gait because of a disability. Investigators believe that Danny was killed and his body was discarded within a day or two days after he was taken from his home.

Defeis died at a nursing home in 1980, and the Miami-Dade Police officially declared Danny's case solved on December 28, 2021. Paul Novack said he wished the case was closed sooner so that Defeis could have been arrested for the crime. "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 told Oxygen. Novack and the other volunteers are open to investigating other cases that have never been solved.