Cold Case
6:04 am
Fri March 29, 2013

Nearly Five Decades Later, Kidnapping Still Haunts Surfside’s Former Mayor

Paul Novack has boxes of evidence and documents in his law office's conference room.
Paul Novack has boxes of evidence and documents in his law office's conference room.
Credit Eric Barton

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. 

Danny Goldman was a day shy of his 18th birthday when he disappeared.
Danny Goldman was a day shy of his 18th birthday when he disappeared.

“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.