By 1966, his record included at least 10 arrests for burglary, robbery and possession of bolita gambling sheets from the illegal numbers game that was popular in Miami at the time. (In one case, Cacciatores alibi witness was Frank Sturgis, who was later convicted as one of the Watergate burglars.) Just a month before the Goldman kidnapping, Cacciatore was arrested for breaking into a 14th-floor room at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach.
Cacciatore was 5-foot-7 and 175 pounds, with black-gray hair, prison records show. At the time of the Goldman kidnapping, he was 50 years old, and he was free on bail while appealing a burglary conviction. Despite his lengthy record and his physical similarities to the kidnapper right down to the eyeglasses Cacciatore was never seriously considered a suspect in the abduction at the time.
He was certainly known to the police, Novack said. Theres nothing Ive seen that would indicate he was ever questioned.
Novack believes he knows why: Among Cacciatores partners in crime were several Dade County sheriffs deputies including some of the detectives overseeing the Goldman investigation.
When crooks and cops were hard to tell apart
Corruption was a persistent problem at the sheriffs office at the time of the Goldman kidnapping. A 1966 grand jury report described the departments see-no-evil approach to gambling and prostitution at a time when organized crime was at its height.
During the past 10 or 15 years, gambling, prostitution and other forms of vice have flourished in Dade County with the obvious knowledge and active cooperation or tacit acquiescence of many local law enforcement agencies, the grand jury found.
The corruption seeped into the highest ranks of the department to the sheriff himself, the grand jury concluded. In October 1966 seven months after the Goldman kidnapping five sheriffs deputies were indicted on burglary or larceny charges, including Lt. Leslie Van Buskirk, chief of the police division; Maj. Manson Hill, chief of the detective bureau, and Sgt. David Helman, head of the sheriffs intelligence division. Around the same time, Dade County Sheriff Talmadge A. Buchanan was named in two separate indictments for perjury and bribery conspiracy.
Helman faced a separate indictment for allegedly helping another burglar who was breaking into rooms at the Dunes Motel on Collins Avenue in February 1965. The burglar: Joseph Chicken Cacciatore.
The indictments against the sheriff and his staffers were all dismissed, largely due to a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said the law officers compelled testimony to the grand jury was improper. But the taint of scandal remained: Hill, who resigned a month before the indictments, never returned to the force. Helman became a bail bondsman and private investigator; in 1970, when called to testify in the corruption trial of another disgraced Dade deputy, he refused, pleading the Fifth Amendment 49 times.
Both Helman and Hill played key roles in the Goldman kidnapping investigation while with the sheriffs office. Helman stood watch over the Goldman home on the first night after the kidnapping; Hill, who supervised the investigation, was on guard on the second night.
If Cacciatore was involved in the kidnapping, Helman would have had reason to steer the investigation in another direction, out of fear that his ties to Cacciatore could be exposed, Novack says. But Novacks theory raises more questions: If Cacciatore was the kidnapper, why didnt Dannys parents identify him in late 1966 or 1967, when Cacciatores name, and face, became front-page news in the sheriffs office corruption scandal?
Any conspiracy of silence died long ago along with the players: Helman, Hill and Cacciatore are all dead.
A woman orders a drink in a bar....
The investigation fell dormant again for several years, but for one additional clue: In 1986, an unidentified woman drinking in a Miami bar began offering details about the case. She said she had been Dannys girlfriend, and that Danny had been killed because he recognized one of his captors, and then dumped at sea. She implicated a bail bondsman in the crime an apparent reference to Wally Jefferson. A bartender later called the Surfside police, but the woman, gone by then, was never identified.
The police report of the bartenders story was then lost, though Surfside police recreated the report when they reopened the Goldman investigation along with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in 2000. But the 2000 investigation did not find any new information.
Novack hopes the cold-case detectives now working the case will find more answers. Last year, Miami-Dade police released a time-lapse image of what a 64-year-old Danny Goldman might look like today in case Danny is actually alive somewhere. Police also collected a DNA sample from Dannys 95-year-old aunt just days before she died, so investigators have a sample for comparison in case a body is later found.
Novack and his partners have also created a website, www.surfsidekidnapping.org, that includes photographs, old TV footage and newspaper clippings, hoping to spark more interest in the case.
Miami-Dade police declined to provide specifics on the state of the investigation today. But detectives have talked to Dannys former girlfriend, Sharon Ramos.
Earlier this month, in a brief interview with The Miami Herald, Ramos said she has been in contact with a Miami-Dade police sergeant. Ramos said she had no new information about the case, and said she was not the mysterious woman who described Dannys death to a bartender in 1986.
I knew that the case was reopened, said Ramos, who said medical problems prevented her from sitting down to a lengthier interview with reporters. I dont know anything.
Novack realizes that the chances that police will solve the Goldman kidnapping 47 years later are, at best, remote. But he hopes the new investigation can turn up enough new information that could point to some solution to the mystery.
But Jones, the former Herald reporter, suspects the Goldman kidnapping is a mystery that will remain unsolved.
If they couldnt solve it then, I dont think its possible to solve it now.