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Convict charged in Aronow killing

Robert S. Young, a convict with cocaine conspiracy and murder charges on his rap sheet, has been charged with the murder of speedboat builder-racer Don Aronow, one of South Florida's most sensational crimes of the 1980s.

Young, already a federal prisoner in Oklahoma with a 10- year narcotics sentence imposed there and two earlier Florida state court sentences still to serve, was indicted for the Aronow murder by a Dade County grand jury on March 28. That was kept secret until Tuesday, when he was brought back from Oklahoma City.

Aronow was killed during the afternoon of Feb. 3, 1987, on a block of Northeast 188th Street called Thunderboat Row, where he had created several speedboat companies that he eventually sold to others.

The killer, riding in a black or dark blue Lincoln Continental, stopped beside Aronow's white Mercedes sports car and shot him to death.

Investigators have believed all along that at least two people were involved in the killing, and the prevailing theory for three years has been that they were working for someone else.

If the police have evidence against anyone other than Young, they are not saying yet.

Gary Rosenberg, an assistant state attorney in charge of the case, was asked if anyone else is being charged with the crime.

"Not today, " he answered.

Other than making the charge and the jailing of Young public, neither Rosenberg nor Metro-Dade police would release any details.

Young, 41, is scheduled for a bond hearing this morning in Dade Circuit Court. Young will go through the procedure even though the charge against him, first-degree murder, is a no-bond offense.

The prosecutor said an arraignment is scheduled for July 3. More details may be made public then.

Pre-trial release also is prevented by three prison sentences Young still has to serve -- 10 years for the federal drug case in Oklahoma, 17 years for a Fort Lauderdale abduction and attempted murder committed in the summer of 1987 and 17 for a Miami drug-related murder in 1984, for which Young was arrested two years ago.

The Aronow case has been investigated in considerable secrecy, by a squad of Metro-Dade homicide detectives known for making little information public even in routine cases. The Herald, using public records and interviews with other people, reported in mid-April that Young was the prime suspect, but did not know that he had been indicted already.

It is known that at least two convicted criminals have reported to investigators that Young spoke to them about killing Aronow. Prosecutor Rosenberg refused to say if there is any other evidence against him.

Skip Walton, a co-defendant who tattled on Young in the Oklahoma cocaine conspiracy, told FBI agents that in 1986, Young showed him a list of people who certain Colombians wished were dead. Walton said Young had misappropriated 80 kilos of cocaine from the Colombians, but they were willing to forgive him if he killed some of the people on the list.

Aronow's name was on it with a $250,000 price tag, Walton said.

It is not known publicly if his story has been verified, if the police are sure that is why Aronow was killed, or if they believe Young did it alone or with someone else.

A few minutes before the murder, a stranger was in the office of Aronow's USA Racing Team, inquiring about having a speedboat built for an employer whose name he did not mention. The man met Aronow, then left without further discussion -- an indication that he was only a "fingerman, " establishing the target's identity.

A composite drawing police made from descriptions given by witnesses depicts a man with wavy brown hair, a tanned complexion and a couple of days' growth of whiskers. The sketch does not look like Young, a blue-eyed blond. When the sketch was shown to Aronow's office staff, they did not recognize it as the man who had inquired about a boat. At least one employee, who was shown a photograph of Young, did not recognize him.

Fear might have altered their ability to identify anyone.

"Everyone was terrified, " said John Crouse, who was Aronow's public relations adviser for 20 years and became acquainted with his circle of offshore power boat racers.

"Don mingled with all sorts of people. He sold boats to mobsters. He was a high roller and in the fast world of fast boats, Rolexes and Porsches there are strange bedfellows. You couldn't be an offshore racer and not have an association with somebody involved in drugs."

Young, who also uses the name Jason Robert Scott, was indicted on narcotics charges in Oklahoma in April 1988. He had been in the Oklahoma County Jail for some time when he was sentenced last Thursday to a 10-year prison term.

He pleaded guilty to two conspiracies -- to smuggle cocaine from Colombia to the United States, and to possess cocaine with intent to distribute it. A judge granted his request to serve his 10-year sentence in Florida, along with the two state sentences.

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