A wealthy businessman was gunned down 62 years ago. Police say now they know who did it
In 1961, police found wealthy produce merchant Joseph DiMare gunned down in his white Cadillac. The killing stumped detectives for more than six decades.
Now, Miami-Dade police’s cold case homicide squad has revealed who it thinks was behind the gun: Joseph’s wife, Frances DiMare, then 33.
The announcement on Tuesday closed the high-profile case, which was also one of the department’s oldest.
The long-running case began on the night of March 24, 1961, when Frances DiMare stumbled into Sam’s Causeway 66 gas station at 2350 NE 123rd St. in North Miami.
She called police and told them that she and her husband had just left their home, in the nearby Keystone Point neighborhood, and were caught at a red light at North Bayshore Drive and Northeast 123th Street when two gunmen jumped into their car. The men ordered the couple to drive to a vacant lot, where they pistol-whipped the DiMares, police were told. Frances said she then blacked out and later saw that her husband, 52, was shot to death.
Police found Joseph DiMare slumped in the front passenger’s seat. He had been shot four times, including once through the mouth, with a .25 caliber pistol.
Police were skeptical of story
Detectives at the time, however, doubted Frances’ story. There were no signs of cuts or scrapes to the bottom of her feet from the gravel road. The first patrolman on the scene told reporters that Frances’ face had scratches that “looked as though she made them herself by running her hands down her face.” Her pointed Italian-style shoes were neatly placed beside the car.
Further investigation revealed that Joseph and Frances’ marriage was strained. Joseph had even changed his will to state that Frances must be living in his home at the time of his death to be eligible for inheritance.
She ultimately received a quarter of her husband’s $1 million estate in cash and moved to West Palm Beach, where she remarried twice and became a real estate agent.
A whirlwind of rumors and theories swirled for decades. Joseph DiMare was originally from Boston. So maybe the DiMares were victims of a Massachusetts gang targeting New Englanders in South Florida? Or maybe attackers mistook Joseph for a flashy mobster?
Physical evidence reviewed
The decades-long investigation that wound up on Tuesday confirmed that Joseph was shot and killed with a gun that he owned. Detectives also concluded that the shooting occurred in the garage of the DiMares’ home in the 2200 block of Arch Creek Drive.
Frances, detectives say, may have pulled off the murder with accomplices. They also believe that the pistol was thrown out of the car and under one of the local two bridges Frances had to drive over.
After reviewing physical evidence, police determined that Joseph was shot from the driver’s seat. That — along with physical evidence, the unconfirmed account of a robbery, and a looming divorce as a motive — pushed Miami-Dade detectives and the State Attorney’s Office to agree that there is no credible evidence to show that anyone other than Frances was responsible for Joseph’s killing.
The Miami Herald has reached out to the Miami-Dade Police Department to ask why police made this discovery now, but hadn’t heard back as of Wednesday afternoon.
Cracking the case
For nine years, Miami-area attorney Paul Novack, who has dedicated himself to sleuthing several cold cases, has actively investigated Joseph’s murder. Novack was key to cracking the long-elusive case of 17-year-old Danny Goldman, who was kidnapped from his Surfside home in 1966.
Novack familiarized himself with the era’s characters, events and major crimes. He examined every report, statement made to police and newspaper clipping, put them on a timeline and came to a conclusion: Frances DiMare killed her husband.
He presented his findings to detectives about nine months ago. It’s now the second case he’s helped close.
Though Joseph’s murder happened five years before Goldman’s kidnapping, he noticed common links. That’s why he includes the case on his website surfsidekidnapping.org.
“There were indications that there were corrupt influences that derailed the case,” Novack told the Miami Herald Wednesday.
For Novack, solving the decades-long mystery has uncovered major events in Miami history.
“The family now today has the relief of closure that they have been seeking for 62 years,” Novack said. “I’m grateful to be part of bringing them that closure and bringing the community the answers that have been elusive all this time.”
Joseph’s son Richard DiMare, who at the time of the murder lived with his brother Joe at the University of Miami, told the Miami Herald in 2011 that he always believed Frances planned his father’s demise. He said that he went to the home after the murder and that Frances told him: “You have 24 hours to get everything out. This is my house now.”
DiMare badgered officials over the years to continue the investigation into his father’s death, sending many letters about the cold case that was a source of frustration for Miami-Dade detectives and top-ranking leaders.
He also frequently corresponded with Novack, and the pair shared materials as they managed an investigation of their own.
“Somebody out there knows what happened,’‘ Richard told the Miami Herald in 2011. “I will continue. I believe that’s the highest tribute I can give to my father.”
Frances died in March 2006. She was 82.
This report was supplemented with material from the Miami Herald archives