June 11, 2018 | By James Donlon
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and the University of North Florida’s Applied Journalism class.
On April 25, 2023, Richard DiMare contacted the Project: Cold Case office to tell us that the Miami-Dade Police Department and the State Attorney’s Office had met and concluded that Frances DiMare, wife of Joseph and step-mother of Richard, was responsible for the murder 62 years earlier. Frances died in 2006.
It was 3 a.m. on a cold winter night in Bradenton. Richard DiMare and his two brothers were fast asleep at their father’s farm.
In the 1950s, winter farming meant lighting kerosene lamps and placing them between rows of tomato plants to ward off the frost. DiMare remembers his father waking them, then leading them out to the fields to ensure their crops didn’t freeze.
Richard remembers the many business trips like this he would accompany his father on around Florida. Joseph DiMare and his three sons would drive to farms and work on the tomato plants before they were sent off to processing. Tomato farms are the DiMare family business.
It’s another night of hard work for the family. But years later, DiMare will treasure the memory of a father long gone.
“He was a gentle man,” Richard recalled of his father, “but he always worked. He wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.”
It’s been over five decades since the younger DiMare lost that “gentle man.”
The last time the elder DiMare was seen alive by his son was on March 24, 1961, when DiMare and his wife, Frances, were headed out to dinner. Frances was driving her husband’s Cadillac Fleetwood sedan when, at an intersection on the Broad Causeway in North Miami, two men jumped into the back seat of the car.
Frances later told police that one of the men placed a gun to her head and told her to drive to a nearby empty lot. That lot was located in Sans Souci Estates, less than a mile from the couple’s home in Keystone Islands.
When her husband looked back, he was hit in the face with a pistol.
One of the men then hit her in the head as well, Frances told police, knocking her out. She regained consciousness minutes later to find her husband slouched over the front seat with blood flowing from his head.
He had been shot four times with a .25 caliber Sata, an Italian auto pistol — a gun that was owned and registered to Frances DiMare.
Frances ran to a near-by gas station where the police were called.
According to police records, Norman Logan, the gas station employee, said Frances “never mentioned (her husband) had been shot until the police arrived.”
Two men who were fishing a few yards from the site stated that they heard nothing.
Frances told the police the men had taken $5,000 worth of jewelry from her and $400 cash from her husband.
Despite that, a gold ring and diamond cufflinks were found still on her husband’s body.
In an interview with The Miami Herald at the time of the murder, Frances said the “men kept calling my husband Frank instead of Joe for some reason. I think that either they mistook Joe for someone else, or they just wanted to rob us.”
No one has been charged in DiMare’s murder.
Today, the Miami-Dade Police Department has limited knowledge of the event. There are apparently only a handful of photos and documents left.
Detective I. Watson of the North Miami district rarely finds new information on these cases. “Anything over 40 years is a difficult task to look into,” he said.
The younger DiMare, however, won’t give up his quest to find out what happened.
In 1991, DiMare sent the case information to John Thornton, a professor of forensic science at the University of California, Berkeley for a second opinion.
Thornton submitted a letter to Miami-Dade police stating that Frances’s statements to the police were unlikely, due to the timeline described and the gunshot wounds having shots fired from two separate angles.
Thornton believed the amount of blood found at the crime scene does not match with the amount of time Frances had described the crime taking.
Richard DiMare will certainly not forget the father who wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.
In the early 1940s, Joseph DiMare, his first wife, and their three children had moved to North Miami from Boston, where the elder DiMare and his two brothers had made a living by selling fresh fruit and vegetables from pushcarts.
Today, the company known as DiMare Fresh, grows all types of tomatoes, cleaning them and preparing them for sale.
After moving to Miami in the early 1940s, Joseph’s wife of 19 years passed away due to cancer.
Three years later, DiMare married Frances, who was 20 years younger than him. Richard DiMare recalls tensions in the marriage.
In fact, just before the murder, Richard DiMare said he took a trip to Ohio to meet with his brothers and business partners to discuss the possibility of divorce and a new draft of his will.
Richard DiMare said he thinks there is more to the story of what happened within a few days to his father’s murder.
“Some officers came out here and showed me a list of suspects back in 2000. It lined up with a lot of the research I had already done,” he said.
Frances was not on that list. Relatives of Frances DiMare could not be reached for comment. She passed away in the early 2000s, Richard said.
Paul Novack is an attorney who assisted Richard DiMare in finding more information on his father’s case in the 1980s. Novack is familiar with unsolved murders in the Miami area.
“There were a lot of cases at that time that are connected to one another. We look into these cases and end up finding connections and links to organized crime in the area,” he said.
One of those connections includes the same people popping up as suspects for multiple cases around the North Miami area.
Richard DiMare finds the timeliness of the rewriting of the will and the murder to be “far too coincidental.” He has spent the last 40 years investigating.
But DiMare is persistent. He continues to gather what evidence he can and call those he thinks are associated with the case.
Today the case is 57 years old. The lot where DiMare was murdered is now a tennis center.
Richard DiMare still sees potential in some of the evidence.
“There was a lot of blood in that car,” he said. “I’m sure there has to be something. Whether it be DNA evidence or not.”
But Novack is less optimistic.
“It doesn’t usually flow well on these sort of cases,” he says.
DiMare hasn’t given up hope.
“I still call. Here I am. I continue to write letters and make phone calls. I’m just looking for answers.”
Answers that may have been lost to time.
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