This man's killer got away with murder, family says

Donald Garbett

Personal Photo/CBS News

Donna Garbett-Proffitt is certain she knows who murdered her father 40 years ago in his Miami, Fla. home - and she's convinced that person got away with it.

"He was such a wonderful guy. He was charismatic; he was awesome; he was good looking; he had presence. He had a big future planned," she told 48 Hours' Crimesider about her father, Donald Garbett, a 46-year-old successful businessman.

"I never got any closure. I want my story told."

August 31, 1974

In the early hours of August 31, 1974, Miami homicide detective Jimmy Beall responded to a call about a home break-in in which someone was reported shot.

"It was a nice house on one of the waterways in North Miami," Beall told Crimesider. "There was a white male in the bedroom, shot in the chest - Don Garbett. And there was a lady there that was hysterical - Sylvia Garbett."

Sylvia, who was 34 at the time, told Beall and Ina Shepard, another detective who responded to the scene, that she and Don were sleeping when two men broke into their home and entered their bedroom. They held the couple at gunpoint, she said, and one of the intruders took her into another room and tried to rape her, telling her, "If you're a good little girl, your husband will be okay."

Sylvia told the detectives she screamed. Then, she said, she heard a gunshot in the other room.

Sylvia said the killers fled soon after. When she felt safe, she says she ran to the bedroom and found Don lying on the bed, clutching a pillow. He wasn't moving. The phone lines were cut. She ran to a neighbor's house and called 911.

"That started the process," said Beall. It was the beginning of a case both he and Shepard say they will never forget.

A sketch of one of the suspects that was drawn up based on Sylvia Garbett's description.
Miami Police Department

The investigation began immediately and Beall and Shepard were in charge. Police dusted the house for fingerprints, took photos of the crime scene, interviewed neighbors and, with Sylvia's help, drew up a sketch of one of the suspects, which was widely circulated.

The case captivated the community. A successful, handsome businessman who was well known in the Miami area was dead, shot to death in his own home; his beautiful wife left distraught.

It was sensationalized in local newspapers. "His Dream House Was No Sanctuary," a Miami Herald article about the case proclaimed. A $10,000 reward was offered for information leading to an arrest and Sylvia Garbett appeared on a local TV news crime show alongside Detective Beall in an effort to solicit tips.

But months passed, and still, nothing.

It was almost a year later, Beall told Crimesider, when he received a call from an attorney that would crack the case wide open.

"He said, 'I've got a client, I think he may be in trouble.'"

  • Stephanie Slifer On Twitter»

    Stephanie Slifer covers crime and justice for