Revenge Killing in Miami
The 1976 Mob Murder of George Byrum
Copyright © 2007
Elizabeth Bethel, a chambermaid at Miami’s Ocean Shore Motel, unlocked the door to Room 23 at about noon on July 14, 1976. After setting a fresh batch of towels down on a chair, she began making one of the room’s two beds. It was the only piece of furniture noticeably disturbed.
Turning her attention to the bathroom, Bethel found the door closed and locked. Believing the room unoccupied, she unlocked and opened the door. The maid was immediately confronted with the apparently lifeless body of a heavyset middle-aged man. The corpse was sprawled upon the floor, its upper portion lying face-down in the shower stall. A large quantity of drying blood stained the man’s clothing and coated the tiles beneath him.
Bethel rushed from the room and returned with Mickey Brutto, another motel employee. Brutto looked around quickly and telephoned 911.
The first to respond was Robert Kidd, an emergency medical worker. After just a glance at the scene, he decided there was no need even to check for a pulse. Lieutenant Minium and Sergeant Diecidue, detectives with the homicide bureau of the Miami-Dade Police Department, and Patrolman Michael Cummins arrived soon after.
Byrum, a former Golden Beach police officer, resided in Davie and had an electrical contracting business in Hallandale. His final business meeting was scheduled at the Ocean Shore Motel.
The law enforcement officers found that the corpse bore multiple bullet and stab wounds. They noted bullet entrance and exit wounds consistent with a shot in the left side of the abdomen. Detectives decided that the victim also had been shot in the right cheek by a handgun held at close range. A slug had apparently entered at that location, but there was no corresponding exit wound. The medical examiner later found the bullet lodged in the victim’s skull behind the left ear.
The detectives determined that the victim had been stabbed eleven times in the back with a “large cutting object,” likely a hunting knife or similar blade. Two or three deep cuts were also found across the back of the victim’s neck from ear-to-ear, an apparent attempt to detach the head from the torso. Just below the gunshot wound in his cheek, contact with the bathroom floor tile had left a cross-like mark.
Beneath the victim’s head was a blood-soaked towel. A set of keys sat in a puddle blood nearby. A clean towel was draped across the victim’s lower back. The plugged-up sink contained reddish water and a bloody washcloth. The back pockets of the victim’s pants were ripped out, and no wallet could be found. A five dollar bill remained in a front pocket.
Outside of the bathroom, the police found a ricochet mark on one of the room walls, and a bullet slug covered in a rubbery residue lying nearby. A small amount of blood was found on the carpet and a wall.
Identifying the victim
The killers had left few clues. Police found no fingerprints. No calls had been made from the room prior to the discovery of the body. None of the residents of nearby rooms reported seeing or hearing anything unusual.
Police questioned the Ocean Shore’s night clerk, who told them that around 10 p.m. on July 12 he signed Room 23 out to a man who identified himself as John Holland. They knew that name to be an alias associated with organized criminal activity in the region, but they did not know to whom it belonged.
The clerk recalled that Holland was sharply dressed and appeared to be a businessman. He was accompanied by two older looking men who stood silently behind him as he checked in. Holland booked the room for the following three days, paying in cash.
The keys found near the victim matched a tan station wagon parked outside the room. That car was registered to Bolt Electric, a contracting business located in Hallandale, Florida. Following up on the lead police soon identified the victim as George Zebedie Byrum, known as “Dick” or “Dickie” to his friends.
Investigators set to the task of questioning Byrum’s family, friends and acquaintances, in the hope of learning the events that led to his murder.
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