“I feel like it’s a dream,” cried Idey Elias, the mother of 52-year-old Randi Gorenberg who was shot and killed in Palm Beach County, Fla. “Every morning I wake up in disbelief that my baby is gone.”
Randi, a mother of two grown children, a wife to a successful chiropractor, and daughter and sister, was murdered by an unknown assailant. Palm Beach County detectives are trying to piece together the puzzle.
“The hardest part is not having a motive,” said Palm Beach County Homicide Detective Chris Karpinski.
On March 23, 2007, Randi’s day was quite typical. She spoke with her daughter on the cell phone, called some friends, then shopped at the Town Center mall, in Boca Raton, located in Palm Beach County.
Cops say evidence shows she bought a John Legend CD and clothes from the Old Navy store.
“Randi rarely shopped for herself. It was usually purchases for her family, her kids. She had this knack to make holidays and birthdays special by finding the right gift or card,” Idey said.
The Palm Beach County investigation begins at that shopping mall because Randi is spotted on surveillance video leaving the mall with packages at 1:16 p.m.
The family knew it was her once they saw the video because they said, “Randi didn’t walk, she bounced. She was full of life,” Idey said.
On the surveillance video, you can see Randi leave the mall and stop briefly where she is checking her cell phone.
“Often cell phones don’t get good signals in the mall and most people check their phones as soon as they exit the shopping center,” Detective Karpinski said.
Police are trying to determine who she talked to, or if she was checking voice mail. From there, she walks out of camera angle and there are no other mall surveillance cameras that capture her in the parking lot.
Police believe she got into her vehicle, a black 2007 Mercedes GL450 SUV, but cops aren’t sure if she was carjacked or approached by assailants at that time. They do know that her new CD — the John Legend album purchased at the mall — was opened and put into the vehicle’s player. Was she distracted then?
Cops say Randi’s SUV was driven about 5 miles to neighboring Delray Beach. At 1:54 p.m. while driving along an access road at the South County Civic Center, witnesses heard a gunshot from the black Mercedes.They also saw Randi fall to the ground on the passenger side of her vehicle.
Initially, detectives thought Randi was shot and pushed from her SUV, but further evidence backs up the theory that she was trying to escape from her abductor and took the chance here. In the process, she was killed at close range. In broad daylight, Randi lay dead on the street. A witness told police that Randi’s killer then put her SUV in reverse and backed out of the civic center.
“Our guess is that our suspect was unfamiliar with this area and if you’re looking northbound into the civic center park, it doesn’t appear there’s an exit elsewhere,” Detective Karpinski said. “However, there is on the northwest side. This indicates the suspect may have been desperate and was forced to back up out of the civic center area onto a major road.”
Police say minutes later, while responding to 911 calls from witnesses, the black Mercedes resurfaces 2 miles away. Surveillance cameras in front of the Home Depot in Delray Beach catch a glimpse of the SUV driving past.
“The windows are tinted and the glare of the sun prevent the camera from capturing a good image,” Detective Karpinski said. “We can’t see who is inside the vehicle.”
Soon after, police recovered the vehicle abandoned behind the Home Depot. Unfortunately, say police, there are no surveillance cameras behind the store.
Randi was extremely close to her daughter, Sarie, a University of Florida college student, with whom she spoke several times a day.
New Clues May Yield Answers
Police have no suspect, no sketch, and very little to go on. They have a few clues that may help such as many of Randi’s belongings are missing. She was dumped in the street after being shot without her shoes. Police believe her black and white slip-on Puma sneakers may have been taken by the killer or killers. The same goes for her purse, wallet, cell phone and packages from her earlier shopping outing.
After nearly a year of searching for her shoes, purse and other belongings, nothing surfaced. But there are two items of Randi’s recently released by the Sheriff’s Office that continue to baffle detectives: Randi was wearing two silver rings, and no one had ever seen them on Randi before, including her tight-knit family and friends. Whose rings are they?
As cops try to answer many baffling questions, Randi’s family continues to feel a huge void. Randi was extremely close to her daughter, Sarie, a University of Florida college student, with whom she spoke several times a day by cell phone. Her son, Daniel, lived at home and they spent quality time together, as well as with her husband, a doctor.
Randi’s brother, Jerry Malitz, who lives out of state, adored his sister.
“It seems surreal,” he said. “I can’t believe she’s not here. This makes no sense, and the hard part is, there’s nothing I can do.”
“This is pain I can’t describe,” mother Idey said. “Worse than childbirth, a toothache, anything awful.” The irony for Idey is that at the moment of her daughter’s death, she came to the aid of a mourning friend.
“While my daughter was lying on the cement, I was comforting a woman who’s daughter was taken off life support,” she said. “Talk about irony.”
Her mother, who ran for Miss Senior Florida and has performed with the Swinging Singing Seniors in south Florida said, “Randi couldn’t sing, dance or play a piano, but she had a different talent — she loved, had friends and was a unique, beautiful person who made people comfortable.”
“A piece of me that was there isn’t anymore,” Randi’s brother Jerry said. “I am no longer whole.”
Meanwhile, her husband, Stew, has been silent throughout the investigation. His lawyer, Guy Fronstin, says, “I can’t allow him to talk while the police investigation is going on.” He adds, “This is very difficult for my client, and the family hopes for closure.”
New Life Pumped Into Cold Case
After years of searching for clues and re-examining every tip, Palm Beach County Detective Michelle Romagnoli is breathing new life into this unsolved murder.
She tracked down information from a jail house snitch, who points the finger at an accused Miami armed bank robber, Michael Barrera. He’s wanted by Miami Dade and the FBI for the dangerous robbery as well as carjacking and kidnapping. Miami cops say he’s a “young kid who’s just bad news.”
Detective Romagnoli has investigated Barrera and teamed up with Miami Dade Detective Wayne McCarthy in their search for the fugitive. Miami Dade wants him for the bank robbery, and Palm Beach wants to question him in the Randi’s murder.
The two detectives believe the biggest clue is in surveillance video taken from a business near the crime scene in Delray Beach in Palm Beach County. Minutes after the murder, Randi’s SUV is caught on tape. Following behind is a silver or white Chrysler 300. It turns out that a relative of Barrera’s owned a similar vehicle.
Also, Barrera is reportedly recruiting dangerous MS-13 gang members in south Florida, according to Detective McCarthy. Cops say Barrera has access to weapons which can also tie him to the crimes.
Seventeen months after Randi Gorenberg was murdered, two men used her credit card number. It was the first time anyone used her credit card number since she was murdered in March of 2007. What investigators don’t know is who the men are, or whether they had Gorenberg’s card or had a stolen clone of it.
The sheriff’s department said the men purchased two portable Playstation hand-held game systems from the Holyoke Mall Sears, Holyoke, Mass., north of Springfield. The men also purchased food in Springfield, and a Playstation 3 from a Toys R Us in Newington, Conn.
Contact the Boca Raton Police Services at 561-338-1352 if you have any information rewarding the murder of Randi Gorenberg.