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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Mike Bedigan

A Florida firefighter had his throat slit ear-to-ear in 1987. Police just ID’ed his killer

Miramar Police Department

The cold case murder of a firefighter who had his throat cut “from ear to ear” in Florida has been cleared after 37 years, detectives have announced.

William “Billy” Halpern was found beaten, stabbed, and strangled in his home in Miramar on October 21 1986. His body was discovered by his girlfriend at the time.

Police believe 28-year-old Halpern was killed because he inadvertently learned information that someone did not want to be released.

On Tuesday, Detective Danny Smith of the Miramar Police Department announced that the case was cleared after a suspect – Harry Collier – was identified. Collier was murdered himself seven months after Halpern’s death, according to local outlets

If he were alive today he would have been charged with Halpern’s murder, police said.

William ‘Billy’ Halpern was found beaten, stabbed and strangled in his home in Miramar on October 21 1986 (Miramar Police Department)

At a press conference, Smith said that Collier’s fingerprint at the scene of a separate double homicide in the nearby city of Tamarac had similarities with that of the Halpern murder.

"In both of those scenes we had no forced entry, we had a use of a sharp-edged weapon,” he said, according to NBC Miami.

“We had, the method of binding all three victims was very similar and it was unique in the sense that the way that their hands were bound together and the fact that black electrical tape was used to bind them really painted a picture as to modus operandi, so the way that the murder scene in Tamarac was laid out, very similar if not exact to the Halpern murder scene.”

Smith added that the department had received “dozens” of tips from the community that had led it to feel “confident” that Collier would have stood trial, had he been alive.

Harry Collier would have been arrested for Halpern’s murder, had he still been alive today (Miramar Police Department)

Halpern was a former firefighter and bodybuilder who worked out at the Apollo gym in the city of Hollywood, Florida. His killing has been tied to a string of other murders in the 1980s that have since been linked with the gym.

The gym’s owner, Hubert "Bert" Christie, and a former Miami-Dade Police Officer, Gilbert Fernandez, were arrested and later convicted in the murders of three other people.

Fernandez, now 70, is still serving his life sentence. Christie died in custody in 2000 at the age of 66.

Officials said on Tuesday that Fernandez, who had been a suspect in Halpern’s killing since the 1980s, had been excluded through DNA.

Halpern was a former firefighter and bodybuilder who worked out at the Apollo gym in the city of Hollywood, Florida (Miramar Police Department)

Smith said Halpern had not been involved in the drug rings, home invasions, or other crimes the people at the gym were linked to, but likely had information on other crimes and murders.

"Definitely at the gym, he heard certain things about certain crimes and the idea is that he just wouldn’t play ball, he was not going to keep quiet about it, he was really a loose end for those that could potentially be held responsible for their crimes as a result of what Billy may say," Smith said.

"He knew something that he just shouldn’t have known and he heard something he shouldn’t have heard."

The Halpern case has been cleared but it’s not yet closed. Detective Smith still believes there were others involved with Halpern’s murder, and the public is encouraged to contact police with any further information.

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