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Mother Knows Best – The Shocking True Story That Inspired the Movie
Hatred and Loathing
Lee Goldsmith, a well-respected, Boca Raton socialite of 67, hated her son-in-law so much she hired someone to kill him. A goldsmith, anxious to find a suitable husband for her daughter, Arleen, a nurse from Delray Beach, took out in the local paper: “Nice Jewish Girl Wants to Meet Nice Jewish Boy.” David Brownstein is the man who answered the ad, and the two became inseparable. However, Mrs. Goldsmith could not tolerate the thought of her daughter marrying Brownstein because he was not professional. An air conditioner auto repairman wouldn’t have been impressive enough for Goldsmith’s socialites, so she came up with a plan to ruin her life. According to state testimony, Goldsmith, tried everything in the book, from forging letters and threatening to cut Arleen out of her will, to accusations of beating and blackmailing Brownstein. But nothing would fuel her hatred more than not being able to attend her own daughter’s wedding, nor see her grandson. So she decided it was time to get David Brownstein out of their lives for good.
The carpet cleaner seemed like the perfect guy to ask about where to find a contract killer. He was hired to clean the carpet in the goldsmith’s home when Lee asked him about helping her find someone to kill her son-in-law. The man said he would see what he could do to help her, and instead he informed the police about the plot and received a $750 cash reward. The police then came up with a plan to catch Goldsmith in paying an undercover cop for the job. The plan was to meet near a restaurant where Lee Goldsmith would give explicit instructions on how the murder should be carried out. The intended victim would be shot in the head and have drugs planted on his body to make it look like a drug-related murder. She paid Thomas Brennen $1,000 up front, and then after the death was confirmed she would pay the remaining $9,000.
On February 8, 1989, David Brownstein kissed his wife Arleen before going into work without knowing that his life was about to change forever. The police informed him of his mother-in-law’s plans to kill him, and he agreed to play along. The district morgue was also in the plot. They were told to confirm the death of David Brownstein when Goldsmith called. On February 15, 1989, Brennen told Goldsmith that her son-in-law was dead. She then paid the balance, thanked the officer, and laughed as she realized how happy everyone would be “except the one in the morgue.” Undercover officers videotaped Lee paying them to kill David while meeting in Lee’s CADILLAC. She told the undercover cop that she would have another job for him in six months. She wanted David Brownstein’s mother to have acid poured on her face. She laughed and laughed as she described exactly how she wanted it done. Police moved in and arrested Lee Goldsmith and charged her with solicitation of first degree murder.
During the February 1990 trial, neighbors and friends described Lee Goldsmith as a gentle soul who would not harm anyone. She was described as a civic leader who was involved in fundraising activities and teaching exercise classes to retirees. Milton Goldsmith supported his wife’s account of the beatings and letters they received. He stated that they became terrified of Brownstein. Arleen was torn when she was asked if she loved her mother. “To say I didn’t love her would be an understatement,” Arleen said. Meanwhile, Lee Goldsmith looked like she was going to fall apart for most of the trial. She cried after she described the beating she suffered. David Browstein spent two hours on the stand denying taking any part in any beating, nor any behavior exhibited toward his mother-in-law. Lee Goldsmith was found guilty and sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison. “Please, God, no,” Lee said, breaking down upon hearing the verdict. Her husband Milton was excited.
In June 1995, Lee Goldsmith was released on parole at the age of 73.
The case became a sensation. After her release from prison Lee and Milton Goldsmith appeared on A Current Affair and the Oprah Winfrey show. The film Mother Knows Best aired in April 1997.
On Easter Sunday, April 13, 2009, I spoke with Lee Goldsmith. She informed me that her husband Milton fell, broke his neck and never recovered. He passed away a few months ago. She said these days she feels alone and despondent. She is 86 years old. She is no longer involved in any fundraising. She spends most of her time at home. Goldsmith and her adopted daughter Arleen never spoke to each other again. Lee Goldsmith and I have never spoken about the crime, and she calls it just “the incident.” She never knew a movie was made about her. She doesn’t know many cable stations, stating “my husband ran that stuff.” She said she would like to watch it though. She would like me to let her know when the movie is on again.
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