Mother Knows Best – The Shocking True Story That Inspired the Movie
Hatred and Disgust
Lee Goldsmith, a well respected, Boca Raton, socialite of 67 years, hated her son in law so much that she hired someone to kill him. Goldsmith, anxious to find a suitable husband for her daughter, Arleen, a Delray Beach nurse, took out an 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 bear the thought of her daughter marrying Brownstein because he was not professional. An air conditioning auto repairman would not have been impressive enough for Goldsmith’s socialite friends, so she concocted a plan to ruin his life. According to state testimony, Goldsmith, tried everything in the book, from falsifying letters and threatening to cut Arleen out of her will, to accusations of beatings and extortion from 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 that it was time to have David Brownstein out of their lives for good.
The carpet cleaner seemed like the perfect guy to ask about where to find a contract murderer. 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 out, and instead he informed the police of the plot and received a $750 cash reward. The police then devised a plan to trap Goldsmith into 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 once the death was confirmed she would pay the remaining $9,000.
On February 8, 1989, David Brownstein kissed his wife Arleen before entering work without knowing that his life was about to change forever. The police notified him of his mother in law’s plans to kill him, and he agreed to play along. The county morgue was also in on 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 chuckled as she remarked how happy everyone would be “except the one in the morgue.” Undercover Police 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 the mother of David Brownstein to have acid poured onto 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 engaged in fund raising activities and teaching exercise classes to retirees. Milton Goldsmith backed up his wife’s story about the beatings and letters they received. He stated that they became terrified of Brownstein. Arleen was torn as she was asked if she loved her mother. “To say I didn’t love her would be a falsehood,” said Arleen. Meanwhile, Lee Goldsmith looked as though she was falling apart during most of the trial. She wept after she described the beating she endured. 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,” said Lee, collapsing after hearing the verdict. Her husband Milton was distraught.
In June 1995, Lee Goldsmith was released on probation 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 movie 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 had fallen, fractured 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 no longer engages in any fund raising. She spends most of her time at home. Goldsmith and her adopted daughter Arleen have never spoken to one another again. Lee Goldsmith and I never talked about the crime, and she refers to it only as ‘the incident.’ She never knew a movie had been made about her. She is not familiar with many cable stations, stating “my husband took care of those things.” She said she would like to watch it though. She would like for me to let her know when the movie is on again.