News of the assault and robbery of an 80-year-old retiree in the gated suburban Boynton Beach community of Aberdeen two weeks ago was scary.
But when Albert Honigman died in his home two days after the robbery, from blunt force trauma to the head, that fear escalated, along with frustrations from his family over the seemingly insignificant amount taken for a life.
“I just look for answers for something like this. Why would he do this for a Rolex?” said his daughter, Lauren Honigman, about the suspect who also assaulted her during the robbery.
Police so far have not made any arrests in the case.
Bernie Barnett, Honigman’s childhood friend, who lives in the nearby Valencia Reserve community, said the incident has raised fears among residents in Aberdeen and surrounding gated communities.
“It’s a very frightening experience to (have someone) live in a gated community and get murdered,” Barnett said. “It’s terrifying.”
Lauren recalled the Friday, Jan. 11 night of the crime recently from her home in New York City.
She said it seemed as if everything happened in an instant.
After she and her father spent an evening shopping, the two returned to his home in the Aberdeen subdivision between Hagen Ranch and Jog roads at about 10 p.m. They were in the garage, removing items from the car, when a man reportedly attacked them.
“I don’t know if he followed us in, I have no idea,” Lauren said last week, days after her family buried her father. “All we knew is we turned around, my father was helping me out with the packages and I turn around. (Suddenly) I’m down, my father’s down. It just happened so fast.”
What started as a burglary eventually turned into a homicide case when Albert Honigman died in his home two days later.
Now, more than two weeks since his death, family and friends are still trying to understand why Honigman and his daughter were attacked. Lauren told deputies at the time that several pieces of jewelry were taken during the robbery, including her father’s Rolex watch.
Barnett, who had known Honigman since the two grew up together in the same Long Island neighborhood, described his friend as an active tennis player who was adjusting to life as a widower after his wife, Phyllis, passed away a year-and-a half ago.
“He was a great guy, he loved Florida,” Barnett, 76, said.
Lauren said she was in the area to visit her father. She recalled being temporarily knocked unconscious that night after being struck in the eye and on the side of her face. She came to and saw the suspect still punching her father in the face.
“I don’t know what the hell he wanted,” she said. “He said to my father ‘You stay down old man because,’ he said, ‘I have a friend in the car with a gun.’ I can’t even remember my father trying to get up …
Lauren and other family members described the suspect as being a clean-shaven black male, about 6 feet tall, in his 20 or 30s with an athletic build. She said he wore tan shorts and a white shirt.
“I would never forget this guy’s face.”
Jeffrey Honigman, Lauren’s brother, who also lives in New York, said detectives told them they “feel good about catching this guy.”
“They didn’t tell me any specifics,” he said. “They didn’t want to get my hopes up, but they feel good.”
The siblings are also questioning why their father was twice released from the hospital within days after the attack.
According to sheriff’s reports, Albert Honigman was taken to Bethesda West Hospital the night of attack. He was released the following morning but returned to the hospital later that day. He returned home again after being released Jan. 13.
“They sent him home, they said the CAT scan was clean,” Lauren said. “Then they call him back, they said we found blood in the brain. Then they did another CAT scan. … The hospital should have never released him.”
After returning home for the second time, Albert Honigman went to bed that evening and never woke up.
Jeffrey Honigman remembers speaking to his father by phone a few hours before his death.
“I spoke to him at 4:30,” he said. “The next thing I know, I got a phone call from my sister (saying) dad died. My sister told me that at 6 o’clock, he decided to take a little nap, lie down for a bit. He was very tired. My sister left the room. She went in a couple of hours later to see how he was doing and that was it.”
Bethesda West Hospital spokeswoman Lisa Kronhaus said that she could not comment because of patient privacy laws.
Albert Honigman was a retired pharmaceutical salesman who became a part-time Florida resident 20 years ago. His son said he had a home on Long Island, but had been spending more time in the Aberdeen community.
Lauren said she’ll remember her father as having a caring, generous personality.
“He was such a loved man,” she said. “When he would walk into the room, you felt his presence. My father was always very positive. He was such a loved person.”
Barnett is still stunned by his friend’s death, and the circumstances surrounding it.
“It’s been a long time since someone in a gated community was murdered,” he said, “and it happened to be my best friend.”