MIRAMAR, FLA. (WSVN) - Over a decade later, a family is one step closer to closure in the brutal 1980 mystery murder of a former South Florida firefighter.

On October 21, 1986, William “Billy” Halpern was brutally murdered in his Miramar home. He was found beaten, stabbed, and strangled with his throat slashed ear to ear. Halpern, who was 28 years old at the time of his death, was a former firefighter who enjoyed bodybuilding.

He had a loving family and was described as a good friend.

Many believed Halpern’s case was solved and the perpetrator was behind bars, but for the last year-and-a-half, a Miramar Cold Case Homicide Detective revisited Halpern’s case bringing to light a chilling mystery filled with twists and turns.

On Tuesday, Miramar Police Detective Danny Smith identified Harry Collier as one of the men who killed Halpern. Collier was killed in a murder connected to two other murders, including Halpern’s, which surrounded a former gym.

“We feel confident that if Collier were alive today we would be charging him with murder and he would stand trial,” said Smith.

Six months ago, the Miramar Police Department held a news conference and announced the reopening of the cold case after discovering new details.

Halpern’s sister, Lori, spoke at the news conference back in January.

“Come and tell them what you know, I’d be grateful, my family would be grateful,” said Lori. “He was a loving, wonderful brother. I miss him terribly, and everyone who knew Billy loved Billy.”

Smith, who was still leading the investigation, urged the public to come forward with any information they had after discovering new DNA evidence.

“We need names. We need somebody to come forward,” he said.

Dozens of leads then came in that aligned with the new evidence, sparking a connection to a double murder around the same time in Tamarac, with Harry Collier’s DNA there.

“The way that the murder scene in Tamarac was laid out, very similar, if not exact, to the Halpern murder scene,” said Smith.

Much has been speculated and written about Halpern’s murder and those of several others who had ties to The Apollo Gym and Fitness Center, a popular bodybuilding gym in Hollywood that attracted police, firefighters, paramedics, and soon enough, criminals.

Halpern frequented the gym and police believe Halpern’s death was the first of two murders connected to the Apollo gym.

The gym was owned by Gil Fernandez, a former Miami-Dade Police officer and bodybuilder with mob connections. He was considered a suspect in Halpern’s murder at one time but was not implicated by DNA.

He was later sentenced to life in prison for another murder.

Investigators believed Halpern was considered a loose end for criminals who frequented the gym.

“He knew something that he just shouldn’t have known and he heard something he shouldn’t have heard,” said Smith.

It would cost Halpern his life and although this case is cleared, detectives said it’s not closed.

“We’re looking for people that were there. We’re looking for individuals that may have ordered this murder. People that were complicit,” said Smith. “We’re not going to stop.”

There are more connections to be made and potentially more arrests in this case.

If you have any information on this crime, call Broward County Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a reward of up to $5,000.

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