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Two charged with killing powerboat builder

MIAMI -- A mercenary and a drug smuggler famed for a brazen attempt to break out of prison by helicopter have been charged with first-degree murder in the 1987 ambush shooting of millionaire powerboat builder Donald Aronow.

Benjamin 'Barry' Kramer, a marijuana smuggler and champion boat racer, had been a suspect ever since Aronow was shot to death outside his USA Racing office.

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Whatever evidence finally led to the charges against him was kept secret in a sealed indictment announced Wedneday.

The other man charged in Aronow's killing, Robert Samuel Young, is already serving a 17-year term for another murder. He was first charged with being the hitman in Aronow's killing in 1990, and was reindicted with Kramer.

Five informants at the Dade County Jail have testified that Young told them he gunned down Aronow for $60,000.

Metro-Dade homicide detective Archie Moore said Young's arrest eventually pointed police to Kramer, but neither police nor prosecutors would say whether Young cooperated with them.

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Aronow, 59, was killed on the dead-end street in North Miami Beach where he built his sleek and powerful Formula, Donzi, Magnum and Cigarette racing boats.

He built $142,000 Blue Thunder speedboats for the U.S. Customs Service, and sold high-performance vessels to President Bush, Ross Perot, King Juan Carlos of Spain and former Beatle Ringo Star.

As Aronow drove down the street on Feb. 3, 1987, in his white Mercedes, a dark blue Lincoln Continental with tinted windows drove up alongside and its occupant shot Aronow three times in broad daylight.

Detectives examined numerous possible motives during the years, including the possibiity that the killing was prompted by bitterness over a business deal.

Kramer, a world-class powerboat racer, built boats at Fort Apache Marina just down the street from Aronow's company.

Kramer was already a convicted drug smuggler when he bought USA Racing from Aronow for $600,000 in 1985. When the federal government said it would withdraw its Blue Thunder contract if Kramer kept the company, Aronow bought it back, apparently at a loss to Kramer.

Defense attorney Albert Krieger said Kramer, 38, has 'categorically denied' involvement in Aronow's murder, and said he does not know what the indictment is based on.

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'Everything that I've heard up to now has been from jailhouse sources,' Krieger said.

Gary Rosenberg, an assistant state attorney who has pursued the case for years, said Kramer and Young were charged in a sealed indictment returned in mid-February.

The indictment was announced Wednesday night after Kramer was transferred to the Dade County Jail from a federal prison on Leavenworth, Kan., where he is serving a sentence of life plus 43 years for dozens of drug and racketeering convictions.

Police and prosecutors said they went to extraordinary lengths to keep the indictment a secret because Kramer is a high escape risk.

In 1990, he tried to escape from the Metropolitan Correctional Center south of Miami. A helicopter swooped down on the prison athletic field and picked him up, but the jailbreak went awry when the rotor snagged on a fence and the helicopter crashed inside the federal compound.

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