A Beloved Fla. Mom Was Fatally Shot in Her Real Estate Office in 1986, and Police Have Reopened Investigation

Police believe Shirley Brant was killed in a burglary gone bad

<p>Courtesy Ben Brant</p> Shirley Brant

Courtesy Ben Brant

Shirley Brant

Shirley Brant was a successful commercial real estate developer in Florida when she was fatally shot in her office in 1986.

The death of the 49-year-old mother of four rattled the community of North Miami Beach, and to this day — 37 years later — her murder remains unsolved.

But police are hoping that advances in DNA technology might change that.

“This was a horrific, terrible thing,” North Miami Beach police detective Pam Denham tells PEOPLE. “It was senseless, and the original detectives believe it was a robbery gone bad, and we can only hope that this new DNA technology will help us lead to the identification of someone.”

“It's so important to give these families closure,” says Denman, who reopened the case last year with her partner Yvette Darden. “And it does happen. You see it all the time. Cold cases are solved, and that's what we're hoping to do.”

(The reopening of the case was first reported by NBC Miami.)

It was around 4 p.m. on June 13, 1986 when two intruders entered the second floor office where Brant worked. At the time, she was in the front reception area while on the phone with a client.

<p>Courtesy Ben Brant</p> Shirley Brant

Courtesy Ben Brant

Shirley Brant

“There was a witness that was a temporary employee that she was inputting data into a computer system,” says Denham. “And the next thing she knew, Shirley screamed. And then when she turned around, she saw that one of the males was attempting to take the phone away from Shirley. Then, the witness heard her say, 'Don't shoot!' And then she was shot.”

Denham says it all “happened very, very quick. I think it's possible that during the tussle, maybe [the suspect] brought the gun out to scare her, and that during the tussle it just went off.”

The witness, who is now deceased, described the suspects — Black males in their early 20s — as “nicely dressed,” says Denham. “They were in dress pants and a long sleeve collared shirt. Maybe that was because they didn't want to stand out and they wanted to look professional.”

<p>North Miami Beach Police Department</p> Composite sketch of one of the suspects

North Miami Beach Police Department

Composite sketch of one of the suspects

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The suspects stole cash and credit cards before fleeing the scene.

Denham says it's possible that the two men may have been involved in the theft of a purse, which was taken from another office a week before. “You can't rule out anything,” she says.

The case garnered a lot of media attention and a composite sketch of one of the suspects was circulated, but no leads ever panned out.

“The previous detectives did a lot of follow up,” says Denham. “Nothing ever came of it. They followed up on leads that they had, but there was no person of interest at that time. They just unfortunately weren't able to solve it.”

<p>Courtesy Ben Brant</p> Shirley Brant

Courtesy Ben Brant

Shirley Brant

'You'll never get over a loss like that'

Brant's death devastated her four children as well as her husband, local dentist Dr. Lawrence Brant, who "never got over it," Brant's son, Dr. Steven Brant, tells PEOPLE. "He missed my mom terribly, terribly. He hired a private eye to look over things and to see that everything was done."

(Brant's grandson, who is the nephew of Dr. Brant, is an editor at PEOPLE.)

Dr. Steven Brant, 64, described his mother as “a very, very talented woman,” who sang on cruise ships with her sister in the 1960s before becoming a real estate agent in the early 70s.

“Initially she was selling houses, and she felt that that was frustrating,” says Dr. Brant. “And she had a lot of ideas for commercial businesses and started trying to meet with shopping center developers, and they were all men at that time. They didn't want to meet with her. They thought, 'What would a woman have to offer them?' But she brought them deals that I guess were too good to ignore.”

Dr. Brant says his parents were very involved in Jewish causes, including the 70s Refusenik movement in which mostly Soviet Jews were denied permission to emigrate to Israel. “[Brant and her husband] had a trip to Russia, and they were actually followed by the KGB,” says Dr. Brant. “My brother and I got a call from the State Department that our parents had been detained.”

Dr. Brant last saw his mother on May 31, two weeks before her death. “We had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant in Gainesville," he says. "And we were all sitting around the table. She passed away one week before her 50th birthday. She said she had seen a birthday card about 50th birthdays, and she said on the card it said, 'It's nifty to be 50.' But she never made it to 50.”

“She didn't get to see any of her grandchildren,” he adds. “It was only my wedding that she went to. All four of us married and had children. And she would've had 11 grandchildren and now three great-grandchildren. She missed out on all of their lives and they missed out on having this amazing grandmother.”

But Dr. Brant and his family remain hopeful that her case will one day be solved.

“It's very important,” he says. “You never get over a loss like that. There's probably not a day that I don't think about her. It would be good to have closure and to see justice done.”

Denham also hopes the renewed interest in the case will compel someone to come forward with helpful information.

“These types of cases, at the time that they happen, people that know things or know who did it, a lot of times they're just scared to come forward,” she says. “That's why now it's so important to get these cold cases out there because relationships change. People move away and they're not as fearful as they would've been when it actually happened. We're just hoping that somebody heard something, or knows something, and that they're willing to come forward.”

Anyone with information on Shirley Brant's murder is asked to contact the North Miami Beach Police Department at 305-949-5500 ext. 2521 or call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS.

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