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Born in Chicago to Samuel T. Goetz and his wife Ottillie Bensel who both emigrated from Germany and moved to 1338 Eddy Street in the Wrigleyville enclave of Lake View. Ottillie bore Samuel two children: Fred and Sophie. Fred graduated from Lane Technical College Prep High School in 1914. After graduating Lane Tech, he went on to attend the University of Illinois and graduated in 1918 where he earned a degree in engineering. Following his graduation at UOI Fred enlisted in the US Army and after basic training was stationed at Langley Field, Virginia, during World War I, as a pilot in the United States Army Aviation Branch where he rose to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
By 1922, Goetz worked as a lifeguard at Clarendon Municipal Bathing Beach in the neighbourhood of Beach Park, Illinois until he was charged with sexually assaulting seven-year-old Jean Lanbert by an alley near her house where she lived in Edgewater, Chicago. Goetz denied the charges and jumped bail on June 10, 1925. Four months later, Roger Bessner implicated Goetz in a failed robbery of Dr. Henry R. Gross, in which the family chauffeur was killed. On October 20, 1925 the Illinois State Attorney had a lawsuit brought against Fred's parents, Samuel and Ottillie, who scheduled some of their empty real estate property to be used as collateral for their son's bond. They would later divorce, his mother moving to 1503 Ardmore Avenue in Edgewater, Chicago and his father Samuel relocating to Cincinnati.
During the next several years, Goetz would become associates with underworld figures such as Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil and Morris Klineman, as well as participating in several armed robberies, including the robbery of $352,000 from the Farmers and Merchants Bank, in Jefferson, Wisconsin, with Gus Winkler and four others, in 1929. He lived in an apartment at 7827 South Shore Drive in South Shore, Chicago with his wife 'Irene'. His landlady would describe Fred and his wife as "fine people" and that Fred was a "very brilliant and handsome man".
After the Valentine's Day Massacre, Goetz left Chicago and began bootlegging operations in Kansas City, Missouri before becoming associated with the Barker-Karpis gang. He later participated in several bank robberies with Alvin Karpis, Fred Barker and Doc Barker, as well as the 1934 kidnapping of St. Paul, Minnesota banking millionaire Edward G. Bremer. Goetz collected the ransom and released Bremer.
Returning to Chicago, Goetz was killed in a drive-by-shooting while outside a closed Cicero, Illinois, restaurant, The Minerva, on March 20, 1934. He was taken to the Frances E. Wlllard National Temperance Hospital but died from his wounds. His expensive coupe was found in Greater Grand Crossing, Chicago and it was believed to have been abandoned there by his wife Irene, who along with Fred was a wanted fugitive by the FBI. The culprit for his murder are unclear. However a number of his former associates had motives for his murder, including the Barker Gang. Barker Gang leader Alvin Karpis, believed that Outfit boss Frank Nitti had ordered Ziegler's murder. He is buried at Irving Park Cemetery in Norridge, Illinois.
- Jim Dey (12 February 2005). "'College Gangster' is UI's not-so-funny Valentine" (PDF). The News-Gazette. Retrieved 5 December 2010.
- Paul Maccabee, John Dillinger Slept Here: A Crook's Tour of Crime and Corruption in Saint Paul, Minnesota Historical Society Press.