Bonnie Haim had planned her exit from her abusive husband meticulously. Before picking the right moment to flee the family home, she had both put money away and found an apartment in which she and her young son, Aaron Fraser, could live on their own. Tragically, though, Bonnie never made it to her new life, as in early 1993, the wife and mom was murdered. And after Aaron grew up, he set out to make sure that her killer met justice.
Aaron was just three years old back in 1993, and at that time he lived with his mother, Bonnie, and his father, Michael, in Jacksonville, Florida. Yet while Aaron’s young mom apparently doted on her son, she was seemingly unhappy in her marriage to his father – so much so, in fact, that she was reportedly planning to leave her spouse.
Then in January 1993 Bonnie vanished practically without a trace. And, worryingly, her three-year-old child would go on to suggest that he had witnessed his mother’s murder – although given Aaron’s young age, his dreadful claims were largely disregarded. Nevertheless, over two decades on from his mom’s disappearance, Bonnie’s now grown-up son may have finally felt some form of vindication when he made a disturbing discovery in his backyard.
Back in 1993, meanwhile, Bonnie and Michael had been married for five years. At the time, the couple also shared a home with Aaron on Dolphin Avenue in North Jacksonville, Florida. And to her friends, Bonnie was seen as a caring mother who would never walk out on her beloved child.
However, all was apparently not well in Bonnie and Michael’s marriage. According to Michael’s aunt Eveann Haim – who also happened to be Bonnie’s boss – Michael had verbally chastised his wife while she was working. Eveann claimed, too, that the abuse had escalated at one time when Michael trapped Bonnie’s hand in the door of a vehicle.
So, in the months before January 1993, Bonnie had reportedly set plans in place to escape from her marriage. She’d established her own bank account in the process and had the statements sent to her workplace to keep the funds from her husband. When Michael subsequently found out about the account, however, he is alleged to have angrily commanded Bonnie to shut the whole thing down.
And while Bonnie apparently did as she was told, she nevertheless continued to squirrel funds away by leaving sums of money with friends. She reportedly still intended to leave Michael, too, and she even tried to get Aaron a place at a different preschool as well as putting a deposit down towards another residence. Sadly, though, the mom would never make it to her new life without her husband.
On January 6, 1993, Bonnie is said to have returned from work at approximately 7:30 p.m. or so, after which she had apparently arranged to visit Eveann at her house half an hour later. At 8:30 p.m,, though, Bonnie phoned Eveann to inform her that she wouldn’t make it. The mom and wife was also seemingly upset on the call and told Eveann that she and Michael had been fighting. And as it happened, this was the last conversation that Eveann ever had with Bonnie.
Then, the following morning, a worker at the Red Roof Inn near Jacksonville Airport found Bonnie’s purse in a waste container at the hotel. The item contained the then 23-year-old’s ID and credit cards as well as a significant amount of cash. Consequently, Michael was alerted to the discovery.
And it was then that Michael decided to report Bonnie as missing, although he had already called his wife’s place of employment to let a colleague know that she couldn’t make her shift that day. Explaining why Bonnie wasn’t going to be at her job, Michael claimed that she’d walked out on him the night before. However, this seemed an unlikely version of events to Bonnie’s loved ones, who believed that she’d never leave little Aaron behind.
What’s more, Eveann had already grown suspicious of her nephew’s behavior at that point. She claimed, for one, that Michael didn’t appear to be particularly worried about Bonnie having mysteriously vanished. Instead, Eveann asserted, he actually seemed more put out by the fact that his wife had been concealing a secret stash of money.
But Michael stuck to his story by asserting that Bonnie had left their family home of her own accord at around 11:00 p.m. on January 6, 1993. According to the father, he had then asked his mother to look after Aaron so that he could go on the hunt for his wife. But when Michael returned less than an hour later without Bonnie, he apparently chose not to report her disappearance.
Then, long after police were alerted to Bonnie being missing, they located her car parked at Jacksonville Airport. And at first glance, it may therefore have appeared that Bonnie had left the vehicle at the location before escaping on a flight. However, there were some things about that theory that just didn’t seem to add up.
For one thing, investigators determined that the driver’s seat was situated further back from the pedals and steering wheel than would likely have been a good fit for a person of Bonnie’s stature. Instead, it was seemingly positioned to suit someone else entirely. But that wasn’t the only significant discovery made in the car.
During their examinations, you see, the authorities also discovered a shoe print on the floor of the driver’s side of the vehicle. And they worked out in turn that the mark would have been left by the final individual to have driven Bonnie’s car. Not only that, but the print also matched one from a pair of tennis shoes that belonged to Michael. However, some people – including Bonnie’s father – considered this finding to be inconsequential.
Nevertheless, the footprint wasn’t the only bit of evidence that seemed to put Michael in the frame for Bonnie’s disappearance. At the time of his mother’s vanishing, little Aaron was very much verbal. And according to court documents that came to light in April 2019, the then three-year-old had told a welfare worker, “Daddy shot Mommy.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, the reliability of this and other shocking statements by Aaron was thrown into doubt. Child protection officer Brenda Medders would later recall how the tot had told her that his father had hurt his mother one night; she was accused of breaking protocol, however, by not determining if Aaron could tell fact from fiction. Medders also apparently didn’t establish when the alleged event had occurred.
Furthermore, Bonnie’s own father didn’t believe Aaron’s account. “[Aaron has] said a couple of things that we know were not true. ‘Mom’s car is in the lake.’ We know her car wasn’t there,” Pasciuto said, according to website Unsolved Mysteries. As a result, he apparently believed that his son-in-law was blameless and that his daughter was still living.
However, police were not so quick to dismiss Aaron’s evidence, and Michael remained the prime suspect in his wife’s disappearance. But law enforcement simply didn’t have enough evidence to arrest him, meaning, for a time, Bonnie’s case remained unsolved. This state of affairs naturally left her family with a number of unanswered questions.
And needless to say, Bonnie’s disappearance had the biggest effect on her son. After Aaron’s father became the prime suspect in the case, for example, the youngster was removed from his care and subsequently adopted by Jeanie and Ronnie Fraser, whose surname he would come to use.
Yet even though Aaron was now well away from his dad, he continued to talk about what had happened in his family home. What’s more, he stood by the allegations that he’d made against Michael. Bonnie’s sister later recalled, for instance, how her nephew had told her, “Daddy shot mommy in the stomach.” She added, too, that Aaron’s story had always stayed the same over the years.
Yes, while growing up with his new family, Aaron continued to accuse Michael of murdering his mother; he also sketched pictures that purported to portray the incident. When the boy was in eighth grade, he even reportedly composed an essay that documented his mother’s killing. And in addition, Aaron suggested that his grandparents had aided Michael in disposing of Bonnie’s remains.
But at least one of the claims that Aaron made regarding the disappearance of his mother was eventually verified. Specifically, the youngster had asserted that his father had discarded a shotgun by throwing it off a specific bridge. And in 1995 the weapon was duly discovered in the water below the bridge, with investigators later claiming that it had been there since around the time that Bonnie had vanished.
It was beginning to seem increasingly likely, then, that Michael had actually killed Bonnie. And given the seriousness of the allegations, a judge later terminated Michael’s parental authority over Aaron. This decision was supposed to protect the boy given that he was, according to the presiding legal official, the “only living witness to the murder of his mother.”
Following the ruling, Aaron and his adoptive mother also submitted a wrongful death suit against Michael. This the pair won, meaning Michael was ordered to pay $26.3 million dollars to his estranged son. As part of the settlement, Aaron was additionally awarded the former Haim family home on Dolphin Drive.
And for many years, Aaron simply rented the house out. In December 2014, however, he decided to carry out some renovations on the property. To do this, then, he hired an excavator and got to work removing a swimming pool in the backyard of the plot. Aaron also brought along his brother-in-law to lend a hand.
As they were working, though, Aaron and his brother-in-law came to an outdoor shower. And as they moved an excavator over the concrete base, the material shattered into pieces. Aaron therefore decided to take a sledgehammer to the spot, but in the process he did unforeseen damage to a water pipe that needed attention before the excavation could be continued.
So, Aaron and his brother-in-law began feeling around the area that the concrete had once covered in order to locate the pipe. As they did so, however, they came across some sort of plastic covering buried in the ground. Intrigued, Aaron chose to pick at the plastic using a shovel until he eventually broke into it.
After that, Aaron felt inside the plastic and plucked out what he initially believed to be a coconut. The find proved confusing, in fact, and so Aaron and his brother-in-law examined the item further. Upon that further inspection, though, the pair made a ghoulish discovery; what they had thought was a fruit actually possessed what looked like a set of teeth and eye sockets.
And, obviously, Aaron was shaken by the find. As an adult, he had attempted to put a lid on talk of his mother’s disappearance; now, though, he seemingly realized the importance of what he had unearthed. And although he’d reportedly never spoken about his past to his wife, he nonetheless had an overwhelming urge to call her in this moment.
So, Aaron reached for his phone and dialed his wife – but she didn’t answer. He then called the investigator who had looked into his mother’s case many years ago, but he didn’t pick up either. Finally, Aaron contacted his psychologist and left the chilling message, “I think I might have found my mom.”
Soon, police descended on the former Haim property, as did reporters eager for a scoop on the shocking development. And later the skull that Aaron had found was confirmed to have indeed once belonged to his mother. A .22 caliber shell – potentially from Michael’s rifle – was also spotted near the remains.
Thanks to this evidence, then, police reopened their case on Bonnie’s disappearance – two decades after she’d gone missing. Speaking about her remains in 2015, Mike Bruno from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office told WJXT, “That was the piece of the puzzle that we really felt we were missing.”
And if it hadn’t been for Aaron’s harrowing discovery, his mother’s disappearance may never have been resolved. “There are so many unsolved or cold cases that are in this same situation, [but] we just need that one clue, that one tip, that one piece,” Bruno told WJXT. “Here, we were able to get it and to start that piece of closure.”
Consequently, in August 2015 Michael was placed under arrest and ultimately charged with murdering his wife. And while Bonnie’s widower would later plead his innocence in the face of the accusation, there were several people willing to testify against him. One such witness was Aaron himself, while two others were jailhouse informants. One of these individuals claimed, moreover, that Michael had admitted to concealing Bonnie in the yard after killing her.
And there was even more evidence that suggested Michael had known the location of Bonnie’s remains for quite some time. In 2000, for instance, he had rented out the house under the condition that occupants couldn’t dig in the yard. Regardless, though, Michael continued to staunchly protest his innocence in the courtroom.
Then in April 2019 Michael’s trial came to an end when he was found guilty of second-degree murder. And during the proceedings, state prosecutor Alan Mizrahi summed the situation up by saying, “While some sins can be buried away, they are never forgotten.” According to The New York Times he added, “The truth was always out there, buried in their own backyard.”
Speaking to the jury, Mizrahi continued, “As is true with many domestic homicides, this killing was done in the privacy of Bonnie and Michael Haim’s household. But all the privacy in the world could not prevent Aaron, aged three and a half, from sitting in a child protection team office and disclosing to authorities what his three-and-a-half-year-old little eyes saw: that his dad was responsible for hurting his mom.”
In the end, then, it took Aaron until adulthood to find the evidence to convict his mother’s killer. And Michael was later sentenced to life in prison for Bonnie’s murder, which may have given Aaron some vindication. “I always knew my mom was buried; I just didn’t know where,” he revealed during a pre-sentencing hearing in May 2019.
And Aaron’s aunt and Bonnie’s sister Liz Peak also expressed her relief to see Michael found guilty of murder. “For 26 years we wanted justice. And now we have it,” she said following the sentencing, according to WJXT-TV. That said, Michael’s conviction was not cause enough for celebration. “We got justice,” Peak said. “But we don’t have Bonnie.”