Man who found mother's remains in backyard 21 years after she went 'missing' takes stand in father's trial
The trial of Michael Haim, who is facing charges of second-degree murder for the death of his wife Bonnie Haim, was underway this past week
A Florida man who unearthed the remains of his mother while ripping out the pool and outdoor shower to renovate the property for sale in 2014, more than 21 years after she was initially reported "missing", took the stand this past Tuesday, April 9, at his father's murder trial.
Aaron Fraser was just three years old when his mother, Bonnie Haim, vanished from their home in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1993. While his father, Micheal Haim, was long considered a suspect in her disappearance, they had no evidence to charge him with the crime.
But all that changed when Fraser found his mother's badly decomposed remains in 2014 in the same home which he won from his dad as part of a wrongful death lawsuit filed against him — a civil court judge had, in fact, ruled that Haim was liable in his wife's death as early as 2004.
This is the wooden palette under which #BonnieHaim's remains were discovered in 2014. The picture was taken in March 1993, 2 months after she vanished. Defense attorney Tom Fallis says grass growth thru the slats suggests it had not been disturbed in January. @FCN2go pic.twitter.com/s2i5IytJq7— anne schindler (@schindy) April 10, 2019
DNA tests soon confirmed that the remains belonged to Bonnie, with an affidavit filed in connection to the case stating that she had died from a homicide "by unspecified means". Law enforcement now has the evidence they needed to link Haim with the crime and charge him with second-degree murder.
But Haim may have found himself in trouble a lot sooner if detectives believed Fraser's testimony in 1993. While he was just three at the time, Fraser claimed he had witnessed his mother's murder. He even reportedly told workers from the child welfare services that "Daddy hurt mommy". He also reportedly stated "Daddy shot mommy", "Daddy placed Mommy in a timeout", and "My daddy could not wake her up". However, no one believed him.
In an interview with detectives in 2016, as prosecutors were getting ready for Haim's trial, Fraser revealed that his family didn't believe his claims that his father was responsible for his mother's disappearance and that his grandparents told him that he was "brainwashed".
But they knew they were in the wrong after Haim's arrest in 2015, almost a year after Fraser found his mother's remains. Haim, who has consistently denied any involvement in Bonnie's disappearance, claimed then, as he is doing now, that his wife had left on her own volition without their son in January 1993 after they had an argument about their marital problems.
His erratic behavior following her disappearance, however, meant he was always going to be the primary suspect. For one, he never reported her missing. It was a hotel worker discovering her purse in a dumpster close to Jacksonville International Airport which prompted authorities to look for her.
Evidence also suggested that Bonnie had been planning to leave for the longest time, but with her son, not without. She had opened a secret bank account to save money for her escape, and when Haim discovered the account and forced her to close it down, she began giving cash to a friend for safekeeping. She had amassed $1,250 by January 1993 and had apparently placed deposits on two apartments where she and her son could start over.
Even Haim's aunt, Eveann, said by that point, their marriage was on the verge of collapse and that the pair had blowups which frequently turned violent. "One day they got into an argument... in the parking lot," she was quoted saying. "And she came in crying and he had slammed her hand in the door and her nails were broke and she was very upset at that point."
Haim's arrest affidavit similarly stated that he was abusive to his wife and that he killed her because she had made plans to move into another apartment with her son while he was away. State Attorney's Office Homicide Director Alan Mizrahi worked a similar argument during the opening for Haim's trial, telling the court, "That was the only thing he could do to stop her from leaving and taking his son."
The affidavit also pointed out that a shell casing found where she was buried was the same type of caliber as a rifle that Haim owned. It was something the prosecution tried to highlight by calling forensic anthropologist Dr. Heather Walsh-Haney to the stand. She testified that a circular injury on Bonnie's pelvic bone could have been inflicted by a .22-caliber slug.
While Haim seemed least bothered when Fraser took the stand to detail the story of how he found Bonnie's remains, he looked troubled as two inmates who were with him while he was incarcerated in 2015 also took the stand and claimed he had confessed to killing his wife to them. "He started talking about, you know, how he killed his wife," one of them said. "How he choked her, how her son was mad at him. He buried her in the yard."
To everyone's surprise, including his defense team's, Haim later took to the stand in his defense. Here, he reiterated his innocence and insisted his wife left because of marital problems. "She’d been unhappy, for maybe a month maybe two. I can’t put my finger on how long, but it had been going on where she wasn’t her bubbly self like she was," he said.
He also rubbished his characterization in the affidavit, saying he searched for her on the day after her disappearance and that those who testified and described his demeanor as "nonchalant" were wrong. He said he was shocked and didn't understand why she was gone. The trial continues.