It was a single-story, three-bedroom ranch house on a quiet residential street in a northern stretch of Jacksonville, Fla. Aaron Fraser had not lived inside since he was 4 years old, and the four walls held plenty of ugly memories and unresolved questions. But in December 2014, after the 24-year-old took possession of the house, he and his brother-in-law rolled up their sleeves for a renovation.
According to the Florida Times-Union, the two men began by smashing apart a swimming pool in the back with a rented excavator. At one point, the machine cracked a large concrete slab near an outdoor shower. Aaron began hacking at the pieces with a sledgehammer. Below in the dirt, he found a plastic bag, and from inside he pulled something out. It was a coconut, he thought.
“Why would someone bury a coconut in a bag?” Aaron asked his brother-in-law, according to News4Jax.
Then, the men noticed the teeth and eye sockets. It was a skull.
The discovery was a shock. But for Aaron, the human remains sunk below a layer of concrete in his boyhood home snapped the jumbled pieces of a family mystery into place. In January 1993, his mother, Bonnie Haim, had vanished. Police suspected her husband, Aaron’s father, Michael Haim, of killing his wife. Those suspicions started with what Aaron, who was then 3, had told authorities.
“Daddy hurt her,” Aaron had said, the Times-Union reported. But Aaron’s own family doubted the little boy’s foggy account, and no physical evidence tied Michael to the crime.
But that day in December 2014, standing amid smashed concrete, Aaron was holding the evidence that would eventually lead to his father’s arrest.
On Monday, the murder trial will start in Florida against Michael in his wife’s 1993 murder. He maintains he was not involved in his wife’s death. According to the Times-Union, Aaron is expected to testify, relaying his memories from when he possibly witnessed his mother’s death, as well as the gruesome discovery that jump-started the cold case in 2014.
“Next month is going to hurt,” Bonnie Haim’s family members wrote last month about the upcoming trial on a Facebook page dedicated to her memory. “It is going to rip off bandages and expose us to things we had long ago pushed to the back of our memories. But sometimes we have to rip off bandages to really begin to heal.”
Michael and Bonnie Haim worked together at a construction supply company owned by Michael’s aunt, Eveann Haim. He was a manager. Bonnie kept the business accounts.
According to “Unsolved Mysteries,” by the holiday season of 1992, the relationship was at a breaking point. The couple fought frequently, and their blowups turned violent.
“One day they got into an argument . . . in the parking lot,” Eveann told “Unsolved Mysteries.” “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.”
Bonnie reportedly had decided to leave the marriage, taking her son with her. She secretly opened a bank account to save money for her escape, the Times-Union reported. When Michael discovered the account and forced her to close it, Bonnie began secreting cash to friends for safekeeping — $1,250 by early January 1993.
She reportedly picked a date late in January to leave, when Michael was away on business. In early January, she placed deposits on two apartments where she and her son could start over.
But on Jan. 7, 1993, Bonnie, 23, failed to show up to work. Her husband would later say the two had fought the night before, and that she left the house alone around 11 p.m. He asked his mother, Carol, to come over to watch his son while he went looking for Bonnie.
“According to Carol and Mike, he was gone approximately 45 minutes,” Jacksonville Sheriff’s Department Detective Robert Hinson told “Unsolved Mysteries.” “Then after he allegedly did that, he returned to the house where he waited until the next morning and never called the police, and called in and told his employer that he was going to be sick that day.”
The day she went missing, a hotel worker discovered Bonnie’s purse chucked into a dumpster behind a Red Roof Inn, not far from Jacksonville International Airport, the Times-Union reported. Police later discovered her Toyota Camry in an airport parking lot. The car further raised investigators’ suspicions.
“What was unusual was the positioning of the driver’s seat, which appeared to be farther back than would have been comfortable for Bonnie,” Hinson told “Unsolved Mysteries.” “It was more in relation to someone about Michael Haim’s size.”
What finally tightened suspicion around Michael, however, was an interview with his 3-year-old son. Aaron told a child protective services worker that his father had hurt his mother.
“From what Aaron told us that day, my only conclusion was that there had been a domestic fight and that Michael Haim had killed his wife and had removed her, and that their three-and-a-half-year-old son Aaron Haim had witnessed this,” Hinson said.
But as Aaron would later recount to police as an adult, his family members did not believe his account, feeling he had been “brainwashed” into implicating his father. Even his missing mother’s parents doubted the boy’s account.
“The credibility of a child is something that you have to judge in perspective,” Bonnie’s father, Robert Pasciuto, told “Unsolved Mysteries.” “He’s 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.”
Aaron was eventually adopted by another family, taking their last name. In the early 2000s, he filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against his biological father, even though Bonnie’s remains had not been found. In April 2005, he won a $26.3 million settlement against Michael, which included the ownership of the family home, News4Jax reported. It was being used as a rental.
Then, in 2014, Aaron began renovating the property, and made the discovery in the backyard. Within weeks, investigators confirmed the skull and other remains belonged to Bonnie.
In August 2015, Michael was officially charged with his wife’s murder. According to the Times-Union, a .22 caliber shell casing was discovered with the remains. Michael allegedly owned a rifle of the same caliber.
Michael’s defense attorneys had earlier unsuccessfully petitioned the court to block Aaron’s statements from 1993, arguing the boy had been contradictory. Aaron is expected to testify at this week’s trial. His credibility is likely to be the key factor in the case.
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