JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – When Aaron Fraser began excavating behind his childhood home in Jacksonville, Florida, as part of a renovation in 2014, he made a gruesome discovery: human remains.
They were the skull and bones of his mother, Bonnie Haim, who had gone missing in January 1993 and whose body had not been found.
Prosecutors say that discovery led officials to arrest her then-husband, Michael Haim, and charge him with second-degree murder.
“The truth was always out there, buried in their backyard.”
Assistant State Attorney Alan Mizrahi said in opening statements in the murder trial on Tuesday.
Michael and Bonnie Haim had been having marital problems, and he has long been a prime suspect in the case, his defense attorney Janis Warren said in her opening remarks. But he has maintained his innocence since her disappearance. In an interview with CNN affiliate WJXT shortly after Bonnie disappeared in 1993, Michael said she left their home on the night of January 6 after a relationship dispute.
Warren said prosecutors did not gather enough evidence to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
“We agree she’s dead. We agree that’s her body in the backyard. But they have to prove to you that he did it,” she said. “When you listen to the evidence, ladies and gentlemen, and when you’re finished, you’re gonna see the lack of evidence in this case far outweighs any evidence they brought you.”
The childhood memories of Fraser, who was only 3 years old when his mother disappeared, are expected to be a major part of the case against Michael Haim, CNN affiliate WJXT reported. After his mother disappeared, he supposedly told a child welfare worker at the time, “Daddy hurt Mommy.”
Opening statements in the trial
Bonnie’s remains were found under a shower pallet in the home’s backyard, Mizrahi said. A .22-caliber shell was also found near the body, he said, and Michael Haim owned a .22-caliber rifle.
Although the medical examiner could not positively determine how she was killed, Mizrahi argued that Michael Haim shot her and then buried the body there in 1993.
“The defendant’s actions before the killing and after the killing demonstrate his depraved indifference to Bonnie Haim’s life,” he said.
Warren, Haim’s attorney, said on Tuesday that prosecutors would not be able to prove that he killed her and placed her body there on the night she disappeared.
“The only thing that’s important is: Can they prove he killed her? And can they prove he put the body in the yard? There’s no evidence of either one of those,” she added.