A Florida man has been sentenced to life in prison for the 1993 death of his wife after the couple’s adult son discovered her remains more than two decades later while digging in the backyard of the family home.
Michael Haim was convicted of second-degree murder last month in the death of 23-year-old Bonnie Haim, who had mysteriously vanished from their home, local station WJXT reports.
The couple’s son Aaron Fraser played a critical role in solving the mystery—first as a young child and later as an adult when he stumbled upon the evidence that would ultimately lead to Michael Haim’s arrest and conviction.
Bonnie Haim disappeared in January 1993 and while her purse, complete with IDs, credit cards and cash, was found in the dumpster of a nearby hotel a short time later, the young mother was never seen again, according to The Florida Times-Union.
Fraser, who was just 3 years old at the time, told an investigator that “Daddy hurt Mommy,” but authorities lacked the evidence necessary to make an arrest and the case would eventually go cold, First Coast News reports.
Fraser was raised by another family but he said his fear of his father never subsided and he worried his father would “come for him,” particularly after he dug up his mother’s remains while doing some renovations to the property in 2014.
“I was the one person on this planet that had knowledge of what he had done and could stand in the way of his liberty,” Fraser said in his victim impact statement.
The traumatic events have taken a toll on Fraser, who continues to suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The devastating effects of the trauma were part of the decision by Judge Steven Whittington to hand down the sentence more in line with sentences today rather than the guidelines in place at the time the murder occurred.
“The severe emotional trauma Mr. Fraser suffered with the corresponding need to continued therapy, the ongoing depression, the suicidal ideations and the feeling of fear that he has had to endure is the exact type of emotional trauma that justifies an upward departure [from 1993 sentencing guidelines,]” Whittington wrote in his sentencing order, according to the local paper.
In 1993, guidelines for second-degree murder recommended a sentence ranging from seven to 22 years in prison.
Bonnie Haim’s family was pleased with the judge’s decision and believes they have finally been able to achieve a sense of peace for her and the rest of the family.
“While he remained free, our safety was always in question. Now, our family can focus on healing,” Bonnie Haim's sister, Liz Peak, said in a prepared statement from the family, according to WJXT. "We stand here united. And we will continue to support and love each other as we remember Bonnie's life and not her death."
Peak said the family doesn’t know yet what it will feel like to finally be done searching for answers after 26 long years since Bonnie Haim’s death.
“For 26 years, we wanted justice. And now we have it,” she said. “We got justice. But we don’t have Bonnie.”
Michael Haim’s attorney said he plans to appeal the decision and hopes to get his client a new trial. Michael Haim had argued in the trial that he had loved his wife and never would have hurt her.
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