Live

Watch CBSN Live

Man who found his long-missing mother's remains during home renovation takes stand

Man who found missing mom's remains testifies

A Florida man who unearthed the remains of his mother, missing since 1993, when he was doing home renovations in 2014 took the stand Tuesday in his father's murder trial.

Aaron Fraser was 3 when Bonnie Haim vanished from his family's Jacksonville home. Prosecutors argue Haim's husband, Michael Haim, killed her because she had plans to leave him and take the boy. Michael Haim wasn't charged with her murder until 2015, 

"That was the only thing he could do to stop her from leaving and taking his son," State Attorney's Office Homicide Director Alan Mizrahi said during the trial's opening statements this week.

While Haim remained a suspect, detectives previously had trouble building a case without a body. Haim has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder. 

bonnie-haim-14-476706-ver1-0-640-360.jpg
Michael Haim and Bonnie Haim with their son Aaron CBS affiliate WJAX-TV

As a child, Fraser told a child welfare worker, "Daddy hurt Mommy," or something similar, according to detectives. "Aaron also stated that 'Daddy shot Mommy,' 'Daddy placed Mommy in timeout,' and 'My daddy could not wake her up,'" a 2015 arrest affidavit said.

Taking the stand Tuesday, Fraser, who was raised by adoptive parents, said he had no memory of his biological mother or the time of the killing. Fraser described finding Bonnie Haim's skull as he demolished a pool behind his childhood home, which he won as a as part of a wrongful death lawsuit against his father. A civil court judge in 2004 ruled Michael Haim liable in Bonnie Haim's death.

Fraser discovered the badly decomposed remains beneath a concrete slab. DNA tests confirmed the remains were those of Bonnie Haim and a medical examiner concluded she died from a homicide "by unspecified means," according to the affidavit. A spent shell casing found where Bonnie Haim was buried was the same type of caliber as a rifle that Haim owned, the affidavit said.

Testifying Tuesday, Fraser said he at first thought the skull was a coconut, placed inside a contractor bag.

"I picked up the coconut object and it ended up being the top portion of her skull," he said. Looking back in the hole, he said, he noticed what appeared to be teeth.

Wanting to avoid media attention, Fraser said he wasn't sure whether to call 911 or someone connected with the original investigation. A man who was helping him with the construction project called his police officer friend, while Fraser attempted to contact the original case detective and then left a message for his psychologist.

"I left her a message and said, I think I might have found my mom," Fraser said.

1aaabonnie.jpg
Bonnie Haim WJAX-TV

Fraser periodically paused and took deep breaths as he spoke. Haim showed no emotion as his son took the stand.

According to the affidavit, Haim was abusive to his wife and she had made plans to move into an apartment with their son while he was away on a trip. She had secretly opened a bank account and when Haim found out about it and made her close it, she started giving money to a trusted friend to hold for her.

Haim, 52, who had moved to North Carolina by the time of his arrest in 2015, claimed his wife left their home without their son late one night in January 1993 after they had an argument about their marital problems. Haim also said he went searching for his wife, although he didn't notify law enforcement about her disappearance. Law enforcement wasn't told about the disappearance until a maintenance worker found her purse in a hotel dumpster and called police.

"Michael Haim was the last known individual to have contact with victim," the arrest affidavit said. "The suspect admits that he and the victim were fighting over marital issues and that she was planning to leave and take their child."

Other members of Bonnie Haim's family also took the stand, saying they never believed Michael Haim's story because the woman would never have left her young son.

Haim maintains he had no involvement in his wife's death. His defense says there is a lack of evidence in the case and argues police didn't do enough to rule out a man with whom Bonnie Haim was allegedly having an affair.

The criminal trial is scheduled to continue Thursday.