In 1993, a 23-year-old woman went missing, leaving her young son behind. The only clues to Jacksonville, Fla. resident Bonnie Haim’s disappearance were her purse, found tossed in a dumpster, and her car, which was abandoned at the Jacksonville airport. For two decades, the mystery persisted.

This week, the cold case notched a grim if hopefully closure-bringing development, as Bonnie’s husband, Michael, was arrested for her murder. The key piece of evidence: A woman’s skull, found in December by workers digging a swimming pool in the backyard of the Florida home where the Haims once lived. This month, the remains were identified as Bonnie’s.

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According to Jacksonville’s WOKV, Michael Haim was arrested in North Carolina, where he now lives. Over the years, he’s long been a leading suspect in his wife’s disappearance, thought to have come soon after he found out she was planning to leave him. The main witness? The couple’s child, who was just a toddler at the time of the alleged crime:

“It will be a circumstantial case, but one that we will work diligently to prosecute in court,” says State Attorney Angela Corey.

In April 2005, Haim’s son, Aaron, was awarded $26.3 million in a wrongful death lawsuit about his mother. The court found there was enough culpability by Michael Haim to warrant the payout. He hasn’t faced criminal charges until now because JSO says they didn’t have a solid enough case, but that changed with the positive ID on the remains.

“That was the piece of the puzzle that we really felt we were missing,” says JSO Director Mike Bruno.

Bruno says Aaron- who was three-years-old at the time- is their “best and primary” witness to what happened in the home that night. Michael Haim had said Bonnie left following a verbal argument.

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The crime so bedeviled law enforcement that it was once featured on America’s Most Wanted, to no avail. In 1999, Bonnie was declared legally dead; that same year, Michael lost custody of Aaron.

Michael Haim will be brought to Florida to answer to the murder charge. State Attorney Corey, who’s been involved with the case since 1993, praised the dedication of the investigators who worked on the case, and said that she hopes the trial will take place “within a year.” But she also emphasized to Jacksonville’s News 4 Jax that there’s still work ahead:

“We are now at the point where we believe we can seek justice with a murder charge and we intend to proceed on what — as you are probably aware — will be circumstantial case, but one that we will work diligently to prosecute in court,” Corey said Tuesday. “I think this shows that our cold case unit is just a vital part of what we do in law enforcement and they will always have the support of the State Attorney’s Office.”

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema