They say there is nothing as sorrowful as burying your child. But what about having them disappear from your life, leaving you to wonder what happened on Earth–no funeral, closure, space, and questions? This was the resounding question asked by Kim Fraley when her sweet, 22-year-old daughter, Jamie, went missing.
Jamie Fraley had her share of struggles with anxiety and bipolar disorder, but she was a good girl. She was kind-hearted and had voiced an interest in dedicating her life to those who battled substance abuse, though she never touched drugs. When she had stomach troubles, going to the hospital seemed a wise and even ordinary choice. However, she vanished instead of arriving at the hospital for medical attention. Why would anyone want to harm a young woman who didn’t appear to have an enemy in the world? No one could answer this question forcing her family to live the dreaded nightmare of the unknown.
Jamie Fraley: Struggles in the Present, Hope for the Future
Struggles with bipolar disorder and anxiety created difficulty for young Jamie Fraley during her childhood in Gaston County, North Carolina, Andrea Cavallier of NBC News records. Even her birth, mother Kim Fraley explains, was a difficult one. However, Jamie Fraley wasn’t a quitter, and by the 2000s, the 22-year-old’s challenges were being well-managed with medication, allowing her to enjoy living independently and planning her future. Adam Lawson of the Gaston Gazette describes Fraley as “frail” and under five feet tall, barely weighing 90 pounds. Kim Fraley’s mother told her as “sweet” and “feisty.” An article by Ken Lemon of WSOC-TV states that Fraley held poem writing and her Bible close to her heart.
After a stint of living with her fiance, who eventually got into criminal trouble and went to prison, she continued to live in her apartment alone and attended Gaston College, NBC News reports. Having consistently demonstrated a compassionate heart that wanted the best for everyone, she aspired to become a drug counselor. “… She always wanted to help people,” her mother explained. “It was in her nature.”
Fraley appeared to be on good terms with everyone she knew and had no natural enemies. On a fateful night in April, this belief was challenged in the most frightening and heartbreaking ways.
The Disappearance of Jamie Fraley
On April 8, 2008, Fraley called her mother after midnight to tell her she had the stomach flu. It had gotten so bad that she had been to the hospital twice. Kim Fraley offered to take her, but Jamie Fraley said her healthcare provider would give her a lift. With an ‘I love you’ and a promise that she would rest, the young woman hung up the phone.
Even more frightening, she’d never checked into the hospital to treat her queasy stomach. Further investigation by Captain W.P. Downey revealed that Fraley had spoken to a friend at 2 am after calling her mother. Fraley had relayed her plans to get a ride to the hospital. She reportedly said ‘he is here’ when her ride arrived, leaving the individual’s identity a mystery. No one knew who Fraley had driven off with or where they’d gone.
More Mysteries and No Answers
It was time to track down the healthcare provider sent to the hospital to take Fraley. This led to yet another chilling dead end. The provider reported arriving at the apartment only to find the door locked and Fraley nowhere in sight. There was no indication of forced entry, no sign that the young woman had been taken against her will. However, the discovery that Fraley had left behind her wallet, keys, and ID was disturbing. Her stomach bug had been no joke, as she’d thrown up in multiple places around her living space. Where had Fraley gone while being so ill if not for the hospital? No one had a clue, and the family swiftly filed a missing person’s report.
For hours, the Fraleys tried to reach Jamie via the only method of communication they had left: her cell phone. For a long, terrible time, there was no answer. Then, someone picked up. Devastation fell again when it wasn’t Fraley but a cable company worker who’d found her cell while doing telephone line maintenance about a mile from the young woman’s home.
Ricky Simonds Sr. Important Witness or Suspect?
Once Fraley was declared missing, it was all hands on deck. Three investigators dedicated their full-time efforts to searching. The State Bureau of Investigation and the FBI even got involved. Law enforcement scoured the lake near Fraley’s residence. No sign of her. They questioned her friends and neighbors, leading them to those closest to the young woman.
Fraley’s boyfriend, Ricky Simonds Jr., was ruled out as a suspect since he was behind bars at the time of her disappearance. His father, Simonds Sr., was also questioned, but there was no reason to think he had any connection to the case. However, a closer look revealed that he lived in the same complex as Fraley, where he was also employed as a maintenance worker.
Simonds Sr. had a criminal record like his son, serving time during the 1980s for strangling his girlfriend.
NBC News recorded a foul odor that prompted the unfortunate woman to check her box. His death appeared to be his fault, a result of heat stroke. According to the Gaston Gazette, law enforcement believes he got a hold of his ex-girlfriend’s car keys and camped out in the trunk, waiting with malicious intent for her arrival. His plan cost him his life as he subsequently passed out and died.
Simonds Sr.’s death proved a source of aggravation, making it impossible for the police to rule out his involvement in Fraley’s disappearance. “Any questions we had for him, any information we could have gotten from him, now it’s gone,” Kim Fraley is reported by NBC News to have said.
“He was hiding something, and we could never get that out of him,” she said.
When questioned about his father, Simonds Jr. ratted him out, saying he found the idea of Simonds Sr. being involved plausible. His willingness to give his father up was supported by his claim that they were more like friends than father and son. “First my fiance goes missing, then my dad climbs in a trunk and dies? Does that make sense to anybody?” Simonds Jr. is recorded to have asked. Yes, Junior, it’s strange. But admitting that doesn’t provide answers.
Even though the man who presumably knew the most about Jamie’s final day was dead, Kim Fraley was determined that she would find her if her daughter were still alive. She continued to distribute fliers, convinced that someone knew something. They needed only to come forward.
Years they were passed with no answers and then a decade, putting Fraley’s family through acute grief. Kim Fraley admitted to NBC News that, for a time, she could hardly get out of bed. “People always say the word closure,” she is recorded to have said. “But there is no such thing as closure. It’s been 12 years with no closure.”
Gaston Gazette reports that she clung desperately to her other daughter for comfort and kept mementos of Fraley–old clothes, a Bible, and pictures–in the attic. She went to therapy and sought the help of doctors, but nothing could take away the pain of not knowing. “It gets harder,” she admitted. “You feel like you will get old and not know what happened.”
Among the shreds of the past to which Kim Fraley clings is a particularly eerie one in the form of a poem by her beloved daughter. WSOC records the strangely prophetic words scrawled on the page: “‘ Hold your head up high. Be the struggle when I die.'” Why was Jamie Fraley writing about death? The answer had vanished when she did. As time goes on, faith begins to wane. “Things get old. People’s memories get fuzzy” was a glib statement by Gaston County Police Department Capt. Curtis Rosselle. Fraley was never found. The cold case remains one of the most haunting unsolved disappearances in Charlotte.