JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two days before Michael Haim was sentenced to life in prison for murdering his wife Bonnie, family and friends gathered to give thanks to all those who never stopped fighting for justice over the last 26 years and to celebrate what would have been Bonnie's 50th birthday.
Bonnie was killed and her body was buried in 1993. But this past Sunday, following Michael Haim's murder conviction but before a judge handed down his life sentence, Bonnie's loved ones brought her memory to life. News4Jax anchor Mary Baer was invited to the intimate event, which honored everyone who kept this cold case alive.
As Amazing Grace played through the air at Celestial Farms on Jacksonville's Northside, it helped ease emotions Sunday that are still raw all these years later. Photos of Bonnie gently fluttered in the breeze as everyone paid tribute to a young mother whose life was cut short.
Tears fell as a prayer was said, "As we celebrate our friend and our sister and our beloved family member Bonnie Lynn Pasciuto Haim, we're thankful for the love that we have for each other, for the love that she had for each of us as a part of her life."
"We are honored by each of you, you've all been part of her life whether you knew her when she was alive or you discovered her afterwards and you fought for her," said Bonnie's sister Michelle Jewett.
Family members put their arms around those who did all they could from day one to protect Bonnie's then 3-year-old son Aaron who would have to go through childhood without his mom. Former State Attorney Angela Corey was an advocate for Aaron and his family through it all.
"Bonnie's family has been so strong, and I truly believe that Aaron's strength kept this family going and kept the search for justice going," Corey said.
But Bonnie's sisters said all these people who were touched by a young mother's murder came out on this occasion with no hesitation to celebrate her life.
"A lot of these individuals we have seen in 25 years," said Liz Peak, Bonnie's sister. "People that knew her, people that learned to know her after she died."
"Being the middle child she was always the peacemaker, always trying to share love with everybody so, yeah, this would be what she would want for her 50th birthday," said Bonnie's sister, Veronica Pescutio.
Eveann Haim, Bonnie's aunt by marriage, called Channel 4 26 years ago and sat next to Bonnie's husband Michael Haim -- now her convicted killer -- when Mary Baer interviewed both of them about Bonnie being reported missing.
FROM THE ARCHIVE: Mary Baer's report on search for Bonnie Haim
Eveann says now, it was little Aaron who grew up following his mother's guidance from the grave, that led him in 2014 to finally find her remains in their backyard.
"He went back and forth, back and forth about taking that pool out, and we all tried to convince him it was too much work. 'You're gonna kill yourself, you can't do it. Fix it and let it go,'" Eveann remembered. "And yeah, two days later he's back again. 'Nope, take it out.' And so Bonnie was telling him all along, 'Come look for me! I'm here!. Just find me!' And he did."