In April 2006, Jamie Fraley was accomplishing so many things. She was living in her own apartment on Lowell Bethesda road in Gastonia, North Carolina. She was attending classes at Gaston college and hoped to start a career as a substance abuse counselor. It had been a long road to reach this point, and she had been fighting battles since the very beginning. Jamie was born in 1986 and wasn’t expected to make it past her first birthday. She defied the odds, but would continuously need help throughout her life.
Jamie suffered from anxiety and bipolar disorder. Most of the reports mention that she would often be off of her medication, but besides her mental health, Jamie also had a hard time gaining weight and was on the smaller side. At the time of her disappearance, Jamie stood 4’10“ tall and only weighed 100 pounds.
These health concerns made it impossible for Jamie to get her driver’s license or a job, and this made it difficult for her to be independent, however she was fortunate to have the support of her family. She also had a social worker that helped her manage her finances and move out on her own.
When she moved into her apartment complex, Jamie met Ricky Simonds Sr. and his son, Ricky Simonds Jr. The father and son both had lengthy rap sheets, including larceny, identity theft, and multiple drug charges. Jamie quickly fell in love with Ricky Jr.. and although her family was hesitant about Jr’s criminal background, Jamie insisted on finding the good in everyone.
She wanted to help Jr. overcome his past, but she also wanted to help Sr. and his girlfriend with their drug addictions. The young couple hit a roadblock in 2007 when Jr. was sentenced to 15 months in prison for a larceny charge.
On April 8th, Jamie was very sick with intense stomach pain and vomiting. She asked her social worker to drive her to the hospital where she was diagnosed with a stomach bug and given medication. Once she was back home, she tried to have a normal day by dog sitting for Kim, but the stomach pain was getting stronger and Jamie was convinced that this was more than the stomach bug. That evening, with the pain increasing, Jamie decided to go back to the hospital and this time she asked Ricky Sr. to give her a ride. After he dropped her off, Jamie was told that there would be at least a 3 hour wait, so Jamie called a friend to give her a ride home instead of waiting in the ER. Jamie was seen at this time, entering her apartment after returning from the hospital.
After going home, Jamie called her mother to let her know how she was feeling. After describing the chills, vomiting, and stomach pain, Jamie’s mom offered to come and pick her up but Jamie had an appointment later that day with her social worker that she refused to miss and she worried that she would miss it if she didn’t stay home. She told her mom that she was planning to go back up to the hospital. Around 1:30 that morning, now the early morning hours of April 9th, Jamie spoke to a friend on the phone and told her that a man was coming to pick her up in a truck, but she never specified the man’s name. The last thing Jamie said to her friend was, “I have to go, my ride is here. He is here”. After that call, Jamie was never heard from again and no hospital had a record of her being treated around that time.
As scheduled, Jamie’s social worker arrived at the apartment to pick Jamie up for her appointment. She knocked and received no answer. She called Jamie’s phone multiple times, and still no answer. She turned the door knob, but found that it was locked. With no answer, the social worker left and failed to notify Jamie’s family of the missed appointment until two days later on April 11th. When Jamie’s mother received this news, she quickly called the police and asked them to do a welfare check on her daughter.
The Gastonia PD gained access to Jamie’s apartment and saw no signs of a struggle or forced entry. They assumed that Jamie was just out somewhere and would come back home later. She was an adult and, as we all know, adults have the right to disappear for a while if they want to. However, Jamie’s mother wasn’t buying this theory and decided to search Jamie’s apartment herself with the help of family. Inside, they discovered that Jamie’s phone was missing but her purse and keys were still inside the apartment. Even stranger, at the top of the stairs sat a pair of Jamie’s favorite shoes with the shoe laces missing. Jamie’s mom was concerned about this because Jamie never wore her shoes without laces and she immediately knew that something was wrong.
At the finding of these items, Jamie’s mother wasn’t taking “no” for an answer. The family called the police again while searching the apartment and they also tried to call Jamie’s phone multiple times. The next part of the story had to have been fate or just perfect timing because someone, a man, picked up on the other end of the line. He explained that he worked for a local cable company and was out repairing lines when he heard Jamie’s phone ringing nearby. Jamie’s family quickly updated the police on this find and they sent officers to retrieve the phone three miles away from the apartment complex. The phone appeared to be very scuffed and police believed that the phone had been thrown out a vehicle. They attempted to collect fingerprints off of the phone, but the phone had already been contaminated by multiple people handling it, and the police were unable to do so.
The next step in the investigation was to search the surrounding areas, including nearby woods, and speak with anyone who may have witnessed Jamie’s last moments. Police conducted door-to-door knocking at the apartment complex, and everyone was very cooperative, except for Ricky Sr. He wasn’t willing to give them much information and he seemed less than interested in talking to them. Now, on one hand I look at this and automatically think he looks suspicious, but this man was also a known criminal, so I doubt he would have been thrilled about speaking regardless of what he knew. Ricky Jr. was still in prison, and thus had an alibi for the days of Jamie’s disappearance. Jr. was released on April 29th, not long after the investigation began.
The police also spoke with Jamie’s friend who was the last to speak with her on the phone. Jamie had told this friend that the man picking her up drove a truck, but Ricky Sr. drove a white van, so this tip left more questions than answers. Another tip also came in about a trash bag on the side of the road 2 miles away from Jamie’s apartment. When police found the trash bag, they questioned Ricky Sr. and he confessed to leaving the bag on the side of the road. His explanation was that he had to remove the trash bag from his trunk in order to remove his spare tire. After fixing his flat tire, Sr. drove off and forgot to put the bag back in his trunk. The contents of this bag have not been released to this day, but it must not have been enough for an arrest. Realizing that they needed more evidence, the police began to track Ricky Sr.’s movements, but they didn’t receive any clues concerning Jamie. Instead, Ricky Sr. was preoccupied stalking his, at this point, ex-girlfriend, Kim. The police warned Kim about Sr.’s movements, and she filed a restraining order on May 9th, stating that she feared for her life because Sr. would sometimes become violent.
Just shy of one month since filing the restraining order, Kim was driving when she noticed a foul smell coming from the trunk of her car. No longer being able to bare the stench, Kim decided to check the trunk of her car and was stunned to find the decomposing body of Ricky Simonds Sr. The police were called to the scene and they discovered a knife under Sr’s body. They assumed that Sr. had hidden in the trunk of Kim’s car with a knife and planned to attack her when the moment was right. After an autopsy was conducted on Sr.’s body, it was discovered that his cause of death was hyperthermia, or over heating. He had also consumed alcohol and drugs shortly before dying. The police theorized that Sr., under the influence, was waiting in the trunk to attack Kim but became panicked and overheated while searching for the emergency trunk latch.
With Sr. now deceased, Kim would be able to move on with her life without constantly looking over her shoulder, but the hopes of finding Jamie were greatly stunned. Although tips have still been received, including a speculated sighting all the way in Hong Kong, nothing has been a legitimate lead and the family is still searching for the missing, Jamie Fraley.
Now that we have discussed the events leading up to Jamie’s disappearance, I want to take a minute to talk more about Ricky Sr. Although he had many prior criminal charges for petty thefts, Sr. also had a prior act of violence on his record. In 1986, the same year that Jamie was born, Ricky Sr. was arrested for strangling his ex-girlfriend, Donna Miller. This first-degree murder charge was pleaded down to a manslaughter charge and Sr. received twenty years. Unfortunately, he was released from prison in 1992 for good behavior, after only serving six years out of the twenty year sentence. Although Ricky Sr. was never arrested for Jamie’s disappearance, I think it’s very possible that Jamie would still be here with us if Sr. had been required to serve his full sentence. Along with his history of violence, Ricky Sr. was known for making flirtateous remarks towards Jamie and he was allegedly obsessed with her. Some people also speculate that this lust for Jamie was a main factor in his split with Kim Sprenger.
With all of the circumstantial evidence, it is easy to see why Ricky Sr. is the main suspect in this case, but I think it’s important to look at every case from each possible angle, regardless of what our personal opinions may be. The main theory of what happened to Jamie is that Ricky Sr. somehow kidnapped or attacked Jamie on the way to the hospital, threw her phone out of the car, and hid her body somewhere that is unknown to police. This theory seems to be the most likely, but there are still questions that need to be answered. For example, if Sr. was picked Jamie up, why did Jamie tell her friend that the man drove a truck instead of a van? Why did Sr. choose that time to hurt her when he could have attacked her on the prior visit to the hospital? Another theory is that, without her bipolar medication, Jamie was having a manic episode and decided to leave, but where did she go? Why wouldn’t she contact her family? The final theory is that someone completely unknown kidnapped Jamie and has yet to be identified.
I know that many podcasters choose to remain unbiased and not voice their opinions of each case, but I think the beauty of the true crime community is hearing the differing opinions on each case. I love to hear others opinions, so it’s only right that you get to hear mine, as well. So, in my opinion, I believe that Ricky Sr. did cause Jamie’s disappearance. I believe that, with Jr. being in prison and far away from home, Sr. felt free to make a pass at Jamie without any repurcussions. Jamie saw the best in people and always wanted to help them, so I can see her choosing to laugh off Sr.’s advancements or flirtateous remarks. However, I don’t agree with the many theories of Sr. attacking her on the way to the hospital. When Jamie told her friend “He is here”, I don’t think his car had just pulled up. Sr. lived two doors down and he wouldn’t have needed to drive to get to Jamie’s apartment. Instead, I think that Ricky Sr. was waiting at the door. When Jamie let him in, I believe that Ricky decided this was his chance to have her, regardless of how sick and weak she was feeling. She was vulnerable and placing her trust in him, and I believe that Ricky Sr. abused that trust. I don’t think there were signs of a struggle in the apartment because Jamie was subdued quickly. This is also why her purse and keys would have been left behind and Ricky Sr. would have locked the door on the way out with her. The shoe laces could have been used to strangle her as a weapon of opportunity or to tie her hands. I’m very curious about what the police found inside of that trash bag they discovered, but I’m guessing that they are keeping the contents a secret so that they can use it for future tips in Jamie’s case. I don’t agree with the theory that she chose to disappear because of her bipolar disorder, simply because there were no reports from family or friends of Jamie acting differently prior to her disappearance. I think the issue of the truck vs. van can simply be summed up to a confusion of the vehicle. Jamie might have meant to say van and accidentally said truck. I have even seen speculation that Jamie was possibly doing drugs with Sr. and that is what caused her illness and disappearance, but I don’t think that theory holds any value. Jamie was a smart girl who wanted to help people get away from drugs, so I highly doubt that she was interested in becoming an addict herself.
In a 2011 article by the Charlotte Observer, Jamie’s family was hopeful to enlist the help of Maurice Godwin, the infamous forensic psychologist that resides in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Godwin agreed to look over the files of the case, but he was denied access to Jamie’s case file by the Gastonia police department. The department stated that the access was denied due to the case being an ongoing investigation. Jamie’s family is still searching for her and the answers behind her disappearance. Today, Jamie would have been 34 years old. I wonder if she would have had that great career at a treatment center or a hospital, saving the lives of addicts who had been turned away from others in society. While others would have turned their backs on them, Jamie would have been there with open arms to help them. Jamie Fraley was a white female with blonde hair and blue eyes. She had the name “Ricky” tattooed on her right ankle and she has been missing since April of 2006. If you have any information about Jamie’s disappearance, you can contact the Gastonia Police Department at 704-866-3320 or contact the North Carolina Crimestoppers to leave an anonymous tip. Jamie’s family has set up a Facebook page for her, with updates on the case and memories of her. You can find this page by searching Jamie Michelle Fraley - Missing. I will also have a link to this Facebook page, the Charley Project website, and the North Carolina Crimestoppers website in the show notes.
Do you think Ricky Sr. is behind Jamie’s disappearance or do you have your own theory?