At 1:30 in the morning of April 8, 2008 22-year-old Jamie Michelle Fraley talked to a friend and said she was still not feeling well and would be going to the hospital for the third time for the stomach flu. On the second visit, Jamie had returned home without seeing anyone rather than face the three hour wait and now felt she needed to return. Jamie did not drive and did not say who was driving her, only referring to the person driving her as “a friend”. She ended the call by saying “I have to go, my ride is here. He is here.” Jamie never checked in to the hospital and was never seen again.
On August 11, Jamie had missed an important appointment and had not been reached for a few days. Her mother called police and asked them to do a wellness check, they went to the apartment and found it locked. The apartment appeared untouched with her purse, ID, wallet, and keys inside. There was evidence (dried vomit) of Jamie’s recent illness as well, but not signs of a struggle. Eerily, the shoelaces were missing from the shoes that Jamie wore most often. Her cellphone was found on the side of the road by a construction worker a few days later. It appeared to have been tossed out the window of a moving car.
Jamie’s fiancé, Ricky Simonds Jr., was incarcerated at the time, serving 15 months for theft. Jamie Fraley wrote him a letter every day and had his name tattooed on her ankle.
Investigators identified Jamie’s fiancé’s father, Ricky Dale Simonds Sr., a man who lived two apartments away in Jamie’s building and had driven her to the hospital on a separate visit the previous day, as a person of interest. He was also rumored to be “obsessed” with his son’s fiancé.
When they began following him, police discovered Ricky Simonds Sr. was stalking his recent ex-girlfriend, Kim Sprenger. Simonds Sr. had a history of violence against women and served time for strangling his ex-girlfriend to death, for which he was only charged with manslaughter and released after six years in 1992 on “good behavior”. (On a personal note, I LOVE to know that men can strangle their girlfriend to death and get out after 6 years, it really helps me sleep at night).
The case against Simmonds Sr. as a suspect is that Jamie told her friend she was going to the hospital with her friend “in his truck”. Simmonds Sr. drove a white van. It’s perfectly possible that in Jamie’s vernacular, she included vans in the “truck” category or that she misspoke, or that her friend misheard or that her friend misremembers. It’s also possible that another, unknown friend gave Jamie a ride that night.
Two months after Jamie Fraley disappeared, Ricky Simonds Sr. was found in the truck of Kim Sprenger’s car, dead by heat exhaustion.
Kim had just succeeded in getting an order for protection from Simmonds Sr. after police warned her that he was stalking her. She also suspected him of stealing from her as he had keys to her vehicle which had recently been broken into. She then noticed a bad smell coming from her car. Two days later, she opened the trunk and discovered Simonds Sr.’s body. Police believe Simonds Sr.’s death was accidental and that Simonds Sr. had used the keys he had for the woman’s car to let himself into her trunk with the intention of ambushing her and succumbed to heat exhaustion instead. He had alcohol and drugs in his system, which explains why he did not use the emergency release to exit the trunk when he started getting hot.
Simonds Sr. had brought a knife with him and had recently told his friends he was going to give his ex-girlfriend “the surprise of her life.”
Jamie Fraley was a tiny woman who was diagnosed with both anxiety and bipolar disorder. She had been a sick newborn and surprised her family when she lived past the age of 1. As an adult, Jamie was 4 feet 9 inches tall, weighing just 90lbs. She was taking medication and working toward becoming a substance abuse counselor, taking part-time classes as a community college in Dallas, North Carolina. She had specifically mentioned wanting to help Ricky Simonds Sr. with his drug addiction in the future.
The day before Jamie disappeared, Kim Sprenger reported that she visited Jamie’s apartment and dropped off a prescription for her at a nearby pharmacy. Kim and Jamie were friendly as Kim had recently been dating (and living with) her fiancé’s father two doors down. Jamie had been dogsitting Kim’s dog and Kim picked up her pet. Kim said Ricky Simonds Sr. had driven Jamie to a previous hospital visit that day and “another neighbor” had picked her up.
In 2015, an incarcerated man named Jerry Case confessed to killing Jamie Fraley, though he was found to have been in prison at the time.
Jamie’s mother believes Ricky Simmonds Sr. was responsible, saying he “was hiding something and we couldn’t never get that out of him”. Ricky Simonds Jr., Jamie’s fiancé, said “First my fiancé goes missing, then my dad climbs in a trunk and dies? Does that make sense to anybody?” When Ricky Simonds Jr. was released from prison on April 29th, he chose to stay with Jamie Fraley’s family rather than his father because he believed his father may have been guilty. On the Talk Murder to Me blog Jon Perry mirrors my own theory after reading through this case:
“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 repercussions. 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 flirtatious 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.”
Jamie’s story has been featured on Investigation Discovery’s Disappeared:
Jamie Fraley would be 34 today.
Anyone with information on this case is asked to contact Gaston County Police at 704-866-3320 or CrimeStoppers at 704-861-8000.