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Heartbroken mother refuses to give up search for answers in 2008 disappearance of North Carolina daughter Jamie Fraley

Jamie Fraley, 22, was last known to be at her apartment in the Copperfield apartment complex on Lowell Bethesda Road, in Gastonia, North Carolina on April 8, 2008. She had been sick with the stomach flu and called a friend to say someone was going to take her to the hospital. She was never heard from again. Her purse, wallet, keys and ID were left behind. Two days later, a utility worker found Jamie’s cell phone at the intersection of New Hope Road and Hudson Boulevard, about a mile and a half from her home. The Gaston County Police Department is investigating.

It’s been 12 years since Kim Fraley has heard her daughter’s voice.

Jamie Fraley, who was 22 years old and living in Gaston County, North Carolina at the time, called her mother just after midnight on April 8, 2008, to tell her she wasn’t feeling well, Kim told Dateline. Kim explained that Jamie had the stomach flu and it was severe enough that she had already been to the hospital twice within the past 24 hours.

Jamie Fraley
Jamie Fraley

Kim asked her daughter if she needed to be picked up, but Jamie declined, saying she had an appointment the next day with the Social Security Administration she needed to go to. Jamie suffered from bipolar disorder and anxiety issues and had a healthcare provider, who was scheduled to pick her up for the appointment. She promised her mother she would rest.

"I said, 'Well, I love you.' And she said, 'I love you, too,'" Kim remembered. “It was the last time I heard her voice. I’m just, well, I’m just really glad I got to tell her I loved her. At least I have that. Because the next day, she was gone.”

Captain W.P. Downey with the Gaston County Police Department told Dateline that after speaking to her mother, Jamie had another call around 2 a.m., this time with a friend. Jamie told her that she was getting a ride to the hospital, but didn’t say with whom.

"She said, 'He is here,' but she didn't say who ‘he’ is," Captain Downey said. Captain Downey added that investigators still do not know who “he” was.

Jamie never checked into a hospital that third time. When Jamie missed her appointment the next day, Kim said she received a call from her daughter’s healthcare provider who was supposed to have given Jamie a ride that day. When the healthcare provider arrived at Jamie’s apartment it was locked and there was no answer at the door. Kim called the police and an officer performed a welfare check, but found no signs of forced entry or a struggle. And no trace of Jamie.

Jamie’s mother, aunt and cousin later arrived at the apartment, where Kim said they found Jamie’s wallet, purse, keys and ID. Her cell phone was the only thing that appeared to be missing, she added.

Kim said they noticed Jamie had vomited several times throughout the apartment and shoe laces were missing from the shoes she typically wore.

They called the police again and filed a missing person report.

For hours, Jamie’s family continued to call her phone. A man who said he worked for the cable company eventually picked up and said he had found the phone while repairing lines. The phone was in the intersection of New Hope Road and Hudson Boulevard, about a mile and a half from Jamie’s apartment.

Gaston County Police launched an investigation, devoted three investigators to the case full-time and requested assistance from both the State Bureau of Investigation and the FBI. They questioned Jamie’s friends and neighbors. They searched the lake across the street from her home.

Family members made thousands of fliers, conducted their own searches and even hired their own investigator. But even after 12 years, there have been no substantial clues about what happened to Jamie.

“I had such a hard time bringing her into this world,” Kim told Dateline. “Why would anyone take her away? I’m heartbroken.”

Kim describes her daughter as a firecracker with a big heart and a passion for helping others.

“She always wanted to help people,” Kim said. “And she always tried to see the best in people. Which may have gotten her into trouble. She was too trusting at times.”

A native of Gaston County, North Carolina, Jamie struggled with bipolar disorder and anxiety issues growing up, her mom told Dateline, but by the late 2000s, she was responding well to her medications and attending Gaston College. Kim said Jamie had plans to one day become a drug counselor and help addicts.

“Like I said, she always wanted to help people,” Kim said. “It was in her nature.”

In 2006, Jamie began dating Ricky Simonds Jr. They got engaged and moved in together. But according to police, after several earlier arrests, Simonds was sentenced to 15 months in state prison for theft. He was still imprisoned at the time of Jamie’s disappearance, so investigators ruled him out as a suspect.

Early on in the investigation, Ricky’s father, Ricky Simonds Sr., was questioned in the disappearance, Captain Downey said, but was not named a person of interest in the case. Simonds Sr., who served prison time in the 1980s for strangling a girlfriend to death, lived at the same apartment complex as Jamie and did maintenance work there.

Two months after Jamie’s disappearance, Simonds Sr. was found dead in the trunk of his ex-girlfriend's car. Investigators said the woman noticed a foul odor and when she checked the trunk, she found Simonds’ body. The cause of death was ruled to be accidental heat stroke.

Jamie’s mother Kim told Dateline she believes whatever useful information existed about her daughter’s disappearance went to the grave with Simonds Sr.

“Any questions we had for him, any information we could have gotten from him, now it’s gone,” Kim said.

Twelve years have passed and Jamie’s family is still in anguish over the lack of answers in her case.

Kim said that for years, she could barely get out of bed, but was determined to keep going for the rest of her family.

“People always say the word closure,” Kim said. “But there is no such thing as closure. It’s been 12 years with no closure.”

Kim has a box of items belonging to her daughter, but said it’s hard to look at.

“They say, ‘Oh, well, you still got memories of her.’ But memories are painful.”

A poem written by Jamie is one of the memories nestled in the box.

“‘Hold your head up high. Be the struggle when I die,’” Kim recited. “That's just very eerie to me.”

As the years pass, Jamie’s disappearance continues to be one of only a few unsolved cases in the area, investigators say.

Captain Downey was a patrol sergeant, working the day Jamie disappeared. He later left the Gaston County PD, but recently returned as a commander. He told Dateline investigators began reviewing the case again in August 2019.

“It was one of my goals when I returned to work as a commander here,” Captain Downey said. “I wanted us to do whatever we could to solve these cold cases.”

He added that there are extensive records kept on Jamie’s case, which include every tip they have followed over the past 12 years. But they are still missing that one tip – the one from someone who knows what happened to Jamie -- that would finally give her mother some answers.

"Someone knows something,” Kim told Dateline. “What if it was your daughter, your sister, your child? It’s time to come forward.”

Kim added that she’s never going to give up searching for answers in her daughter’s disappearance.

“Until you show me different, I’m going to have hope that she’s alive,” Kim said. And she’ll keep up the struggle.

At the time of Jamie’s disappearance, she was 22 years old, 4’8” tall, weighed approximately 90 pounds and had blond hair with brown eyes. She had a tattoo that said “Ricky” on her ankle. Jamie would be 34 years old today.

Anyone who might have information about Jamie’s whereabouts is asked to call the Gaston County Police Department in North Carolina at 704-866-3320 or Crime Stoppers at 704-861-8000.