With its scenic lake, natural woodlands and and picturesque picnic areas, San Francisco’s John McLaren Park is a place of joy and respite in the Golden Gate City. But on April 8, 2016, the tranquility was shattered by the discovery of Nicole Fitts, a young single mother buried crudely next to the playground. Her daughter Arianna was nowhere to be found, and it soon transpired that the 2-year-old girl hadn’t been seen for weeks.
Nicole worked hard to make ends meet, often taking on double shifts at her job with a well-known electronics store. With a long commute on top of extensive hours, it meant sacrificing time with her children, but she knew she was doing her best to provide them with a better future. Fortunately for Nicole she had full-time childcare in the form of babysitter Helena Hearne, and Helen’s sister Siolo. Nicole placed such trust in the pair that she would even let Arianna stay overnight with them, giving her a sense of stability while Nicole was away at work.
The Fitts family struck lucky in February 2016, when a co-worker of Nicole’s invited them to move in, drastically shortening her commute and ensuring them more quality time together. But when Nicole called the Hearne’s to arrange the collection of her daughter, the sisters were evasive, claiming to have taken Arianna to Disneyland. For 6 long weeks this odd behaviour continues, with Helena and Siolo repeatedly blocking Nicole from seeing her child. Eventually Nicole put her foot down, and on April 1 withdrew $600 from an ATM and told her roommate that she was meeting her babysitter at a restaurant nearby. The babysitter was upset, she said, and she had to check if she was alright.
Nicole never came home that evening, and instead texted her roommate to say that she was on her way to Fresno with somebody called Sam. The roommate had never heard the name mentioned before, and when she asked how she was getting to Fresno, she received no further reply. A few days later Nicole’s family report her missing, and it is a further 3 days before her body is found. Curled up in the foetal position, she is covered with a plywood board, a mysterious symbol painted on one side. At a loss as to where the piece of wood came from, authorities suspect it may be a clue in her murder.
Police immediately turned their attentions toward Helena and Siolo Hearne, who have both provided inconsistent statements throughout the investigation. Neither of them have been named as suspects, although Helena in particular has a less than stellar record, having previously served time for killing the father of her child. Hope was briefly renewed in 2017 when a car was seized for DNA testing, but relatives report there are no new details in the case.
Two years have now passed since the discovery of Nicole’s body, and little Arianna is still nowhere to be found. As family grieve for not one loss but two, they cling on to hope that she might return home. Because somebody out there knows something - but who?
Do you think the symbol on the plywood holds a clue? Share your thoughts in the comments below.