It’s been almost three years since Arianna Fitts and her mother, Nicole “Nikki” Fitts, went missing from San Francisco’s Bay Area seemingly without a trace. No one knows exactly what happened to them, except for the fact that 32-year-old Nikki was found dead in John McLaren Park just a few days later.
Nikki Fitts’ body wasn’t the first murdered corpse to be found in San Francisco’s second-largest park. But since that discovery, local authorities and politicians have been doing everything they can to ensure that better safety measures are enforced in the area and that the park is better maintained and monitored.
At the time of her death, she was working part-time at a local Best Buy on Harrison Street in San Francisco to support herself and her then-two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Arianna Fitts.
In the meantime, Arianna, who is now approximately five-and-a-half years old, is still missing and considered at risk.
Police believe she’s still alive and being kept somewhere in the Bay Area.
Three individuals have been named persons of interest in this case, but police lack sufficient evidence to issue charges or arrest warrants.
Arianna’s two aunts are still holding out hope that they’ll be able to find their niece and bring her home.
What Happened to Nikki Fitts?
San Francisco native Nikki Fitts had fallen on extremely hard financial times around the time of her gruesome death. Although police have classified the killing as a homicide, they still don’t have any significant leads or theories in terms of how or why Nikki was killed.
Nikki also had an older daughter named Sendy from a previous relationship. Sendy was living with her father in Southern California.
Before the birth of her second daughter, Nikki and Sendy had been living with Nikki’s younger sister, Contessa “Tess” Fitts, and her partner, Claire Bonnar, in Pacifica, which is about 15 minutes outside of San Francisco.
Nikki struggled to keep up with the rent when she became pregnant with Arianna. Eventually, Fitts and Bonnar decided to move to Santa Cruz because the expenses of sharing that apartment were getting to be too much for the three of them to handle.
At that point, Nikki couldn’t afford to rent an apartment on her own, so she sent Sendy to live with her father and found herself living in a homeless shelter with Arianna.
It was there that she met a woman named Lemasani Briggs, who claimed to be a “street pastor.” Briggs offered Nikki and her daughter a place to stay, which Nikki gratefully accepted. She had started working part-time at Best Buy to make some money, and on top of paying Briggs rent once a month, Nikki also paid her to take care of her daughter while she was at work.
After a while, Briggs increased the rent and her babysitting fees, so Nikki decided to take Arianna out of her care. Instead, she asked Briggs’ estranged nieces, sisters Siolo Hearne and Helena Martin, to care for her toddler.
Nikki’s living situation soon worsened with Briggs, with her entire paycheck seeming to go into the pastor’s hands. Nikki also shared suspicions with her sister and Bonnar that Briggs was snooping through her personal items. Bonnar says Nikki even sent her examples of the disturbing text messages she was receiving from Briggs.
Finally, Nikki’s sister and her partner decided to drive up to the Bay Area from Santa Cruz to bring Nikki and Arianna back to live with them. That extended Nikki’s commute to work to about two hours. Additionally, she was working a lot of late nights and early mornings just so she could make ends meet.
In the meantime, she’d spend weeknights at friends’ houses, often leaving Arianna in Hearne and Martin’s care. The two siblings, along with Helena Martin’s husband, Devin Martin, were becoming very possessive over the little girl and allegedly refused to give her back to Nikki on multiple occasions.
In the weeks leading up to her untimely death, Nikki was reportedly battling homelessness, fighting for custody for Sendy (who had been taken from her father by Child Protective Services), and was also trying to get Arianna back from the two sisters who were apparently holding her captive for unknown reasons. Nikki was known to allow Arianna to live with one or both of the sisters for extended periods of time, so it wasn’t out of the ordinary for her to be without her daughter.
When one of Nikki’s friends from work, Goyette Williams, offered Nikki and Arianna a temporary place to stay, Nikki was beyond overjoyed. She immediately contacted Hearne and Martin so that she could retrieve her daughter.
Unfortunately, they reportedly refused to return the toddler to her mother. It’s unclear when the last time was that Nikki saw or had contact with her little girl before her death.
Nikki Fitts Reported Missing
April 1, 2016 was the last time anyone saw Nikki alive. That morning, she woke up and took the train to work. She was spotted wearing her blue Best Buy uniform.
She was supposed to spend the evening with Bonnar, who was in town interviewing for a job, but had to cancel at the last minute. Instead, Nikki decided to go shopping with a close friend from work named Michael Jacobo.
They went to the mall together and, on the way home, Nikki asked if they could stop by a Pizza Hut to pick up dinner. She also withdrew hundreds of dollars in cash from an ATM. Nikki didn’t disclose what the money was for, and Jacobo didn’t ask.
Nikki was still living with Williams at this time. The roommates ate dinner and settled in for the evening to watch a movie together—until Nikki got a mysterious phone call. She told Williams she had to meet someone at a local restaurant and she’d be back to finish the movie. Nikki never returned home that night.
The next morning, Williams woke up to a strange text from Nikki saying that she was on her way to Fresno with someone named Sam, but no one knew who this was. Nikki also reportedly posted on Facebook, shortly after 1:00 a.m. on April 2, that she was spending time with her daughter.
“Spending time with my 3 year old need this brake,” the post read [sic].
But the grammatical errors in the post seemed very out of character for her. Never mind the fact that Arianna was just two years old then.
When Nikki failed to show up for work on April 2, her friends began to worry and immediately contacted Tess Fitts as well as Nikki’s older sister, Kathryn Foxx (nee Fitts).
The sisters arrived in San Francisco within hours and filed a missing persons report with the San Francisco Police Department.
Since the police department couldn’t help them much because of Nikki’s age, the sisters started to take the investigation into their own hands and began going through all of Nikki’s contacts on her social media pages.
It wasn’t long before they started suspecting Briggs’ nieces. Tess was able to procure Martin and Hearne’s addresses in Oakland and Emeryville, respectively, and she provided those locations to the police.
But sadly, on April 8, 2016, just over a week after she and her daughter went missing, Nikki’s body was found in John McLaren Park.
She was lying in a shallow grave in the fetal position, with a wooden board covering her body. The board had strange markings spray painted on it. Police believe it was most likely scrap from a construction site.
Neither of Nikki’s sisters had seen their niece since February 2016.
Siolo Hearne, Helena Martin, and Devin Martin Considered Persons of Interest
Given the toxic relationship the sisters had with Nikki, police believe that Siolo Hearne, Helena Martin, and Helena’s husband Devin Martin are all people of interest in this case. Although police were able to obtain warrants to search both homes in their pursuit of locating the little girl, the sisters and Devin have otherwise been extremely uncooperative in this case.
Unfortunately, police don’t yet have enough evidence to charge any of the three with any wrongdoing in this case.
During the investigation, however, police discovered that Helena Martin had been charged and later convicted of murdering her boyfriend when she was 18 years old, a crime for which she served only six years in prison.
The Hearne sisters and Devin Martin still live in the Bay Area.
Police Search Helena Martin’s Vehicle for Evidence
Progress has been extremely slow in this case, but in March of 2017, SFPD finally got a bit of a break when they seized and searched Helena Martin’s car.
At the time, SFPD Commander Greg McEachern had this to say: “We’ve authored a bunch of search warrants in both California and in other states. We’ve towed a vehicle that we believe may be tied to the crime, and we’re making some unbelievable strides in the case.”
Police haven’t revealed any further information to the public since then, but they believe that Arianna is still alive and living with someone in the Bay Area.
Best Buy Offers $10,000 Reward
Recently, Nikki’s former employer, Best Buy, announced that they’re offering a $10,000 reward for anyone with information regarding the case of the missing girl.
Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Arianna Fitts is asked to contact their local police department. If you have any information regarding the murder of Nikki Fitts, contact the SFPD Homicide Unit at (415) 553-1145 or their anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444. You can also text a tip to TIP 411 and include “SFPD” at the beginning of the message.
Here is the missing person poster that was issued by the SFPD: