Local News

Hickory girl's disappearance now homicide case

Posted October 12, 2010

— Hickory police have canceled an Amber Alert for a missing 10-year-old and shifted their focus to a homicide investigation, after speaking with the girl’s stepmother Monday night.

Chief Tom Adkins said at a news conference Tuesday morning that Zahra Claire Baker’s stepmother, Elisa Baker, confessed to writing a ransom note found at the house where the girl lived.

She then asked for an attorney, he said.

Elisa Baker, who was arrested Sunday on unrelated charges, now faces one count of felony obstruction of justice in Zahra’s disappearance, Adkins said.

He did not take any questions and did not explain why the case was now being considered a homicide. He said that no one outside the immediate family has seen the girl, who was home-schooled, for a month.

Investigators also want to interview an inspector who had been or was scheduled to go to the home at 21 21st Ave. NW in Hickory.

“We need the public to come forward if they think they’ve seen Zahra within the time frame,” Adkins said.

Anyone with information that could assist investigators is urged to contact the Hickory Police Department at 828-328-5551 or their local law enforcement agency.

Zahra was reported missing Saturday by her father, but authorities have cast doubt on what he and the stepmother told them.

Zahra Claire Baker, 10 Hickory girl's disappearance now homicide case

Uncertainty on when she was last alive has stalled efforts to enlist volunteers to search for her.

“We understand the public wants to help find Zahra. The problem is we cannot confirm with any confidence how long Zahra has been missing,” Adkins said. “Without this information, we cannot positively select the area to search for her.”

A search warrant made public Monday indicated that police dogs detected the scent of human remains on a sedan and SUV belonging to the Bakers.

Police responding to a fire in the family’s back yard on Saturday also found what appeared to be a ransom note on the windshield of Zahra’s father’s car, according to the warrant.

Adam Baker, who has not been charged in the case, said in an interview with “Good Morning America” on Monday that his wife told him that she last saw Zahra sleeping in her bed around 2:30 a.m. Saturday.

He said he was in a big panic after the fire, which was reported around 5 a.m., but that he didn’t check on his daughter.

Police were notified of Zahra's disappearance around 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Girl's disappearance now homicide case Girl's disappearance now homicide case

Family friends described Zahra as a girl who was slow to open up to new people but constantly smiled in spite of her health problems – two bouts of cancer that led to the loss of her left leg and hearing. She used two hearing aids, which were left at the house, and a prosthetic left leg from the knee down, police said.

Relatives, however, described the child’s life as miserable, saying she was locked in her room for most of the day and allowed five minutes out a day to eat.

“I just think this was something for a long time that we knew was going to happen, everybody that was close to the family,” relative Brittany Bentley said on CBS’ “The Early Show” on Tuesday.

“She was beat almost every time I was over there for just the smallest things,” she continued. “Elisa would get mad, she would take it out on Zahra – things the kid didn’t deserve. She just had a horrible home life.”

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  • shortcake53 Oct 13, 2010

    I agree David.

  • itsmyownopinion Oct 13, 2010

    Quote from story: "Relatives, however, described the child’s life as miserable, saying she was locked in her room for most of the day and allowed five minutes out a day to eat."

    To those who knew this and didn't report it, where is your own moral compass?

  • jazziwoman Oct 13, 2010

    who care how old anyone is. There is only one that will ever know the truth. And Justice in this world? There is none. We should all stand together and help each other. There is not one person that should be suffering. Too much money and so called power being wasted on nonsense. But this is what man has done. One day we all be judged. I truley believe it will be soon. God Bless The World. Rest In Peace little One, you are safe now.

  • Jackiemoon Oct 12, 2010

    I tell you what we do Shortcake53,we should start with DSS that has these conscrewed views on parents. I am a divorced father that has been told by my children that they have been choked, hit in the heads with remote controls and told the answer is to put the parent in a "how to be a better parent" class. In the meantime, I have to go to court for child support when all I want is a better life for my children.

    The court system is messed up and it needs to be reviewed.

  • Pulling for the Tarheels Oct 12, 2010

    I once knew of abuse in my own extended family - I reported it to both the Sheriff's Dept and Social Services. Nothing was done by either. I can only assume that "their" abuse, wasn't abusive enough in the eyes of the law....sad, very sad.

  • celticsong1958 Oct 12, 2010

    My prayers are for you Zahra.

  • wishboneoffense24 Oct 12, 2010

    I am not so sure I understand the term "Human Remains" If I go out of town and leave my car at the airport. Will I leave human remains in my car then??? Humains remains cant be tested???

  • shortcake53 Oct 12, 2010

    ok pscottrn, what do we do? Please tell us and I will be first in line.

  • jfc4419 Oct 12, 2010

    This is beyond outrageous that we tolerate people abusing and taking the lives of the most innocent and defenseless among us. There are thousands of people that would have given anything to have taken care and loved this little girl. It makes me feel ill just reading about it. There will never be enough justice for anyone if they harmed this angel.

  • pscottrn Oct 12, 2010

    How will you (and I) respond now? When is enough enough? Our system is designed to protect the perps and torture (more torture) the vics. Who will be the voice of the children? Who will stop the pain? Children have no rights. Who will speak for them? Who will act on their behalf? Our indignation does nothing to stop the agony. What will it take to get us off our lofty perches? So much innocence lost... If all we do is ventilate about the horrors these children have endured, then we are guilty as a society. Their blood cries out for us to stop the pain!

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