National News

Mourners: Hickory girl was resilient

Posted November 16, 2010
Updated November 17, 2010

— A community mourned the loss of a Hickory girl with a vigil on Tuesday – what would have been the child’s 11th birthday.

Zahra Baker’s remains and the prosthetic leg she needed after an amputation because of her cancer were found at remote sites around Hickory, a town of about 41,000 about 50 miles northwest of Charlotte, last week, according to court documents.

The documents revealed that she was dismembered and police needed her stepmother's help to find the remains because they were in such remote locations.

“We didn’t meet Zahra in her brief life, but we feel like we know her,” Hickory Mayor Rudy Wright said during the vigil.

Wright noted Zahra’s resiliency through a difficult life.

Vigil held for Zahra Baker Vigil held for Zahra Baker

Despite her disability, those at the memorial said Zahra enjoyed swimming and would often visit to inspire other children with cancer. 

"She wanted no pity. She wanted to be like any other child," one speaker said. 

Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins spoke at the vigil, but not about the investigation. He talked about Zahra's brave struggle with cancer.

"I encourage you to use her strength and her determination and her smile to celebrate her life," Adkins said. 

Zahra’s story has resonated with many in the community.

“It’s just been heartbreaking for everybody because, I mean, even though we didn’t know her, we can feel the empathy for her and to think a child was treated that way and nobody did anything. I just can’t imagine,” said Edna Cardwell from Lenior.

Edie Richardson, of Hudson, said Zahra used to attend church and school about 2 miles from her home. She said the crime has caused trauma in her neighborhood.

“I haven’t been able to sleep or do my daily chores really,” Richardson said. “It’s been a horrific crime. I can’t remember anything like this before.”

"I think everybody has been tragically upset," Hickory resident Janette Hollar said. "It's been so close to home and you just don't think of anything like that happening here."

Zahra’s stepmother, Elisa Baker, faces obstructing justice and 15 lesser charges unrelated to Zahra's disappearance.

Attorneys for Elisa Baker have argued the woman's bond should be lessened because she helped police. Elisa Baker has been in custody since the day after Zahra was reported missing, and she is accused of trying to throw off investigators by writing a fake ransom note for another child.

Zahra's father was also arrested on a host of charges unrelated to the girl's disappearance, but is free on bail. Calls to his lawyer were not returned.

Community remembers Hickory girl

No one has been charged in Zahra's death, but police have cast doubt on her parents' claims they last saw her alive Oct. 9.

The Children's Protection Council of Catawba County held Tuesday's vigil. People attending brought birthday gifts that will be donated to children in need.

The memorial ended with the crowd singing "Happy Birthday" before releasing white balloons into the air. 


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  • sophiemom Nov 17, 2010

    Texangirl, your spelling is better than many of the people who post here! I think your theory is interesting.

  • shortcake53 Nov 16, 2010

    I vow that in Zahra's memory, I will alert authorities every time I suspect a child is being abused. I will not let her death be for nothing. And I dont care whose toes I step on, if it helps one child. I will carry her in my heart always.

  • dementia2008 Nov 16, 2010

    I have followed this story since it first started.It broke my heart to read the last story.The step mom and dad both deserve a slow painfull death.This poor girl fought cancer the loss of a leg and hearing loss to survive to be killed by total trash!!!!
    They could save the state a lot of money and send them here to KY and I will save them a lot of money and make a lot of people happy.RIP little angel

  • Camael Nov 16, 2010

    Too many people saw this angel being abused, and said and did nothing.

    Now they're trying to assuage any guilt they have over that with vigils and speeches.


  • TexanGirl Nov 16, 2010

    Ok, this is my theory, dont know if anyone else has posted it. (Excuse my spelling, Im tex mex) I think the Step monster or father,killed her by accident. They got rid of the body and taught they could fool the family by moving to a different location. But when the biological mother found them, she might have told him that she was going to fight custody of her, and was going to hire a lawyer to pay Zahara a visit, they panic because Zahara was already dead, and that is why they set the fire. What a coinicidence that 3 days after the biological mother found them, she "went missing"

  • bfullerdixon Nov 16, 2010

    Bail!!! How is it she knows where the body parts are? This lady doesn't need the chance to be free. This poor, innocent child did not get the chance.

  • samiam1244 Nov 16, 2010

    How can any parent look on the face of their child with that much hatred. dismember your own flesh and blood and throw it away like garbage. this child suffered with cancer and to even think she suffered in death at the hands of her father and stepmother. it is heartbreaking to hear of these things happening to the very weakest of our society, a child that can't help is depressing. i don't think i will read anymore of anything like this ever hurts my heart..

  • Ladybug Nov 16, 2010

    This is an unforgiving story. The person(s) responsible for this MURDER and MUTILATION need a strong message sent to them. They deserve the "DEATH PENALTY".

    This has got to STOP! If you don't want your child then give them to someone that does.....

  • sweetpea41 Nov 16, 2010

    I still think both parents should rot in jail or get the death treament a slow death for what happen to this little angle.