National News

Stepmother indicted in death of disabled NC girl

Posted February 21, 2011
Updated February 22, 2011

— The stepmother of a 10-year-old disabled Hickory girl was indicted Monday on charges she killed the child and then desecrated her remains to cover up the slaying, according to court documents.

A grand jury in Catawba County charged Elisa Baker, 42, with second-degree murder in the death of Zahra Baker, who was reported missing in early October.

The indictment alleges that the girl, who used a prosthetic leg and hearing aids after being stricken with cancer, was killed on Sept. 24.

After a massive search, police found the girl's remains in different locations around western North Carolina. According to an autopsy report released Monday, only a few bones were recovered, and medical examiners were never able to determine how she died.

The indictment lists five aggravated factors in the case that could enhance the penalty Elisa Baker might face if convicted.

According to the document, Elisa Baker had a history of physically, verbally and psychologically abusing Zahra; she kept the girl from her family to conceal the crime; she desecrated Zahra's body; and she abused a position of trust she had with the girl. It also notes that Zahra was young and disabled.

Attorneys for Elisa Baker did not return calls seeking comment Monday.

Police initially arrested Elisa Baker on Oct. 10 on a charge of obstructing justice in the investigation. Police said she wrote a fake ransom note that was found the morning the girl was reported missing.

She has been held in the Catawba County jail under a $100,000 bond, but it was unclear Monday how much the murder charge would add to her bond.

Zahra Baker's father talks about charges against his wife Zahra Baker's father talks about charges against his wife

A search warrant unsealed last month said Elisa Baker led police to the places where they found Zahra's remains. She claimed Zahra's father, Adam Baker, dismembered the body, but Adam Baker called the allegation a lie.

"At this time, the state has no credible evidence to suggest that anyone other than Elisa Baker was involved in the murder of Zahra Clare Baker," Catawba County District Attorney Jay Gaither said Monday.

Adam Baker, who moved to North Carolina from Australia, reiterated his claim this weekend in an interview on a news magazine in that country.

"Zahra had been my life, you know, and now she's gone. I don't know what to do. I feel very, very empty," he said.

Cell phone records indicate Adam Baker was not in the locations where Zahra's remains were found on the day Elisa Baker indicated, but the records show she was present in those locations, according to the search warrant.

Yet, some Hickory residents continue to believe that Adam Baker played a role in his daughter's death.

Eddie Mitchell, who lives across the street from the Baker family, said he doesn't think a single second-degree murder charge is enough in the case.

"I don't know all the exact details, but I think it should be first-degree murder, and there is no mention (in the indictment) of Adam Baker," Mitchell said.

Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins called the indictment "a milestone of holding someone accountable" in the case.

"Not a day goes by that members of this team of professionals (who investigated the case) has not thought of Zahra or this case," Adkins said.

Elisa Baker in court Murder charge filed months after girl's remains found

"Over the last four months, many different theories of how and who was responsible for the death of Zahra have been made by anyone who has followed this case," he said. "Not every case is clear-cut, and only the facts and evidence of the case can dictate who is charged and for what offenses."

Mitchell, who is writing a book about the case, said anger continues to swell in the Hickory community over the girl's death.

"If they let Elisa and Adam Baker into downtown Hickory, (people) could stone them to death," he said. "I've heard normal, sane human beings saying that."

Records show that Elisa Baker led a somewhat nomadic life, with dozens of different addresses over a seven-year period. She was also married seven times and was wed to more than one man on several occasions. She met Adam Baker, seven years her junior, on a website where users create three-dimensional characters to represent themselves.

Adam Baker is free on bond, facing numerous charges not related to his daughter. He moved to North Carolina with Zahra from Australia after meeting Elisa online.

He said in the television interview that, once Elisa Baker's trial is over, he plans to take Zahra's remains back to Australia and try to move on with his life.


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  • jsc1990 Mar 1, 2011

    Quoted: *Those clamoring for a first degree charge need to remember that first degree requires premeditation and deliberation.* and
    1) Get Saw 2) Sharpen Blade 3) Dope Child, Kill 4) Saw victim up
    5) Get Adam to help put mattress in Dippy Dumster 6) Get friend to bring over Truck, 7) Put the Big stuff in there to be Chipped up 8) Act like nothing is going on..
    If that isn't Premeditation- what is??? They had a PLAN and it worked! I would thing all the rest of these charges are just HOT AIR, Desperate measures to show that HE did not do anything...........and what a wicked person she was.....
    They both need to be chopped up and fed to the fish!

  • SaltyPigWheeler Feb 28, 2011

    Something is seriously wrong with our justice system when the mother killed the girl and the father probably knew it and she only gets second degree murder and the Dr. Raymond Cook gets more charges against him than she does. Murder vs a preventable accident. No doubt they both should be put away for a while but is drinking and driving worse than a pure murder?, Really?

  • APXmom Feb 22, 2011

    Indictments can be slow in coming to assure a strong case that will result in a conviction. Because of this I am sincerely hoping that Adam Baker's indictment will be an upcoming news story. He may not have struck 'the fatal blow' so to speak, but he is definitely responsible for that child's death because of his neglect.
    As for the neighbor already writing a book about the case- ARE YOU KIDDING ME?. Are you an attorney (and even if you are, the case has not been tried yet), or a journalist? I'm betting not.
    And if you have such insight into that family where were you and why didn't you step in to help ? Outrageous, and blood is on your hands too for trying to profit from this tragedy.

  • ranquick Feb 22, 2011

    2nd degree, why not 1st degree.

  • virginiaparrish2 Feb 22, 2011

    guilty because i feel he knew what was going on and did nothing about it.

  • samiam1244 Feb 22, 2011

    There has been so much in the media about this case that i really can't remember all the details , but i am thinking i heard something about him and her disposing of the mattress in a dumpster that Zarah slept on. he knows what this evil woman did to his daughter and took part in trying to hide the evidence..

  • jafarmg2 Feb 22, 2011

    Kitten 25 - I agree 100% There is no way the father is innocent! He is as guilty of the murder as if he had done it himself.

  • Dogpatch Feb 22, 2011

    I agree that the father is just as guilty. Who would not be watching over their daughter and know where she was all the time?

  • wildcat Feb 22, 2011

    I wonder if anyone will be willing to post bail for her.

    If there was that someone, then they would have already posted her bail. It will not be long before she is on her way to prison for life, and without parole.

  • Whosays Feb 22, 2011

    If he knew she was abusive why did he not take the girl and leave before it escalated, I say he is just as guilty.