HICKORY, N.C. — The father of a disabled missing 10-year-old Hickory girl told an emergency dispatcher he thought a fire set in his back yard may have been meant to distract him while kidnappers abducted his daughter.
Adam Baker’s 911 call to report Zahra Clare Baker missing Oct. 9 was released by the Hickory Police Department on Tuesday. Police had visited Baker’s home around 5 a.m. that morning after getting a report of a fire.
Zahra’s bone cancer left her with a prosthetic leg and she uses hearing aids, which were found at the home after she was reported missing.
Baker, 33, told the 911 dispatcher that someone had set a fire on his property and left a ransom note claiming to have kidnapped the daughter of Baker’s employer.
“It appears they may have taken my daughter instead of his daughter,” Baker said.
Police now believe the ransom note was bogus, and that the fire was deliberately set. The girl’s stepmother, Elisa Baker, 42, has been accused of writing the ransom note and has been charged with obstruction of justice.
Investigators also doubt the family’s claims that they last saw Zahra early in the morning of Oct. 9, nearly 12 hours before they reported her missing. In the 911 call, Adam Baker said that neither he nor his wife checked on his daughter after the fire and ransom note were discovered.
“We had all that drama last night and me and my wife went back to bed,” he said. “My daughter is, I think, coming into puberty and she’s hitting that broody stage. We only see her, she only comes up, when she wants something.”
Police now believe Zahra could have been missing two weeks before she was reported missing.
Teams continued searching small, targeted areas for clues Tuesday, and detectives were keeping up a list of interviews of people who might have information about the case, according to Hickory Deputy Police Chief Major Clyde Deal.
Investigators have asked for medical records from her native Australia, including details on the prosthesis the girl received after losing a leg to bone cancer.
Deal declined to say if investigators have also sought dental records, which are often used to identify a body. Authorities have said they think the missing girl is dead.
Zahra lived in Australia with her father until he met his wife online and moved to North Carolina.
Investigators were keeping Zahra’s biological mother in Australia updated on developments, Deal said. Adam Baker has continued to cooperate with investigators, Deal said. Authorities said they have not ruled him out as a suspect in the disappearance.
“If we ask him to be here, he’s showing up where we ask him to be,” Deal said.
Baker said in an interview Friday with The Associated Press he wants to find Zahra and take her back to Australia if she wants to go.