State News

Landfill searched for evidence in missing Hickory girl's case

Posted October 20, 2010

— Hickory police searching a Caldwell County landfill said Wednesday that they do not expect to find the body of a disabled missing 10-year-old girl, but are looking for evidence in the case.

Zahra Clare Baker, of Hickory, was reported missing Oct. 9, but investigators have said they don’t believe the story given by her father and stepmother. Police believe the girl is dead.

Police said that they are searching for evidence that could help establish a timeline that is crucial to solving the case. They did not elaborate on what kind of evidence they expect to find in the Foothills Environmental landfill at 2800 Cheraw Road in Lenoir.

"We have interviewed several people in this investigation, and from those interviews, it's lead us to this piece of evidence that we believe is in the landfill," Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins said.

Hickory police and FBI and SBI agents expect to continue searching at the landfill for up to five days.

This is the first time authorities have searched for evidence outside of Hickory, about 50 miles northwest of Charlotte. Zahra, her stepmother Elisa Baker and father Adam Baker lived in Caldwell County until last month.

Lenoir residents of the county expressed hope that Zahra would be found soon.

"She's in all our hearts," Lenoir resident Marsha Melton said. "Everybody needs to pray that it's settled and they find out what happened."

Adkins said that in addition to agents searching the landfill, a separate investigative team is following up on other leads and tips.

"Know that the team of law enforcement professionals that are working on this case are determined to find the truth and seek justice for Zahra," Adkins said.

Investigators have asked for medical records from Zahra's native Australia, including details on the prosthesis the girl received after losing a leg to bone cancer. Her hearing aids were found at her home in Hickory, but not the prosthetic leg.

Investigators haven't said if they have also sought dental records, which are often used to identify a body.

Police say that Zahra could have been missing two weeks before she was reported missing and that they doubt the family’s claims that they last saw Zahra early Oct. 9, nearly 12 hours before they reported her missing.

Elisa Baker, 42, has been charged with obstruction of justice in the case. She is accused of writing a fake ransom note left outside their home.

In the 911 call, Zahra's father Adam Baker, 33, said that neither he nor his wife checked on his daughter after they found a fire and a ransom note in their back yard around 5 a.m. Search for Zarha leads to landfill Search for Zarha leads to landfill

Adam Baker told an emergency dispatcher that the fire might have been meant to distract him while kidnappers abducted his daughter in a case of mistaken identity. The ransom note claimed that the daughter of his boss had been kidnapped.

At a bond hearing Wednesday, Elisa Baker's adult daughter, Amber Fairchild, testified that on the day before her mother was arrested, she said she wanted to leave North Carolina. She was taking talking online with a man from England who sent her $10,000, Fairchild said.

Catawba County District Judge Robert Mullinax Jr. said there were “disturbing and unsettling allegations” in the case. He dismissed a request by Baker’s lawyers to reduce her bond on a charge of obstructing justice to $10,000 and, instead, raised it from $45,000 to $65,000.

Investigators say that Adam Baker has been cooperative in the case and that he has not been ruled out as a suspect.

Adam Baker met Elisa Baker online and moved from Australia to live with her several years ago. Investigators were keeping Zahra’s biological mother in Australia updated on developments

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.


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  • shortcake53 Oct 20, 2010

    Zahra was supposedly "home schooled", but her parents never registered her for home schooling. Seems they moved frequently, to avoid having to answer questions about her appearance to the schools she did attend.

  • killuhaprilllx3 Oct 20, 2010

    @veronica- she was homeschooled.

  • lilrednekgrl Oct 20, 2010

    veronicajones917>>>> I Have to Agree....... if she missed alot of school wouldnt the parents be in trouble for truancy? And why wasnt the school interviewed by police. Maybe they where and its just not been made public.

  • veronicajones917 Oct 20, 2010

    I would like to know when was her last day in school!!!

  • lilrednekgrl Oct 20, 2010

    This is Sick....... These 'people', if thats what you wanna call them are Not Parents at all. Selfish! They dont care about No One But themselves!

  • knockitoff Oct 20, 2010

    These people discust me! This father is not a father at all. What kind of parents do this. This sickens me, I get ill just reading this stuff poor lil girl. I surely hope she is in NO pain bless her heart.

  • BottomLine Oct 20, 2010

    Listening to the 911 call from the father, could he be any more calmer... very strange.

  • jeriwho Oct 20, 2010

    It's by keeping stories like this in the news that the media helps victims who might otherwise be forgotten in cold cases. Let's not forget that WRAL kept posting reminder stories of the murder of Eric Miller and the murder of Stephanie Bennett, for years, and these were of great service to the community. Please, WRAL, keep the story of this child alive, long after everybody else has forgotten it. Sometimes the final advocate for the forgotten members of our society is the news media. They should be applauded for their conscientiousness in remembering those who might otherwise be forgotten.

    Jeri Massi

  • shortcake53 Oct 20, 2010

    Hmmm...... interesting. I guess WRAL has no room to post other possibilities of what may have happened.

  • MudLife Oct 20, 2010

    this is so messed up. The mother needs to stay in jail. How did she get internet access? And talking to another man in England to send her money. I bet Adam likes that. They need to have it where she can never ever post bail she doesn't deserve it at all.