Local News

Missing girl's dad: Wife's involvement possible

Posted October 11, 2010 11:59 a.m. EDT
Updated October 11, 2010 5:36 p.m. EDT

— A hearing-impaired Hickory girl with a prosthetic leg vanished over the weekend, and her father said Monday it was possible that his wife was involved in the disappearance.

The 10-year-old girl’s stepmother, Elisa Baker, was in police custody on a dozen charges unrelated to the Saturday disappearance of Zahra Clare Baker.

Zahra’s father, Adam Baker, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” he hadn’t seen his wife much since police were called and an Amber Alert issued.

“I just hope I can get my daughter back. I miss her so much,” he said, choking up.

Adam Baker said his wife told him that she last saw Zahra sleeping in her bed about 2:30 a.m. Saturday.

A fire was reported in the back yard of the Bakers’ home about 5 a.m. He said he was in a big panic after the fire, but didn’t check on his daughter.

The FBI was involved in the investigation, and police have collected surveillance video from businesses near the family’s home and used dogs to search the neighborhood.

Investigators planned to interview her former teachers and former neighbors in areas where the family has previously lived.

“We are using every available resource we have at our disposal to find Zahra,” Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins said Monday. “We are not giving up hope that Zahra will return home safe and sound.”

Police said Sunday that details have emerged that make it seem less likely that a stranger abducted Zahra. Adkins said he couldn’t rule out any suspects, including Adam Baker.

“As the time progresses, we might be able to rule out folks. But right now, every possibility is out there,” Adkins said.

Adam Baker was asked if he thought his wife was involved and said, “I wouldn’t like to think so. On what I’ve heard so far, it could be possible.”

Citing an ongoing investigation, Adkins wouldn’t elaborate on what Baker had heard.

Zahra was being home-schooled but had attended public schools in the past.

She had lost part of her hearing during chemotherapy for two bouts of cancer, her stepmother told the Independent-Tribune of Concord-Kannapolis in a May interview. The newspaper reported that Elisa Baker fought back tears while the girl was fitted for the hearing aids during a charity event.

Current neighbor Eddie Mitchell, 68, said the Bakers had lived in Hickory for only a couple of months.

“I hope the kid is all right. It’s just very strange,” he said.

Elisa Baker was arrested Sunday on charges including communicating threats, writing worthless checks, larceny and driving with a revoked license.

It was unclear whether she has an attorney.

She has two daughters and a son from a previous marriage. The mother and son don’t have much of a relationship, the man said, after he stayed with his father when they divorced. The daughters went to live with their mother.

Still, 22-year-old Douglas Proctor said he had spoken to investigators about his mother and was dismayed over news of the case.

“It’s not something that you want to open up a paper and see,” he said, adding he’d met Zahra only once.

Adam Baker was from Australia, and met his current wife over the Internet, said former neighbor Brandy Stapleton, 22, of Lenoir.

Zahra had bone cancer and uses hearing aids in both ears and a prosthetic left leg from the knee down. She doesn’t have her hearing aids with her, police said.

Zahra is white, has short reddish-blond hair and blue eyes and stands about 5 feet 1 inches tall and weighs approximately 85 pounds. She was last seen wearing a camouflage Army T-shirt and black knee-length tights,

Anyone with information about Zahra's whereabouts is asked to call the Hickory Police Department at 828-328-5551, 911 or their local law enforcement.