State News

Report: Zahra Baker's stepmom cuts deal to avoid death penalty

Posted December 3, 2010 9:41 p.m. EST

— The stepmother of a slain Hickory 10-year-old has cut  deal with prosecutors that eliminate the death penalty if she is ever brought to trial in the girl's disappearance, WBTV reported Friday. 

Zahra Baker was reported missing Oct. 9. Police confirmed Nov. 19 that human remains found in Caldwell County matched her DNA profile.

Elisa Baker was arrested Oct. 10, and she is accused of trying to throw off investigators by writing a fake ransom note for another child. Her attorneys have argued that her $97,000 bond should be reduced because she helped police find Zahra.

An investigator with the Hickory Police Department wrote in applying for a search warrant that Elisa Baker's lawyer told him Zahra had been dismembered, and that she and her husband dumped a mattress and box springs at a trash dump in Granite Falls and wrapped Zahra's prosthetic leg in a white trash bag and threw it into an apartment dumpster in Hickory.

The warrants note that Elisa Baker showed "deception" in a polygraph test when asked if she knew of any harm that came to Zahra.

Regional District Attorney James Gaither Jr. told WBTV on Friday that a deal was struck with Elisa Baker, but he would not comment on the terms.

Another source told WBTV that prosecutors agreed to take the death penalty and life in prison off the table, if she would provide investigators with information about the little girl's whereabouts.

Zahra lived with her stepmother and father, Adam Baker. In the course of the investigation, according to the warrants, investigators found that Elisa Baker had a history of referrals to the Department of Social Services for alleged abuse of her biological children. Caldwell County DSS reported in July that Zahra got a black eye from her stepmother.

Zahra's father, Adam Baker, has adamantly denied involvement in his daughter's death. He faces unrelated charges of assault with a deadly weapon, failure to return rental property, communicating threats and writing worthless checks.