State News

Stepmother of Zahra Baker faces bigamy charge

Posted January 18, 2011 4:06 p.m. EST
Updated January 18, 2011 8:21 p.m. EST

— The stepmother of a disabled North Carolina girl whose mysterious death has been the focus of a monthslong police investigation was indicted Tuesday on charges of being married to two men at the same time.

Documents from Catawba County court show that Elisa Baker, 42, was indicted on a charge of bigamy, a low-level felony in North Carolina. She is accused in the indictment of having married Australian Adam Baker in 2008, when she was still legally married to a North Carolina man named Aaron Young.

Speculation about Baker's marital status had arisen in the western North Carolina towns where she lived after Hickory police said in November that they were investigating the matter.

Calls to the district attorney's office and lawyers for Baker were not immediately returned Tuesday.

The disappearance and death of Zahra Baker, the little girl with the freckles and resilient smile who lost a leg to bone cancer and wore hearing aids because of chemotherapy, transfixed communities in North Carolina and her native Australia last fall.

According to search warrants and other court documents unsealed this month, Elisa Baker has told police that Zahra died on Sept. 24, about two weeks before the girl was reported missing. According to the documents, Elisa Baker told police that Zahra was dismembered after she died, and her remains were scattered in various locations in western North Carolina.

Possible new evidence in the case was discovered on Tuesday, WBTV reported. A briefcase containing a blood-covered blanket was found near the woods where authorities found the girl's prosthetic leg. 

The case and blanket were sent to the SBI lab in Raleigh for tests. 

No one has been charged in Zahra's death, and neither the hundreds of pages of court documents released so far nor statements from investigators have said how she died. Elisa Baker is currently jailed on charges of obstructing the investigation into Zahra's disappearance.

Divorce records obtained from Caldwell County show that Aaron Young filed for divorce from Elisa Baker in June 2009, nearly 11 years after they were married. The divorce was granted in August.

But last October, The Associated Press interviewed friends of Adam Baker, who described his wedding to Elisa Baker in a July 2008 ceremony at his parents' house in Australia. The three moved to North Carolina that November, which family friend Kim Wright said made family and friends uneasy, because Zahra could get free medical care in Australia.

Adam Baker is currently free on bond, and faces multiple charges that aren't related to his daughter.