Zahra Clare Baker, 10, September 24, 2010, Hickory, North Carolina
Young Zahra Baker had a terribly difficult life, before it was taken from her by the ones who should have been the ones protecting her. A bone cancer survivor, she wore a prosthetic leg, and was hearing-impaired, also caused by the effects of cancer.
Zahra Baker disappeared long before she was reported missing by her parents. Her stepmother, Elisa Baker, initially told Investigators she last saw her in bed sleeping about 2:30 a.m. that morning, three hours before a brush fire in their backyard was reported. The fire was reported about 5:00 a.m. that morning. Adam said that he was in such a state of panic over the fire that he didn't check on Zahra until hours later.
Her father Adam Baker reported her missing. Investigators knew they weren't telling the truth about her disappearance. They found a 'ransom note', later believed to be written by Elisa, at the residence in order to throw off investigators, which Elisa admitted to writing. The ransom note requested a million dollars.
An Amber Alert was activated.
Part of the 911 call, Adam suggests that Zahra was taken during the melee when a fire was set in the back yard of his home….by possible mysterious kidnappers and says "We checked in there last night around 2:30am and she was there…I don't know if they set a fire in the yard to distract us to go out and then they snuck in the door." When dispatch asked why he was calling 12 hours later, "he explained that he was used to not seeing her … even laughed about what he called her 'brooding stage'. He said, "My daughter I think is coming into puberty, cause she is hitting that brooding stage,(laughter) so we only see her when she comes out when she wants something and that's about it." Baker goes on to briefly describe Zahra and says the "kidnappers" stole her prosthetic leg.
Both of Zahra's hearing aids were left at the residence.
Zahra's case hit International news soon thereafter. Reports described her as a white female, about 5 feet 1 inches tall and weighing 85 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes. She was wearing a camouflage Army T-shirt and black knee-length tights, and she has a prosthetic left leg below the knee.
No one had been able to confirm any sighting of Zahra in several weeks prior to them reported her missing. As the days and weeks continued on after she was reported missing, Elisa and Adam would begin pointing the finger at each other, though their stories never matched.
The FBI was called in early on, and dogs were used to search the areas multiple times throughout her disappearance in different areas, and spoke to all the neighbors for interviews and requesting any video footage in order to get a clearer picture on her disappearance.
October 10, 2010, Elisa was arrested after 'inconsistencies' in her story for felony obstruction of justice.
October 11, 2010, a search warrant revealed cadaver dogs detected human remains in two cars at their residence.
October 12, 2010, Investigators reported the Amber Alert had been cancelled, and this was no a homicide investigation.
Elisa's family members came forward and spoke up, explaining that Zahra's home life was "terrible" and that she was locked in her room for hours at a time and punished for minor things. They claimed that she was 'locked in her room, allowed five minutes out a day to eat, that was it'. They explained that "She was beat almost every time I was over there for just the smallest things. Elisa would get mad, she would take it out on Zahra, things the kid didn't deserve. She just had a horrible home life."
October 13, 2010, search crews with cadaver dogs search a large area near Adam's job in wood chips for clues.
October 15, 2010, Investigators remove a bed frame and mattress from Elisa's prior residence in Caldwell County expected to be tested for DNA evidence. The managers of an apartment. complex said they believe Zahra was kept in attic and found signs of a struggle in the closet. A week later they continued looking for mattresses in the landfill to find the one that was in fact Zahra's.
On October 27, 2010, Zahra's prosthetic leg was found by searchers in a residence where Elisa once lived, in Caldwell County, NC.
Both of the parents were in and out of jail on related and unrelated charges, including bad checks, communicating threats, larceny and driving with a revoked license. During this back and forth lies and nonsense, eventually, Elisa would tell Investigators that Zahra died on September 24, 2010 and was dismembered and disposed of the following day. Investigators found Zahra's remains at various points around western North Carolina in separate garbage bags.
Throughout Elisa's time in jail, during Zahra's disappearance, she consistently wrote letters, making statements admitting guilt, but no remorse, and never stating where Zahra's remains were.
November 3, 2010, a bone was found during a search along Christie Road in Caldwell County, that was later confirmed to be Zahra's.
November 10, 2010, Police find "possible human remains" along the banks of Little River off Dudley Shoals Road in Caldwell County.
November 16, 2010, a vigil was held on this night for what would have been Zahra's 11th birthday.
The autopsy showed that much of Zahra's skeletal remains were found scattered over two different areas, but her head and other bones were not recovered. Two different tool marks were shown to be used in dismembering Zahra, and that she was dismembered after death. It also indicates that animals got to her remains.
Elisa slid out of being charged with first degree murder in return for working with Investigators on locating Zahra's remains.
February 21, 2011, Elisa was indicted for second-degree murder for the disappearance, death and dismemberment of Zahra Baker. The indictment included "aggravating factors," indicating a history and pattern of physical, verbal and psychological abuse of the victim.
On September 15, 2011, Elisa pleaded guilty and was sentenced to only eighteen-and-a-half years. She is expected to be released on 07/02/2025 - Just in time to celebrate her freedom after killing a ten year old baby, with the fourth of July Independence Day.
Adam Ray Baker, Zahra's biological father was deported back to Australia at the end of 2011, where he reportedly took Zahra's remains with him.
A permanent memorial was placed in Zahra's memory located on Christie Road in Hudson, North Carolina
Another memorial for Zahra was placed at a nearby playground.
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