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Zahra Clare Baker at 10 faced more in life than many. Zahra suffered from childhood
cancer, and as a result, lost her hearing and left leg, leaving her with a prosthetic.
Friends say despite health problems, and being shy, Zahra was upbeat.
Zahra Clare Baker
Zahra's father Adam Baker is from Australia. Zahra's mother abandoned the child
and Zahra was raised mainly by her grandmother. Adam and Zahra came to the
U.S. a few years ago, and then moved to N.C. after Adam met Elisa, his second
and urrent wife, over the Internet.
Now Zahra Baker is missing, presumed dead. Her disappearance is now deemed a
HICKORY NORTH CAROLINA
2010 - October 9 - Saturday - 5:20 A.M. -Police respond to the Baker home to
investigatea small grass fire.
Officer R. Rollins arrives and is approached by a Hickory firefighter who said there
was a fire on a mulch pile behind the home, the passenger side doors of a silver
1996 Chevrolet Tahoe that was parked outside the home were open. A Duke
Power envelope with handwriting was inside the vehicle on the front windshield.
Officer Rollins smells gasoline emitting from inside the vehicle.
The ranson note is addressed to a man Baker had worked for.
5:30 A.M. - Officer Rollins sees Mark Coffey and his only daughter, Lauren Coffey,
at the home. Adam Baker is renting the home from Mark Coffey,
who is also Baker's boss.
Fred Causby is a foreman for Real Tree Services, a tree trimming company
The company stores heavy equipment and mulch on the property. Adams
has been employed by Real Tree Services for about 6 months.
Mr. Coffey, you like being in control who is in control now we have your daughter
and your pot smoking red head son is next unless you do what is asked 1,000,000
unmarked will be in touch soon [sic],"
"No cops" was also written twice on the note.
6:41 A.M. - Officer Rollins and the firefighters leave. They believed it to be an arson
MISSING CHILD REPORT
Saturday Afternoon - 2:00 P.M. Adam Baker reports Zahra (10) missing.
Adam baker calls the police department and states "someone had poured gas into
his car and left a note stating that they had his bosses' daughter. Baker told police
he thought a kidnapper took his daughter, Zahra Baker."
"Because of my work schedule, I hadn't seen my daughter since Thursday night."
Elisa Baker (stepmother)
"The last I saw Zahra, she was sleeping in her room."
That was 12 hours earlier.
A police officer searches the house with assistance from Adam and Elisa Baker.
Zahra is not found.
SEARCH & RESCUE DOGS
2010 - October 10 - Sunday - FBI and Police call in Maria Claxton with the South
Carolina Search and Rescue Dog Association. A search
warrant is executed.
Maria Claxton walked the dog around the Bakers' home and their vehicles.
1:00 P.M. - The canine "gave a positive alert for the presence of human remains
in or on both vehicles, the silver in color Chevrolet Tahoe... and the
burgundy in color Toyota Camry.
The vehicles are taken as evidence to the Hickory Police Department where
agents with the North Carolina SBI and FBI assisted police officers in gathering
Items removed from the Chevrolet Tahoe and Toyota Camry include:
Duke Power bill, numerous papers with writings and phone numbers
(3) passports with paperwork
Assorted ink pens
(2) pillows, sheet, comforter,
(3) gas cans
(4) burnt samples from Tahoe and brush pile
Plastic bowl with green vegg. matter
Assorted drug paraphernalia
Chinese take-out menu
1990 Burgundy Toyota Camry
Latent lift, photos
In addition to taking photographs of both vehicles, three swabs of a substance
which police said appeared to be blood were also taken from the Chevrolet Tahoe.
2010 - October 11- Monday -
Police Chief Tom Adkins is skeptical regarding the timeline Adam and Elisa Baker
Neighbors, relatives told police "it has been more than a month since they last saw
Although Zahra attended a local elementary school last year for 4th grade,
the school received a phone call stating the child would be home-schooled.
2010 - August 9 - The last day Zahra Baker is seen by neighbor Brandy Stapleton.
Stapelton takes a photo of Zahra on her cell phone. The photo
shows Zahra with a bruise under her right eye.
"Zahra seemed down, so I thought a picture would cheer her up.
Elisa Baker told me not to take the picture, because Zahra's eye
was bruised. But I insisted because I wanted to see her smile."
At the time, I didn't think much of the bruise because Elisa
would often say Zahra was clumsy."
Caldwell County Court records show that Karen Yount and
the woman's relative Brittany Bentley each filed a complaint
in May 2010 accusing Elisa Baker of making violent threats
against them on separate occasions.
In interviews and court documents:
Elisa Baker is "nasty-tempered and violent." "Willing to
use a gun or her fists to settle an argument.
Zahra's life described as miserable due to her stepmother's
short fuse. Zahra usually took the brunt of her rage."
Karen Yount (Former neighbor)
"She was always beating her. I told her to stop but she wouldn't listen
to anyone. That poor girl."
Other neighbors feared for Zahra's safety.
"I spoke to an investigator from the Department of Social Services,
who visited the Bakers' house a few months ago to see if Zahra
was being beaten."
Several former neighbors, along with a relative, claim Elisa Baker
repeatedly physically abused Zahra.
"I grew close with the Bakers when they lived down the street from me.
But I grew suspicious of Elisa Baker because of her outlandish stories
and quick temper. "There were warning signs along the way. But you
never want to think the worst."
Bobby Green (former neighbor & Rottenbery's fiance)
"Zahra frequently had bruises but Elisa Baker would always explain
them away. "It's always she fell down, or she rolled out of bed or she
didn't have her leg on right and couldn't walk right and fell. It's always
Zahra's fault, for her injuries,"
Brittany Bentley (relative of Zahra's,, married to Elisa Baker's nephew)
"The girl "was beat almost every time I was over there for just the smallest
things" by her stepmother. "Elisa would get mad, she would take it out on
Zahra, things the kid didn't deserve. She just had a horrible home life."
"Zahra was locked in her room most of the day and only allowed out for five
minutes to eat. "I just think this was something for a long time that we knew
was going to happen, everybody that was close to the family."
"When Zahra stayed with me for a weekend the 10-year-old,grew upset when
she had to return home."
Renee Bobbitt (former neighbor)
"Elisa Baker was a stern and cold parent to Zahra. Just the way she yelled
and screamed at her, and I did see her hit the child a couple of times,"
Zahra was once sent to school with black eyes."
DSS won't confirm whether anyone was sent to investigate.
OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE & OTHER CHARGES
2010 - October 12 - Tuesday - Elisa Baker is incarcerated on 6 charges of:
writing worthless checks, larceny by employee,
4 counts of communication threats, 4 counts of driving
while license is revoked, unsafe tires, operating a vehicle
with no insurance, fictitious or revoked registration/tag
and failure to appear.
Elisa Baker, already in on the previous charges, admits
to writing the $1 million ransom note "in order to throw
off detectives investigating Zahra's disappearance."
She is charged with Felony Obstruction of Justice.
Baker is being held on $40,000 bond.
Baker’s total bond is set at $72,200 for all charges.
Next court hearing is November 3, 2010.
Elisa Annette Baker
Scott Reilly (Attorney for Elisa Baker) (court-appointed for the obstruction of justice
"My client claims she had nothing to do with Zahra's disappearance."
"She is scared to death. It's scary coming out here and seeing all the court
reporters and courtroom of people who are so much against her right now."
"I plan to file a motion for reduction of bond. Forty thousand (dollars) is in far
excess for this charge. I would like the bond to be set closer to the $10,000
guideline for an obstruction of justice charge. I hope the bond reduction hearing
will be set as early as Monday."
"I can’t talk about what Baker has said about Zahra.
She’s upset with being in jail and away from her family,”
Jared Amos (Attorney for Elisa Baker) (court appointed for the larceny by
employee charge in Burke County) also was in court.
Police Chief Tom Adkins
"The Amber Alert for Zahra Baker is cancelled. The investigation is
now a homicide case."
Adam Baker has not been charged in the case. He hasn't been ruled out
as a suspect.
Adam Baker (Zahra's father)
"It is possible my wife could be involved in Zahra's disappearance."
"I wouldn't like to think so. It's kind of what I've heard so far. It could be possible."
Other relatives agree.
CADAVER DOG HITS ON WOOD CHIPPER
District Attorney Jay Gaither
"It is a "very emotional time" for law enforcement. I think the images you see,
the smile, a handicapped girl that age, is just emotionally upsetting.
"Law enforcement doesn't show it, but I think that they are affected by it."
I can't discuss details about the case. "I'm upset. The facts are disturbing.
You saw the images; she is such a darling child,"
More than 2 dozen law enforcement officers search the property the Bakers
reside on. The search is conducted by the Hickory Police Department, the
Burke County Sheriff's Office and the FBI.
A dog got a positive "hit" on equipment at the scene a day earlier but nothing
was found. The wood chipper and nearby mulch pile then became the focus of
Alvin Webb (Retired 30 year veteran of Morganton Police Dept.) lives next
door to the property.
"I was asked by the local sheriff to observe the search. "I went up there and
stayed till 12 o'clock [this morning], I just sat there and watched [and] ... the
[cadaver] dog hit on a pile of mulch and the wood chipper."
"He (Adam Baker) was there. I had them point him out to me. He stayed back
away from everybody, and that is all I know about him."
Burke County Sheriff John McDevitt
"Adam Baker was "not exactly cooperative."