Examiner calls Zahra's death homicide

March 9, 2011 at 1:00 PM

CHAPEL HILL, N.C., March 9 (UPI) -- Zahra Baker's death was clearly homicide, North Carolina's chief medical examiner says.

The 10-year-old girl's autopsy was unable to pinpoint the cause of death, "yet the circumstances surrounding the case and the finding of the body and the condition of the body would indicate the manner of death is a homicide," Deborah Radisch told The Charlotte Observer.

The dismemberment of Zahra's body was part of the evidence for homicide, she said.

In February, Radisch's office made the unusual finding of "undetermined homicidal violence," which could present problems for prosecutors. But last summer, a North Carolina mother was convicted of the first-degree murder of her 19-month-old son after the same report.

"One of the things the prosecutor has to show is that the defendant was the proximate cause of the death of the child. So that's the biggest obstacle to overcome," said Melanie Shekita, assistant district attorney of Wake County, who was involved in that case.

Elisa Baker, 42, is charged with second-degree murder for her stepdaughter's death, which investigators think occurred in September.

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