No charges filed yet in child's death

Jan. 30, 2011 at 3:51 PM
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HICKORY, N.C., Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Months after Zahra Baker disappeared and the girl's dismembered body subsequently discovered, no charges have been filed, North Carolina authorities said.

Police in Hickory, N.C., have turned over the results of their investigation into the death of the 10-year-old girl to the Catawba County's district attorney, The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer reported Sunday.

The autopsy on Zahra is not yet complete, and experts say District Attorney James Gaither Jr. is probably waiting to assemble a complete file of evidence from both police and medical examiners before deciding what charges can be brought.

"I've been doing this 26 years, and I've never seen a case file this big," Hickory police Maj. Clyde Deal said. "That poor little girl went through things that no 10-year-old should go through."

Charges often take a long time to be filed in cases like Zahra's with complicated evidence and few, if any, witnesses, experts say.

"Taking it slowly and cautiously is the right thing to do," former Mecklenburg County prosecutor Steve Ward said. "Prosecutors have to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If they can't do that, there will be an acquittal."

Elisa Baker, Zahra's stepmother, has told police the girl died after an illness on Sept. 24, two weeks before she was reported missing and a month before any remains were found.

Baker says her husband Adam dismembered his daughter's body and that the couple disposed of it in various locations on Sept. 25.

Relatives have suggested the Bakers avoided involving authorities because Elisa Baker, 42, had been investigated by the Department of Social Services, and Adam Baker, 33, is in the country illegally from his native Australia.

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