Zahra stepmother charged with murder

Feb. 21, 2011 at 10:36 PM
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HICKORY, N.C., Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Elisa Baker was charged Monday with second-degree murder in the death of her stepdaughter, Zahra Baker, North Carolina authorities said.

The chief medical examiner in North Carolina released Zahra's autopsy results late Monday, saying she died of "undetermined homicidal violence" and her body appears to have been dismembered after death, the Hickory Daily Record reported. Her body was matched with DNA from her toothbrush.

"This is a 10-year-old white female reported missing Oct. 9, 2010. Humeral bone was found 10-26-10 off Christy Rd. in Caldwell County. LE (law enforcement) report death possibly occurred 9-24-10 in Catawba County. The remainder of body (except skull) found in Caldwell County days later at different sites. The head has yet to be recovered," the medical examiner's notes said.

"Several of the bones exhibit cutting tool marks that are consistent with dismemberment," the autopsy summary says. "The marks grossly appear to result from the use of at least two different cutting instruments."

A grand jury Monday returned a second-degree murder indictment against Baker, the first charges filed in the death of Zahra since she was reported missing Oct. 9 by her father, the Charlotte Observer reported Monday.

Hickory police said in November they believed the 10-year-old girl was dead after discovering dismembered remains investigators thought were hers.

The indictment against Baker alleges the stepmother had "a history and pattern of physical, verbal and psychological abuse of the victim."

Grand jurors also alleged Elisa Baker had "desecrated the victim's body to hinder detection, investigation and prosecution of the offense."

Adam Baker, in an interview on Australia's version of "60 Minutes," denied his wife's allegation he had dismembered Zahra's body, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

"That's the biggest lie she's ever told," he said.

Baker said he suspected his wife, whom he calls Lisa, had abused his daughter after he noticed she had a black eye.

"I asked both Lisa and Zahra how that happened," he said. "Lisa started out saying Zahra slipped in the bathroom, hitting her head on the cabinet. Zahra backed that up. I think she was told to; she was scared."

Baker, 33, and his daughter, who was a cancer survivor, moved to Hickory after he and Elisa married in 2008.

Elisa Baker, 43, who is in custody facing charges stemming from a faked ransom note, has told police the girl died after an illness on Sept. 24, two weeks before she was reported missing, and that her husband dismembered her body and hid the remains.

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