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PostSubject: Elisa Baker Negotiating Plea Deal In Zahra Baker Case   Wed Sep 14, 2011 5:35 pm

Elisa Baker Negotiating Plea Deal In Zahra Baker Case

(CBS/WBTV/AP) NEWTON, N.C. – Prosecutors and defense attorneys are reportedly negotiating a plea deal in the case of North Carolina woman Elisa Baker, who is accused of murdering her 10-year-old disabled stepdaughter Zahra.

The 43-year-old is charged with second-degree murder and obstruction of justice in the death of Zahra, who had a prosthetic leg and hearing aids because of her fight with bone cancer.

Lawyers appearing in Catawba County Superior Court Monday said they had spoken with Judge Timothy Kincaid, who agreed to move the hearing to Wednesday morning.

Defense Attorney Scott Reilly told the Charlotte Observer on Monday that he is in “discussions” on resolving the murder charges.

“We’re having productive discussions and we’re working toward the goal of resolving the cases,” Reilly told the newspaper.

Kincaid was to choose the city to which he was going to move the hearing to Wednesday morning.

Reilly filed a change of venue motion arguing coverage in area newspapers and comments on the web “reveal a deep prejudice against” Elisa Baker, reports CBS affiliate WBTV.

Zahra went missing in October 2010 and was found dead months later. Authorities say Baker dismembered the girl’s body to cover up her killing.

Baker helped lead authorities to her body parts. She could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
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PostSubject: Family gathering for Zahra hearing   Thu Sep 15, 2011 12:07 am

Family gathering for Zahra hearing
Posted: Wednesday, Sep. 14, 2011
Modified: Wednesday, Sep. 14, 2011

The judge hearing the murder case against Elisa Baker postponed the case until Thursday to allow victim Zahra Baker's mother and other family members a chance to attend hearing.

Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid said extra security would be in place.

“We don't expect trouble," Reid told WCNC, the Observer's news partner. "We haven't received any threats but we are not going to take any chances."

Extra deputies will be posted in the courtroom, and Reid said a second metal detector would be placed at the courtroom door.

"A lot of people have heard about (the case) and are curious about the outcome and want to see it in person," Reid said. "So we expect a large crowd.”

Defense attorney Scott Reilly told the Observer that the judge wants to give the dead child's family the chance to travel from Australia.

"It has been continued to allow more time for the victim's family ... for airfare to be arranged."

Reilly declined to discuss what type of plea he worked out with the district attorney's office. Baker is the girl's stepmother.

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PostSubject: Elisa Baker pleads guilty tomurder of stepdaughter, Zahra   Thu Sep 15, 2011 11:00 am

Elisa Baker pleads guilty to murder of stepdaughter, Zahra

By Franco Ordonez, Bruce Henderson and Joe DePriest
Staff Writers
Staff Writers
Posted: Thursday, Sep. 15, 2011
Modified: Thursday, Sep. 15, 2011

Elisa Baker arrives for a court appearance in Newton, N.C., Monday, Sept. 12, 2011. Baker is charged in connection with the death of her step-daughter, Zahra Baker. JEFF WILLHELM -
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  • Live video: Elisa Baker hearing
  • Archive: History of Zahra Baker case

NEWTON -- Elisa Baker entered a guilty plea Thursday morning to second-degree murder and other charges related to the death of her 10-year-old stepdaughter Zahra Baker nearly a year ago.

Baker, 43, entered the pleas following an agreement reached between her attorney, Scott Reilly, and District Attorney Jay Gaither.

According to the agreement announced in court Thursday morning, Baker will face between 177 and 222 months in prison -- roughly, from 15 to 18 years.

In addition to the murder charge, Baker also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, for writing a fake ransom note on the day when she and husband Adam Baker called police to report their daughter missing. The guilty plea also included charges of bigamy, identity fraud, and obtaining property by false pretenses.

A number of other misdemeanor charges were dropped, but Baker still faces federal drug charges.

During the hearing, a judge told Elisa Baker that the maximum penalty for the murder and other related charges would be 722 months, or more than 60 years.

When asked by the judge if she understood terms of the plea agreement and was entering the plea of her own free will, Elisa Baker quietly answered, "Yes, sir."

The courtroom was nearly filled for the hearing, with a large number of media members joining family members of Elisa Baker and Zahra Baker. The group included at least one reporter from Australia, the birthplace of Zahra Baker and her father, Adam, who married Elisa Baker and moved with his daughter in 2008 to North Carolina.

Security was tight, with at least a dozen uniformed police officers in the courtroom.

A judge hearing the murder case had postponed a court procedure until today, allowing time for the mother and other family members of victim Zahra Baker to travel to North Carolina from Australia.

Zahra Baker, 10-year-old stepdaughter of Elisa Baker, disappeared from the family's home in Hickory early last October. Her remains, including the prosthetic leg she wore as a result of cancer surgery, were found scattered at Caldwell County sites about a month later.

Authorities determined Zahra had been murdered.

The case attracted world-wide attention, as authorities searched several times in October and early November -- initially, trying to find the young girl, and then looking for her remains.

Elisa Baker was charged in the case. Authorities have not charged Adam Baker in his daughter's death.

Among those expected to attend today's hearing is Emily Dietrich, Zahra's biological mother. This is the second time she has traveled to North Carolina from Australia, as she made the trip last November to help identify her daughter's remains.

This morning will mark the first time that Dietrich, Adam Baker and Elisa Baker have been in the same room at the same time.

But an Australian reporter told the Observer she did not see Dietrich in the courtroom, moments before the hearing started.

Several members of Elisa Baker's family also were expected to attend the hearing.

NewsChannel 36, the Observer's news partner, reports Dietrich is staying with the Ridgeway family, with whom she stayed last November.

"She's not looking forward to seeing these people with the stepmother, but at the same time, she wants it to be over," David Ridgeway told NewsChannel 36. "She knows she needs to be here, because she is the voice and she will be the face for Zahra."

Media and family members began gathering at the courthouse about 7 a.m. Thursday, and authorities expect a crowd of some size to remain outside the courthouse during the hearing.

NewsChannel 36 contributed.

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PostSubject: UPDATED: Elisa Baker to serve 14-18 years, police say Adam not involved   Thu Sep 15, 2011 11:49 am

UPDATED: Elisa Baker to serve 14-18 years; police say Adam not involved


Elisa Baker shown in a previous court apperance.


  • Zahra's Story, Part 1: The Girl from Down Under

  • Zahra's Story, Part 2: New Life in North Carolina

  • Zahra's Story, Part 3: Murder and Mourning

  • Photo gallery: Zahra's life

  • Photo gallery: Adam and Elisa Baker
  • Photo gallery: Zahra Baker investigation

By: Sarah Newell williamson
Published: September 15, 2011
Updated: September 15, 2011 - 11:39 AM

Elisa Baker pleaded guilty today to second-degree murder in the death of her 10-year-old stepdaughter, Zahra Baker, and will serve 14 years and seven months to 18 years in prison.

It is the "collective opinion" of investigators that Adam Baker was not involved in his daughter's death or dismemberment.

In testimony today, police said Elisa implicated Adam Baker in the dismemberment and disposal of Zahra's body, but cell phone records indicated that Adam was not involved.

Baker told investigators that she discovered Zahra not breathing and unresponsive at 4 p.m. on September 24 and tried to revive the girl with CPR, according to police testimony given Thursday.

After the CPR failed, she said she called Adam Baker, who came to the Hickory home at 5:00 or 5:30 p.m. Elisa said that the two decided together that they "couldn't call 911" and that they disposed of the body.

On hearing this testimony, Adam Baker shook his head and swore.

Police said mobile phone records put Adam at a work site in Conover on the day Elisa claims the two dismembered Zahra's body.

The plea arrangement was worked out between Baker’s attorney, Scott Reilly, and district attorney Jay Gaither. In the agreement, Baker’s more than 20 misdemeanors and infractions that were still pending are dismissed.

Emily Dietrich, Zahra's birth mother, was also in the courtroom as Elisa pleaded guilty.

Baker, 43, was charged with obstruction of justice in Zahra’s disappearance on Oct. 10, one day after the two-time cancer survivor was reported missing. Zahra had lost most of her hearing and had to have part of her left leg amputated because of the disease.

Hickory police announced the investigation for Zahra had turned to a homicide investigation within days. Most of her dismembered remains, including her prosthesis, were found scattered in Caldwell County in late October and November. Investigators were never able to locate her head, however, and medical examiners ruled her death as undetermined homicidal violence.

Investigators did not find Zahra's head, hands, right arm, upper left leg or lower right leg, according to testimony Thursday.

Elisa Baker was indicted on February 21 on a count of second-degree murder with aggravating factors.

She still is facing drug charges in federal court.
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PostSubject: Adam to Elisa Baker: You filled her life with lies   Fri Sep 16, 2011 12:47 pm

Adam to Elisa Baker: You filled her life with lies

Elisa Baker to serve 14-18 years; police say Adam not involved in death of Zahra

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Elisa Baker confers with her attorney Scott Reilly after a morning recess during the plea hearing at the Catawba County Justice Center Thursday morning.

Emily Deitrich, biological mother of Zahra Baker, wipes away tears as she prepares for the emotional hearing Thursday in Newton at the Catawba County Justice Center. Credit: ROBERT C. REED/RECORD

Private Investigator Steve Ehlers attempts to comfort Elisa Baker before plea hearing Thursday morning at the Catawba County Justice Center. Baker appeared before Senior Superior Court Judge Timothy Kincaid. Credit: ROBERT C. REED/RECORD

David and Lisa Ridgway sit in court Thursday during the sentencing hearing of Elisa Baker. Emily Dietrich, birth mother of Zahra Baker, is staying with the Ridgways while she is in Hickory. Credit: ROBERT C. REED/RECORD

Emily Dietrich speaks about the death of her daughter Zahra

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Adam speaks about Elisa

  • Photo gallery: Zahra's life

  • Photo gallery: Adam and Elisa Baker
  • Photo gallery: Zahra Baker investigation

Baker accepts plea deal during emotional hearing
Elisa Baker accepted a plea deal and pleaded guilty to second degree murder in the death of her stepdaughter Zahra Baker.

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Zahra's Story, Part 1: The Girl from Down Under
Part one in our series documenting Zahra Baker's life.

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Zahra's Story, Part 2: New Life in North Carolina
Part two in our series documenting Zahra Baker's life.

» More

Zahra's Story, Part 3: Murder and Mourning
Part three in our series documenting Zahra Baker's life.

» More

Tom Adkins press conference after Elisa Baker hearing
Hickory Chief of Police Tom Adkins spoke to the media after Elisa Baker accepted a plea deal Thursday and pleaded guilty to second degree murder...

By: Sarah Newell williamson
Published: September 15, 2011
Updated: September 15, 2011 - 9:14 PM

Emotions were palpable in court Thursday as Elisa Baker pleaded guilty to killing her stepdaughter, Zahra. Baker’s husband, Adam, said he would never forgive Elisa for taking away his daughter.

Elisa, I trusted you with the most precious person in my life,” Adam said in the courtroom. “Zahra looked up to you. You not only lied to me but to Zahra. You filled her life with lies.”

Elisa, 43, would not look at Adam while he spoke to her, looking straight ahead in the courtroom instead. Her eyes did tear up.

“You robbed her of a future. Zahra will never get to go to high school. You robbed us of an amazing girl who I have no doubt would have changed the world,” Adam said.

He said Elisa ruined his life.

“You made my life hell with false accusations that I was involved in her death,” Adam said. “There are no words to explain the hate I have for you. You will have to face your judgment in the afterlife. But please, tell us where we can find any more of Zahra's remains so she can be laid to rest complete.”

18 years, 6 months

Elisa’s plea agreement came almost a year after 10-year-old Zahra was reported missing on Oct. 9. The plea deal included pleading guilty to second-degree murder with aggravating factors, bigamy, obstruction of justice and six other felonies. She was sentenced to a minimum of 14 years and 9 months and a maximum of 18 years and 6 months in prison.

Although Elisa told authorities Zahra’s death was an accident, Hickory police quickly zeroed in on inconsistencies. When they arrived at the Baker residence on Oct. 9, the ransom note found on a car was written on Duke Power envelope, said Hickory Investigator David Rockett. They found a power bill in the Bakers’ bedroom with no envelope.

“Once we secured the scene, Elisa was standing with the victim coordinator. She said, ‘Are they putting the tape up because they think she (Zahra) was murdered in there?’” Rockett said.

Baker was arrested that day for obstruction of justice, and admitted to writing the ransom note.

The search for Zahra’s body has been a difficult one.

Lt. Bobby Grace, with Hickory Police Department, supervised and coordinated the searches on Christie Road, Dudley Shoals and Indian Grave Road in Caldwell County where Elisa said Zahra’s body may be found.

Zahra’s prosthetic leg and left upper arm bone were found on Christie Road. Her torso and pelvic area were found on Dudley Shoals Road about a mile away. Nothing was found on a two-mile stretch of Indian Grave Road, Grace said.

We did not find her head

“No other remains were found,” he said. “We did not find her head, right arm, hands, right leg or upper left leg.”

International Drive was also searched. That was where Elisa’s legal team found a handsaw they believe was involved in the case.

State Bureau of Investigation Agent Heath McBride said the SBI searched the Bakers’ Hickory home and found a pair of child’s pants that tested positive for blood. He went into Zahra’s bedroom and found 18 faint drops of blood, the size of a pin, on the wall near the lower half of the wall where a headboard would go. There were more drops of blood on a floor that was painted black. The bedroom walls were painted pink. A burned paintbrush with pink paint was found outside in an area that Hickory firefighters responded to Oct. 9, the day Zahra was reported missing, McBride said.

He also discussed the bones recovered on Dudley Shoals, and said a cutting implement had been used.

The Stanley handsaw had no DNA

“The Stanley handsaw collected (on Industrial Drive) had no DNA,” McBride said. “There were chemical indications for blood, but not enough for DNA.”

He admitted a saw left out in the weather could eliminate DNA.

Elisa admitted to Superior Court Judge Timothy Kincaid she was guilty as part of her plea agreement. However, in interviews with Hickory Police investigators, she said Zahra died of natural causes and Adam helped dispose of the body.

Capt. Thurman Whisnant, head of the criminal investigation division for the Hickory Police Department, said when he spoke with Baker on Nov. 19, she told him Zahra died on Sept. 24 at about 4 p.m.

“She found her not breathing, unresponsive,” Whisnant said of what Baker told him of the day. “She attempted CPR for 20 to 25 minutes. She said Adam was at work.”

Elisa told Whisnant that Zahra got up at about 9 a.m. that day and wasn’t feeling well. She had eggs for breakfast, and Baker went to Walmart to meet her eldest daughter. After coming home and feeding Zahra, she found her unresponsive and did CPR.

“She called Adam around 5 or 5:30 p.m. and they collectively decided they could not call 911,” Whisnant recounted.

When Adam heard this testimony, he shook his head and swore to the woman sitting next to him in court.

Phone records point to Elisa

Whisnant testified police looked at Adam and Elisa’s phone records, used the electronic identifier numbers for their phones and cell towers to determine the locations of calls made to and from their phones to determine where both were on Sept. 24 and Sept. 25. Although Elisa was in the area of Christie Road, Dudley Shoals Road and Industrial Drive on Sept. 24, Adam was not. Investigators confirmed both had their phones with them on those days.

On Sept. 24, Adam was in Burke County, north of Valdese, Whisnant said. After work, he tried to get a ride home with Elisa but she told him she couldn’t get a ride because she had been stopped by a trooper and her eldest daughter would have to give him a ride. Whisnant said police found no evidence a trooper stopped Elisa that day.

On Sept. 25, Elisa received phone calls from 7:20 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., with his phone connecting to cell towers in Conover, Whisnant said.

“He had a side landscaping job for a private citizen,” Whisnant said. “From early morning to 3 or 4 p.m., he was doing landscaping and tree trimming. This is significant because on the morning of Sept. 25, she said Adam went into the bathroom and conducted the dismemberment of Zahra, but phone records indicate he would be on the tree-trimming job.”

He said he did talk to the homeowner to confirm Adam was there.

Prosecutor Michael Van Buren said some may wonder how a father could go two weeks without seeing his daughter and knowing she was not in the house. Whisnant said that was something the police department struggled with.

“We did have a difficult time with the length, from Sept. 24 to Oct. 10 and Adam not knowing,” Whisnant said. “But the recurring theme was Adam worked a lot and was gone in the mornings. He was told by the doctors in Australia if she’s sleeping, don’t bother her. He himself made a comment, ‘I smoked marijuana more than I spent quality time with my daughter.’”

When Zahra’s biological mother, Emily Dietrich, heard this, she clutched her hand over her mouth.

However, they received the text messages between Elisa and Adam, and it showed deception on Elisa’s part.

Elisa sent texts of deceit

In early October, Elisa sent texts to Adam telling him she fed Zahra and other similar messages saying she was still alive.

“She told him she bought birthday presents for Zahra, making up for not going to Disney World,” Whisnant said. “The texts were mainly from Elisa to Adam.”

On Oct. 10, after Zahra had been reported missing, Elisa and Adam were interviewed separately. Afterward, Adam received additional texts from Elisa.

“Hello, I guess you’re not talking to me, I guess they’ve got you convinced I’ve done something. Please talk to me.” Whisnant said that indicated guilt on Elisa’s part, and Adam not knowing.

Attorney: Elisa is sorry

When Reilly questioned the witnesses, he said investigators would not have known where to search without Elisa’s help.

“We would not have been at those locations if she had not shared her information,” Grace said of Elisa. “After Oct. 25 was when Ms. Baker located these sites.”

He admitted that due to the rural nature of the area, animals could have carried off some of the skeletal remains of Zahra that have not yet been found.

He also questioned Whisnant on Adam taking a lie detector test. Whisnant said Adam showed deception on his test, as well.

Reilly told Zahra’s family he was truly sorry for their loss, however, and Elisa’s family is devastated, as well.

“She is so sorry for the hurt she has caused,” Reilly said.

Reilly said Elisa could have not talked to investigators.

“I’d like to point out, when she was in custody on only the obstruction charge, Elisa could have kept her mouth shut,” he said. “She had a choice, she could have kept quiet and never said a word. She took Hickory ppolice to the spot where Zahra was buried. I think she did the right thing.”

Elisa did not talk during Thursday’s hearing. However, her family had a letter they asked Reilly to read to the court.

“Don’t think a tragedy like this can’t happen to you, because it can,” the letter read. “Zahra is now a shining star across the world for all handicapped and neglected children.”

A breakdown of Elisa Baker’s felonies
-second-degree murder with aggravating factors: death of Zahra, who was very young and infirm, she desecrated the body and had a history of physical and verbal abuse
-obstruction of justice: writing a ransom note in Zahra’s disappearance
-bigamy: because when Baker married Adam, previous marriage was not annulled
-identity theft and obtaining property by false pretense: trying to get phone service in her daughter’s name
-identity theft and obtaining property by false pretense: trying to get power in her daughter’s name
-obtaining property by false pretense: selling a TV to a pawn shop that belonged to Rent-A-Center
-obtaining property by false pretense: selling a pressure washer to a pawn shop that belonged to Adam’s boss
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PostSubject: DA: Elisa was afraid police were closer than they were   Fri Sep 16, 2011 1:00 pm

DA: Elisa was afraid police were closer than they were


Emily Dietrich, biological mother of Zahra Baker (right), comforts her motherJoy Box, during the post hearing press conference. Credit: ROBERT C. REED/RECORD

Highlights of Jay Gaither's press conference after Baker hearing
District Attorney Jay Gaither spoke to the media after Elisa Baker accepted a plea deal and pleaded guilty to second degree murder in the death...

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Baker accepts plea deal during emotional hearing
Elisa Baker accepted a plea deal and pleaded guilty to second degree murder in the death of her stepdaughter Zahra Baker.

» More

Tom Adkins press conference after Elisa Baker hearing
Hickory Chief of Police Tom Adkins spoke to the media after Elisa Baker accepted a plea deal Thursday and pleaded guilty to second degree murder...

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By: Sarah Newell williamson
Published: September 15, 2011
» 2 Comments | Post a Comment
District Attorney Jay Gaither said he is satisfied with Elisa Baker’s 18 year sentence.

“I stand in full ownership of my decisions,” he said. “I embrace (the deal) whole-heartedly. This woman gave the state evidence and left the death penalty on the table. Eighteen years is a great deal.”

Gaither said although Elisa admitted to writing the ransom note in October, there was not enough evidence to convict her of killing her stepdaughter, Zahra. When the media showed images of investigators searching the Caldwell County landfill and pulling out a mattress, Elisa asked her attorneys to speak to the district attorney’s office.

It was not until investigators were searching the Caldwell County landfill and media showed images of a mattress that was found there that Elisa asked her attorneys to speak to the district attorney’s office.

“We’re never quite sure why the defendant came forward,” Gaither said. “I think she was mortally afraid the police were closer than they were.”

It was unlikely Zahra’s body would be found without Elisa’s help, Gaither said. Elisa gave information on Zahra’s remains and how she died.

“Her statements would not be admitted and she could be prosecuted for first-degree murder if she was not truthful,” Gaither said of the arrangement for Elisa’s information. “I saw three options: a third person committed the murder and she can give us testimony against them, Elisa Baker will admit to the murder and we’ll be limited to second-degree murder or she’ll lie to us and we can prosecute aggressively and give us leads to other information.

“There’s no way we could know what we would learn. There was shock, horror and revulsion following what we learned,” he said.

Gaither said he wanted to prosecute Elisa for first-degree murder. He and others in his office consulted legal minds around the state and country. Given the information, however, second-degree was the best they thought they could get, Gaither said.

“Prior to charging her with murder, we charged her with low-level felonies. The prior convictions would count as points on her record for sentencing,” he said.

Gaither anticipated her attorney appealing her sentencing, which would delay Elisa’s murder trial, keeping her in jail longer.

He said Elisa will likely serve the 14 year minimum of her sentence.

Gaither reiterated that he did not believe Elisa’s husband, Adam, was involved.

“Crimes with two, three, four people, people usually turn on people, they want to know what the other person says,” Gaither said. “With one person, they stay quiet.”

He said that’s what happened here, until Elisa voluntarily came forward.

“Today is one many have been working toward for almost a year,” said Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins. “We followed all leads that resulted in charging Elisa. This brings closure to our community, our family, our nation and our world.”

He praised the large number of people on “Team Zahra” that have worked to find our precious Zahra. Adkins acknowledged the sentence of 14 years and 9 months to 18 years and 6 months may not be what the public had hoped for. But it is what is fitting, according to state laws for someone with no criminal background.

Adkins said he was satisfied with the sentence.

“She provided the location of Zahra, and that helped bring Zahra home,” he said.

Adkins admitted the question of what really happened has not been answered.

“Only one person knows, and she’s not talking,” he said. “There’s evidence in Zahra’s room that directs us, but nobody knows for sure.”

While Adkins and Gaither talked, the investigators, prosecutors and others involved on the case stood behind him. Zahra’s birth mother, Emily Dietrich, also stood behind them. She seemed overcome by emotion at times, crying and hugging her mother.

Adam said the sentence did not seem fair.

“It’s pretty sad when you get less than 20 years for taking a child’s life,” he said.

Adkins challenged others to help prevent something like this in the future.

“I encourage you to report acts of violence and neglect against our children,” he said. “Remember the spirit of a little girl that most of us never met, but who touched our lives.”
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PostSubject: Many disappointed at Baker sentence   Fri Sep 16, 2011 1:24 pm


Many disappointed at Baker sentence

Some think others also were involved in the 10-year-old's death.

By Joe DePriest

Joe DePriest
Posted: Friday, Sep. 16, 2011
Modified: Thursday, Sep. 15, 2011

After hearing about a possible plea bargain in the Elisa Baker case, Danny Propst was already unhappy when he showed up at the Catawba County Courthouse Thursday morning.

He felt even more let down when he left.

"I think she should have gotten a lot stiffer sentence," said Propst, 56, of Maiden. "I thought the case was rushed. They wanted to settle it, 'Bam, bam, bam.' I'm not happy with the decision of the D.A. or whoever was involved."

Word spread quickly in the community about Baker's guilty plea to second-degree murder in the death of Zahra Baker, and a sentence of 15 to 18 years prison.

Propst's reaction was typical - a mixture of outrage and disappointment. Many also expressed doubts about the innocence of Zahra's father, Adam Baker.

"In my opinion, no punishment is harsh enough," said Rodney Sigmon, 47, of Maiden. "It was a tragedy what happened to that little girl. No justice could be severe enough to someone who could do something like that to a child. It's beyond murder."

Also, "I think more people are involved than her," he said. "It's hard to believe a person could carry this out on their own and be successful."

Susan Heafner, 32, of Newton said many in the community felt Elisa Baker "deserves everything she gets. ... a lot hate her."

Although Heafner had a "little compassion" for Baker, "I feel she needs to be held responsible. Whatever she doesn't get in jail God will take care of the rest."

Benny Dyson of Hickory thought Elisa Baker should have gotten at least 30 years "and if she did it, life without parole."

Commenting on the sentence, he said, "I don't see how that's punishment for a crime that bad."

Kelly Wooten called what happened in the courtroom on Thursday "a miscarriage of justice."

"I think that's the opinion around town," said Wooten, 46, of Newton. "Most are questioning how that sentence could be appropriate in a case this cruel."

Courtney Truitt, a recent criminal justice graduate from Catawba Valley Community College, was "very disheartened" by the outcome.

"It's good she was sentenced," said Truitt, 25, of Hickory. "But it seems like a slap on the wrist."

The people she's talked to feel the same way about the court dates in a case that shocked a community and some say will haunt it for years.

"They were wishing more could have been done," Truitt said. "It doesn't put a lot of faith in the justice system."

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PostSubject: Some Justice - But No Answers - On Zahra   Fri Sep 16, 2011 1:27 pm

Some justice - but no answers - on Zahra

Social services review far from starting, one year after murder.

The Charlotte Observer
The Charlotte Observer
Posted: Friday, Sep. 16, 2011
Modified: Friday, Sep. 16, 2011

We knew long ago that resolution in the Zahra Baker case would bring us little satisfaction. No matter the verdicts reached, no matter the punishment administered, a freckled 10-year-old would be dead, and the rest of us would be left with sorrow and questions.

Tuesday's guilty plea of Zahra's stepmother, Elisa Baker, brings some solace that although the adults in Zahra's life failed her so horribly, others have at least brought her killer some justice. The plea agreement, however, is an outcome that's difficult to cheer. While Elisa Baker pleaded to the second-degree charges leveled against her - not a reduced version - she agreed to spend 15 to 18 years in prison instead of the maximum of 60-plus that the charges could have brought. That's an indication neither side was comfortable with the risk of the case going to trial.

Certainly, the Catawba County district attorney's office faced a challenging case. A medical examiner's report said Zahra's death was caused by "undetermined homicidal violence," signaling that prosecutors would likely have to pursue a conviction without a specific cause of death. As we saw in the Caylee Anthony case earlier this year in Florida, such an obstacle can be difficult to overcome.

Still, Baker and her attorneys saw little enough room to maneuver that they agreed to at least 15 years in prison, a testament to the thorough, methodical work detectives and the district attorney's office did in building the case against her.

We're concerned, however, with the pace of another investigation - the inquiry involving social service agencies in Catawba and Caldwell counties, which have acknowledged they received at least four complaints that Zahra was being mistreated in the months before her death. Those agencies found no evidence of Zahra facing "child safety issues."

By law, the case goes to a state Child Fatality Review Team, which is led by the N.C. Division of Social Services and includes members of local law enforcement, medicine and other fields. That team is tasked with determining specific and systemic issues that might have caused mistakes, but more than a year after Zahra's death, members have yet to schedule a first meeting. "I can tell you that it won't be real soon," Sherry Bradsher, director of the N.C. Division of Social Services, told the Observer editorial board on Thursday.

Review teams generally wait until criminal investigations are complete, Bradsher said, but why is this team still not even close to beginning its probe? The holdup is due, in part, to two state-level team leader positions being frozen in the midst of North Carolina's budget crisis. Those positions are now filled, and a temporary employee is in training to help further, but a backlog of cases remains, including the death of 2-year-old Addison Lanham, who was killed in July despite reports of child abuse to social services in Gaston County.

We urge state officials and lawmakers to ensure that more resources are committed to thinning that backlog quickly, not only so agencies can learn how they might have prevented these deaths, but so others might benefit from recommendations these reviews can provide.

It's tragic and abhorrent each time a child is killed by someone they looked to for care. It would be shameful if another death happens because North Carolina was too slow in determining how to prevent it.

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PostSubject: From jail, Elisa Baker says she didn't do it   Sat Oct 22, 2011 9:08 pm

Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011

Modified Sat, Oct 22, 2011 07:51 PM
From jail, Elisa Baker says she didn’t do it

McClatchy Newspapers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Elisa Baker, in her first public interview, insisted from jail Friday that she was innocent despite pleading guilty last month to murdering her stepdaughter Zahra.

Baker portrayed herself as a loving stepmother and an unwilling participant in covering up the 10-year-old’s mysterious death.

But her sympathetic depiction is at odds with the one painted by police of a manipulative woman who faked a kidnapping in an attempt to thwart their investigation into Zahra’s death. Family and friends accused Baker of controlling her husband and abusing her children, including Zahra.

  • More information

    Baker Case Timeline

    • Oct. 9, 2010: Adam Baker calls 911 to report his daughter, Zahra, missing. Police issue Amber Alert to search for kidnappers.

    • Oct. 10, 2010: Zahra’s stepmother, Elisa Baker, is charged with obstruction of justice after police say she admitted writing a phony ransom note. The search for Zahra continues.

    • Oct. 25, 2010: Elisa Baker leads investigators to three sites where some of Zahra’s body parts had been discarded, court documents say. Police go on to recover the gel liner from Zahra’s prosthetic leg and some skeletal remains.

    • Nov. 12, 2010: Police announce that test results confirm a bone they recovered was Zahra’s.

    • Feb. 21, 2011 : Elisa Baker is charged with second-degree murder. Social services workers acknowledge investigating the Bakers previously on four complaints of mistreating Zahra but say they found no clear evidence and closed the cases. Zahra’s autopsy is released and declares the cause of her death as “undetermined homicidal violence.”

    • Sept. 15, 2011: Elisa Baker pleads guilty to second-degree murder and other charges. She’s sentenced to 15-to-18 years in prison.

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    Elisa Baker, 43, entered the courtroom wearing a hot-pink jail jumpsuit and handcuffs. She sat between two defense attorneys and teared up before pleading guilty to second-degree murder, with aggravating factors that included desecrating the body of Zahra Baker, who used a prosthetic leg and hearing aids after a struggle with bone cancer.

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At times, during a 30-minute interview ended abruptly by a sheriff’s deputy, she cried and rubbed her eyes; other times she poked fun at investigators and berated her husband, Adam, again accusing him of the worst offenses – including dismembering and hiding Zahra’s body.

“I pled guilty, but I’m not guilty,” she said.

The investigation into Zahra’s disappearance and death drew an outpouring of sympathy from around the world. Photos of the young Australian girl, who lost a leg and much of her hearing to cancer, fueled anger at her stepmother.

Baker, who is 43, was sentenced Sept. 15 to 15 to 18 years in prison on second-degree murder charges in Zahra’s death. Baker said her lawyer, Scott Reilly, told her accepting a plea deal was in her best interest.

“I wouldn’t get a fair trial here, or anywhere,” she said. “I’m going to be an old woman when I get out.”

Reilly said Saturday that he advised Baker to take the plea deal because the evidence against her was

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PostSubject: Zahra, others honored at police memorial   Wed Nov 02, 2011 11:38 am

Zahra, others honored at police memorial

Carl Pope, president of the Catawba County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 26, presided over a ceremony to honor Zahra Baker and others Sunday Afternoon at the FOP's law enforcement memorial.

By: Richard Gould
Published: October 30, 2011
Updated: October 31, 2011 - 9:46 AM
» 1 Comments | Post a Comment
Area law enforcement officers and members of the community paid tribute to several individuals including 10-year-old Zahra Baker during a Fraternal Order of Police ceremony Sunday.

Four engraved memorial bricks were placed beside the base of the FOP’s law enforcement memorial located in Catawba Memorial Park.

Three of the four bricks were placed in honor of law enforcement officers including the first responders who were killed in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

The fourth brick was to honor the memory of Zahra Baker and the men and women of law enforcement that found her remains, solved her murder and convicted her stepmother for the crime. The brick was purchased by the local FOP lodge.

“We didn’t know her personally, but throughout the days and weeks of the investigation, we started to feel like we knew this little girl,” said Carl Pope, retired State Trooper and president of the Catawba County FOP Lodge 26. “She always had that smile on her face in every picture we saw and it amazed me that, with her health issues, she always had that smile.”

Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins was chosen to place the brick at the memorial for the girl who beat cancer twice at the cost of her hearing and one of her legs.

He recalled the long hours his officers put in on the case and the invaluable assistance provided by their fellow law enforcement agencies including the sheriff’s offices of Catawba, Caldwell and Burke counties, the FBI, SBI and the Highway Patrol.

After he placed the brick, Adkins reflected on the FOP’s gesture.

“The FOP remembering Zahra by placing a brick at this memorial is just another example of the compassion that this community and law enforcement officers have had for this little girl,” he said.

Additional bricks are available and the money raised by their sale will be used to pay for the FOP’s ongoing community support projects, said Pete Sobotkin of the FOP.

The memorial bricks cost $100 each. Anyone interested in purchasing a brick is asked to contact Carl Pope by calling the Catawba County FOP Lodge 26 at (828) 695-1704 and leaving a message with your name, phone number and stating that you’re interested in buying a memorial brick.
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PostSubject: Zahra Baker case: Justice served?   Sun Jan 15, 2012 11:29 am

Zahra Baker case: Justice served?

Posted on January 14, 2012 by Valhall

The Zahra Baker case here on The Hinky Meter will be moved to the unresolved category along with the Caylee Anthony case. While Elisa Baker, who admitted to playing a part in the murder and dismemberment of beautiful little Zahra Baker was sentenced to a 15 to 18 year sentence, Zahra’s worthless sack-of-crap father, Adam Baker, apparently will never have to answer for the part he played in her death.

In cases like this we follow the justice system to its conclusion and we have to accept what that system produces. That’s the nature of the U.S. judicial system. However, we are never required to do any of the following:

  • consider lack of prosecution as proving innocence,
  • consider a “not guilty” as proving innocence,
  • being happy or even agreeing with what resulted,
  • claiming that “justice was served”.

In Zahra’s case, like Caylee’s, we have the right forever to consider the evidence and information that was provided to us and draw our own conclusions about those involved in these heinous crimes that result in the loss of a child’s life. And we have the right to say that while the judicial process was followed, and decisions made by those in that system apparently are final…

Justice was NOT served.

Rest in Peace, Zahra.

Emily…our thoughts and prayers will remain with you. We thank you for being a part of our community as you suffered through this tragedy and you will always be dear to us. May you find some measure of peace that allows you to enjoy the blessings you still have in your life. God bless.

Adam…I think you were involved in the death of your beautiful daughter. I believe you should be spending in time in jail for at least negligence. On the day you fly your sorry sack-of-shit ass out of my country I’ll thank God for increasing the average IQ of our nation and correcting the moral deficit you’re causing. Piss off.

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