Death of Zahra Baker

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Zahra Clare Baker
Born (1999-11-16)November 16, 1999
Wagga Wagga, Australia
Died September 24, 2010(2010-09-24) (aged 10)
North Carolina, United States
Known for Murder victim

Zahra Clare Baker (November 16, 1999 - September 24, 2010) was born in Wagga Wagga, Australia and was reported missing on October 9, 2010. Only 10 years old at the time of her death, her dismembered remains were found in November 2010. Because of the crime's gruesome nature and the series of events leading up to her death, Zahra's murder received worldwide media coverage.[1] In September 2011, the victim's stepmother, Elisa Baker, plead guilty to murdering Zahra, and was sentenced to eighteen years in prison. She was subsequently given an additional 10 years in 2013 for drug related charges.

Australia[edit]

Zahra Baker was born to Emily Dietrich and Adam Baker who both lived in Wagga Wagga, Australia. Emily Dietrich, who had postpartum depression after Zahra's birth, gave up custody to Adam. Adam took Zahra and moved with his parents to Giru, Queensland in 2004 to work for a sugar mill. Zahra, who was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2005, later suffered a bout of lung cancer as well. As a result, she had the lower part of one leg amputated and had to wear hearing aids. Adam Baker reportedly met Elisa Fairchild (originally from western North Carolina) online on an IMVUwebsite. Elisa Fairchild visited Adam Baker in Queensland and they were soon married. Elisa was previously married 6 times and was still married at the time she married Adam Baker. Zahra's cancer went into remission in 2008, shortly before she moved to the United States from Australia with her father and new stepmother.[1]

North Carolina, U.S.A.[edit]

After moving to North Carolina, the Bakers settled in Hickory where Zahra attended public school until she started being home schooled. It is not known, though, if she was ever home schooled at all. It is suspected Zahra was taken out of public school because reports of child abuse were made to the school, implicating Elisa. Many neighbors of Zahra's claimed that Elisa was physically and mentally abusive and neglecting the child. Two teachers visited Zahra's home, after Zahra went to school with a black eye in a public school in Hudson while she was in the fourth grade.[1] Child Protective Services from both Caldwell County and Catawba County visited the various residences of Zahra multiple times before Zahra died. The Bakers had moved a few times in both those counties before settling in Hickory.[2] Reports of Elisa's abusive behavior have been investigated by the Department of Social Services in regards to Elisa's own biological children dating as far back from 1999.[3] Elisa has 3 children from 2 different relationships: a daughter born out of wedlock and a son and a daughter from a previous marriage.[4]

911 Call[edit]

A 911 call was made by Elisa on October 9, 2010 at 5:30 am, reporting a fire in the back of the family residence in Hickory. When the police came for the reported fire, there was a ransom note and the smell of gasoline coming from Adam's company truck, a Chevrolet Tahoe.[5] In a second 911 phone call made when Zahra is reported missing on 2 pm on the same day, Adam Baker explained that during a fire in their backyard a $1 million ransom note was found on his company truck the night before, addressed to Adam's boss and landlord, Mark Coffey. Adam explained that they called 911 earlier that day about the fire and implied that whoever started the fire, may have done so in order to distract the alleged kidnapper, in order to take Zahra. Adam explained the purported kidnapper mistakenly confused Zahra for Mr. Coffey's daughter. Mark Coffey's daughter was unharmed and with her family, Adam stated. Adam said the last time he saw his daughter was at 2:30 am. Apparently, Adam Baker left for work early in the morning and did not return until after Zahra went to sleep.[1]

Investigation[edit]

Arrests and charges[edit]

Reportedly, Elisa failed a polygraph test she had taken early in the investigation. She was asked: if she had hurt Zahra, if she knew of anyone who had harmed Zahra and if she knew who wrote the ransom note.[3] On October 10, 2010 search and rescue dogs were sent to search the Baker's house and cars. The dogs gave positive alerts to the smell of human remains on both of the Baker's cars, the Chevrolet Tahoe and a sedan. The police took swabs of what they thought may be blood from the car. On October 10, 2010, Elisa Baker was also arrested for various crimes which included communicating threats, writing bad checks, larceny and driving with a revoked license, crimes unrelated to the death of Zahra.[6] Baker, who was jailed, was next charged with obstruction of justice after admitting that she wrote the ransom note, which led the police astray.[7]

Bond hearing[edit]

In late October 2010, a Catawba County judge raised Elisa's bond from 40k to 65k at a bond hearing, believing that Elisa was a flight risk. Amber Fairchild, Elisa's daughter testified at the hearing and said her mother told her she was thinking of leaving North Carolina the day before she was arrested. Amber Fairchild also said her mother was involved in an online relationship with a man from England who had sent her thousands of dollars. The prosecutor said that Elisa failed to show up at other court dates for other charges which included traffic violations and communicating threats, thus thwarting Elisa's attorney's attempt to lower her bond.[8]

Discoveries[edit]

Elisa Baker's aunt Buzzie Winkler told reporters that Elisa told her Zahra died after being sick for 2 weeks, and both parents dismembered her and hid the remains. Elisa's aunt said: "She'd been sick two weeks before she died, when they found her, I guess they didn't know what to do. They just went wild." However, Elisa reportedly said Adam dismembered Zahra Baker alone, after she died, and they both hid her remains. Elisa also told police that Zahra died on September 24, yet she was not reported missing until October 9.[9]

Allegedly Eric Gein, crime memorabilia dealer and owner of Serial killers Ink, used an assumed name to write to Elisa in jail. She wrote him back twice, sharing some information. According to a letter written to Eric Gein, Elisa admitted: "We really didn't kill her, but what he did after the fact is kinda horrifying." "(It) makes me scared of him." [10]

Reportedly, Elisa's attorney Lisa Dubs told police where they could find possible evidence relating to Zahra's death. Apparently, Elisa told her attorney that Zahra's prosthetic leg was left in a dumpster that she and Adam had disposed of at Fox Ridge Apartments in Hickory.[3] A prosthetic leg was found in late October off a road in Caldwell County a few miles from a former residence of Elisa's. The Hickory police department were able to match the serial # of the prosthetic leg from Zahra's medical records they obtained from Australia, in order to confirm that it was definitely Zahra's leg.[7][11]

In November 2010, Elisa Baker started leading police to different areas in Catawba County and Caldwell County to find Zahra's scattered remains. Numerous bones of Zahra were found but Zahra's head was not found.[11] Allegedly, Elisa had told police she threw Zahra's mattress in a dumpster, and police confirmed the mattress fitting the description was found in a landfill.[12] Elisa Baker also led the police to another dumpster, behind a grocery store in Hudson, where she and Adam dumped a car cover and bed cover, which was used to hide and transport Zahra. Elisa also told police they can find Zahra's body parts in the drain trap of the bathtub and that plastic gloves that she used could be found in her bathroom.[3]

Elisa's MySpace page[edit]

A review of Elisa Baker's now defunct MySpace page revealed she called herself "GothicFairy6668". Her page portrayed skulls and bones as a song titled Living Dead Girl by Rob Zombie was played. She listed "Never, neverland" as her hometown, Queensland, Australia as her state and country and wrote that she was a college graduate and a proud parent. The page had photos of Zahra on it and in one photo, Zahra was wearing all black and the title read "The Dark Child!!!lol". Her "mood" on the page was listed as "crazy" on the last day she signed in, October, 8th, 2010, one day before Zahra was reported missing.[13]

Elisa's past marriages[edit]

Reportedly, Elisa was married seven times and at certain points she was married to 2 or 3 men at the same time, since she never divorced before marrying again. Before marrying Adam Baker, Elisa had previously married 3 men within 3 years.[14] In January 2011 it was reported that Elisa Baker was charged with bigamy after it was confirmed that she was still married to Aaron Young when she wed Adam Baker. Elisa had introduced Aaron Young to Adam, claiming he was her brother, not an ex-husband.[15]

Supposedly, Elisa was in contact often with her previous husband, Aaron Young, and they both were on an IMVU.com website on September 22, two days before the day on which Elisa claimed Zahra died. The IMVU website involved "chainsaw massacre role-playing". The police investigated a woman's claim, who used the same social networking site as the Bakers. The woman said she had blogged about a conversation she had with one or both of the Bakers about "doing a murder with chainsaws".[16]

Accusations against two men related to Elisa Baker's previous husband, Aaron Young, alleged that Zahra was raped and may have been hit on the head, causing her death. The two cousins, James Young and Timothy "Sammy" Young were both investigated by the police for the allegations. Both men passed polygraph tests and were not charged. Sammy Young was allegedly known to have had a sexual relationship with Elisa and the two of them did illegal drugs together.[16]

Murder charge[edit]

Since no cause of death could be determined, Zahra's death was ruled an "undetermined violent homicide".[11] Allegedly, Elisa told the police that both she and Adam Baker disposed of Zahra's remains, but according to cell phone towers, Elisa was in the area where Zahra's remains were found but Adam was not.[17] Investigators believe that Elisa Baker killed and dismembered Zahra on Sept, 24th, 2010 and disposed of her remains the following day.[18] Elisa Baker was indicted by a grand jury, for second degree murder with aggravating circumstances, on February 22, 2011 in Catawba County. The five aggravating circumstances were cited as:

  • Elisa Baker had a history of physical, verbal and psychological abuse of the child.
  • She secreted the child from her family, before and after the crime.
  • She desecrated Zahra’s body to hinder the murder investigation and prosecution.
  • Zahra was young, and physically infirm/handicapped.
  • Elisa Baker took advantage of a position of trust.[19]

Elisa would have a first degree murder charge if she had not led law enforcement to Zahra's remains.[1] Adam has denied any involvement in Zahra's death and the police have not found any credible evidence to suggest that he had any involvement in her death or to charge him with murder.[20] Elisa's bond was increased by $200,000 because of the murder charge, making the total bond $307,700.[21]

Identity theft charges[edit]

In April 2011 Adam Baker was charged with identity theft and obtaining property under false pretenses. It was claimed that Adam Baker used the identity of a man by the name of James Starbuck and his social security number to get power connected to his apartment. James Starbuck is the husband of Elisa's daughter, Brittany Starbuck. Adam was previously charged with passing worthless checks, communicating threats, assault with a deadly weapon and failure to return property.[22][23] With these new charges, Adam was ordered not to leave North Carolina without notifying the district attorney's office. He also was ordered to wear an electronic monitoring device on his ankle and was ordered to meet with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement once a week. Adam was hoping to return to Australia shortly.[24]

Elisa Baker was also charged with identity theft and obtaining property under false pretenses in February 2011. It was reported that Elisa had used her daughter, Brittany Starbuck's personal information to obtain telephone and utility service at one of the family residences in Caldwell County in March 2010. She pled not guilty to the four counts of identity theft in May 2011.[25] [26]

Drug charges[edit]

In May, 2011 Elisa Baker was indicted with seven drug counts for the time period of May 2006 through October 2010. Elisa, who had used different addresses in both Catawba and Caldwell County of North Carolina, had distributed Oxycodone, Hydrocodone and Alprazolam, all prescription drugs for pain and anxiety. Elisa was charged with possessing, distributing and conspiring to distribute prescription drugs. These new federal drug charges combined with the previous unrelated charges brings the total to over twenty.[27] On June 2 of 2011, Elisa pleaded not guilty to all seven federal drug charges. She is facing up to 20 years in prison for each drug charge.[28]

Change of venue[edit]

Because of all the publicity surrounding this case, Elisa Baker's attorney, Scott Reilly requested a change of venue for the trial, which was supposed to occur in Catawba County. On August 1, 2011, a change of venue for the trial was agreed upon by Superior Court Judge Timothy Kincaid. Judge Kincaid said the location of the trial would be decided on September 12, 2011.[29]

Timeline[edit]

  • August 2010 - Zahra was enrolled in a Hudson elementary school, but never attended. Elisa Baker notified the school that Zahra would be home schooled.[30]
  • September 22, 2010 - Workers at a Hickory, North Carolina furniture store claimed they saw Zahra in the store while she was there with Elisa. This is the last time anyone claimed to have seen Zahra, other than her parents, before her remains were found.[30]
  • September 24, 2010 - Investigators believe Zahra Baker died on this day.[18]
  • September 25, 2010 - Investigators believe Zahra was disposed of on this day.[18]
  • October 9, 2010 - Two 911 calls were placed: one at 5:30am to report a fire and another call around 2pm to report Zahra missing.[5]
  • October 10, 2010 - Elisa Baker was arrested for various charges unrelated to Zahra.[30]
  • October 27, 2010 - Zahra Baker's prosthetic leg was found.[30]
  • February 21, 2011 - Elisa Baker was indicted for second-degree murder.[21]
  • February 21, 2013 - The Hickory Police Department confirm that a skull found in April 2012 belongs to Zahra Baker. [31]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Lagan, Bernard (May 23, 2011). "What happened to Zahra Baker?". www.smh.com.au. 
  2. ^ Overton, Rod (Feb 21, 2011). "NC agencies questioned about how the Zahra Baker case was handled". www.wbtv.com. 
  3. ^ a b c d Baker, Jordan-Ashley (Dec 1, 2010). "Source: Zahra was raped". Observer News Enterprise. 
  4. ^ Weiss, Mitch (Feb 4, 2011). "Elisa Baker's 'life of deception' revealed". news.ninemsn.com.au. 
  5. ^ a b "Police Release 911 Tapes in Missing NC Girl Case". aolnews.com. Oct 19, 2010. 
  6. ^ De Nies, Yunji (Oct 11, 2010). "Zahra Baker Case: Police Doubt $1M Ransom Note in Disabled Girl's Disappearance". abcnews.go.com. 
  7. ^ a b Ferran, Lee (Oct 27, 2010). "Zahra Baker's Case: Prosthetic leg Discovered". abcnews.go.com. 
  8. ^ Black, Caroline (Oct 21, 2010). "Zahra Clare Baker Update: Stepmother Elisa Baker Deemed Flight Risk, Bail Increased". cbsnews.com. 
  9. ^ Breen, Tom (Jan 5, 2011). "Stepmother's aunt: Zahra died of natural causes". www.wcnc.com. 
  10. ^ Lohr, David (Nov 2, 2010). "Exclusive: Notes Say Zahra's Dad Did 'Horrifying' Act". aolnews.com. 
  11. ^ a b c Goldman, Russell (Feb 21, 2011). "Police Never Found Zahra Baker's Head; Stepmom Charged with Murder". abcnews.go.com. 
  12. ^ "Zahra Baker Was Murdered And Dismembered". www.zimbio.com. Nov 16, 2010. 
  13. ^ Rivenbark, Jeff (Oct 12, 2010). "MySpace page yanked down for stepmother in missing girl case". www.wbtv.com. 
  14. ^ "Elisa Baker married seven times, including overlapping marriages". Winston-Salem Journal. Feb 4, 2011. 
  15. ^ Lohr, David (Jan 19, 2011). "Slain NC Girl's Stepmother Charged With Bigamy". www.aolnews.com. 
  16. ^ a b Wright, Gary (Jan 5, 2011). "Stepmother: Zahra Baker's dad cut up her body". Charlotte Observer. 
  17. ^ Fogarty, Morgan (Jan 5, 2011). "Elisa Baker Phone Records Tell a Different Story". www.foxcharlotte.com. 
  18. ^ a b c "Zahra Baker's father must notify DA's office if he leaves NC". nbc17.com. May 4, 2011. 
  19. ^ "Ex-Lawyer: Baker Plea Deal Avoids Death Penalty". wyff4.com. 
  20. ^ Hopper, Jessica (Feb 22, 2011). "Zahra Baker's Father Calls Murder Charge Against Wife 'Justice'". abcnews.go.com. 
  21. ^ a b Sells, Jessica (Feb 23, 2011). "Elisa Baker arraigned in stepdaughter's murder". wistv.com. 
  22. ^ Moxley, Jennifer (Apr 14, 2011). "Adam Baker faces new charges, can't leave U.S.". coastal.news14.com. 
  23. ^ Toulson, Andy (April 14, 2011). "Adam baker arrested for identity theft". Townsville Bulletin. 
  24. ^ Newell Williamson, Sarah (May 4, 2011). "Adam Baker must notify DA's office if he leaves state". www2.morganton.com. 
  25. ^ "Elisa Baker faces identity theft, property charges". triad.news14.com. Feb 28, 2011. 
  26. ^ Berky, Rad (May 4, 2011). "Elisa Baker pleads not guilty to ID theft charges". www.wcnc.com. 
  27. ^ Ordonez, Franco (May 19, 2011). "Drug charges added against Elisa Baker". charlotteobserver.com. 
  28. ^ "Elisa Baker Pleads Not Guilty To Drug Charges". wsoctv.com. June 2, 2011. 
  29. ^ Mitchell, Peter (August 2, 2011). "US judge moves trial of Zahra Baker's mum". Sydney Morning Herald. 
  30. ^ a b c d e "Zahra Baker Timeline". Oct 17, 2010. 
  31. ^ http://www.wral.com/police-skull-found-in-2012-belongs-to-zahra-baker-10/12134632

Further reading[edit]