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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Zahra Baker Remembered; Even Though DSS Forgot

Hundreds Pack Town Square For Zahra's Birthday

Hundreds of people packed Hickory's Union Square Tuesday evening to remember Zahra Baker on what would have been her 11th birthday.

Though police now say Zahra is dead, the birth date of the once-missing child was an opportunity for the strangers who've been touched by the story of her disapperance to celebrate her life. Many people traveled from miles--even states--away to light candles in Zahra's memory at a vigil in central downtown Hickory.

"My wife and I just felt we had to be here," said Tom Trinchera, who came from Johnson City, Tennessee.

Hickory's mayor Rudy White spoke, as well as Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins.

"39 days ago, most of us did not know Zahra Baker, but in this past month, we have fallen in love with her and we are better people because of it," Chief Adkins said. He relayed stories he's heard from Zahra's friends and family during the investigation into her death. "Nothing would slow her down. She wanted no pity. She wanted to be like every other child."

"As you pass that flame on to your neighbor," explained Adrienne Opdyke, of the Catawba County Children's Protection Council, as participants lit candles, "Promise not to forget Zahra's story and promise to make a difference in the lives of the children that you know."

Zahra's stepmother's sister, April Fairchild, was at the vigil. She says her rocky relationship with her sister kept her from knowing Zahra well, but she describes this time as "painful" for her family.

"All we have ever wanted is just closure," she said. She said her sister Elisa, suspected but not charged in Zahra's disappearance, deserves punishment if its due, but "Adam Baker deserves to be sitting right beside of her...I just pray that just like everything else, Hickory Police Department, all of the law enforcement, all of the people who have helped--shed tears--about this case, does not let this fall through the cracks like she fell through the cracks with DSS."

D.A. Won't Rush For An Arrest In Zahra Baker Case

On what would have been her 11th birthday there are cards, toys and flowers outside the home in Hickory where Zahra Baker lived. But there also some new banners and signs hung on the house, signs with an angry tone.

One calls for justice for her father Adam Baker and her stepmother, Elisa Baker.

Another sign demands to know why the girl was "thrown out like the trash."

District Attorney James Gaither, who is handling the Investigation, said in a lengthy interview Tuesday that he will not pressure Police investigators to make an arrest.

"It is not my responsibility to push them or make something happen when the investigation is ongoing," Gaither said.

Gaither says he understands the growing frustration over what happened to the 10-year old girl who so many feel they have come to know and wish they could have helped.

Certainly the recovery of the remains of Zahra Baker was a critical part of the investigation but it doesn't mean that investigation is complete or that we are ready at this point to go forward with charges.

Gaither also raised questions about Lisa Dubbs, the lawyer who has been appointed to represent Elisa Baker if she is charged with murder. Gaither questioned why Dubbs and a private investigator working for her went out and picked up important physical evidence in the case.

Dubbs told NewsChannel 36 that Gaither should know that the defense always has the right to look for evidence. She says that in this case the unspecified item was brought to Gaither himself to prove that Elisa Baker would cooperate truthfully.

Gaither says that is a matter he will continue to look into.

"I believe there are some reasonable minds that differ on whether that is an appropriate function of defense council," said Gaither.

Zahra Baker's Stepmom Gave Explicit Details In Death

Zahra Baker's body was dismembered and the remains hidden across several rural locations, a court document said for the first time Monday, days after police said that the 10-year-old cancer survivor is dead.

The court filing is a motion by Zahra's stepmother, Elisa Baker, asking the court to reduce her $65,000 bond for obstruction of justice. The motion, filed Monday afternoon in Superior Court, provides specific and at times grisly details of what Elisa Baker says happened to the young girl's body.

The document doesn't indicate how Zahra died or who may be responsible, but the motion argues that Baker's bond should be reduced because of her extensive and continuing cooperation.

"The only credible evidence released to the public by law enforcement related to this case is evidence that was collected after Elisa Baker told law enforcement where to look and what to look for," the motion says.

Elisa Baker's attorneys met with her for two hours Monday, but declined to speak with reporters. They couldn't be reached for comment Monday night.

It wasn't clear Monday why Elisa Baker, in admitted some knowledge of Zahra's death, could be asking for a lower bond. Police haven't given a motive in the case.

Speculation has centered around Elisa and Adam Baker, Zahra's father, since shortly after the girl was reported missing on Oct. 9.

A family member interviewed by CNN's Nancy Grace described talking with Elisa Baker in jail.

"As we talked with her, she cried over missing Zahra and how her husband has left her to take all the blame for what has happened when he played a big part in this terrible situation," the cousin said in the interview. The cousin spoke on condition of anonymity because of death threats the family has received.

The owner of a crime memorabilia website is selling two letters he claims he received from Elisa Baker saying her stepdaughter, Zahra, is dead, and that her husband did something "horrifying" to the girl after her death.

"We didn't really kill her but what he did after the fact is kinda horrifying," says one of the letters Eric Gein claims he got from Elisa Baker, who is in jail. "Makes me scared of him."

In Monday's motion, they say she has been instrumental in the investigation into the death of the girl who moved to the United States from Australia in 2009, after her father Adam married Elisa Baker.

Zahra Baker, who was hearing-impaired and walked with the help of a prosthesis after losing her left leg to cancer, was reported missing by her father in a call to police.

On Friday, after more than a month of investigating, police said they had credible evidence that Zahra was dead, and had unearthed remains of a child they believe was Zahra.

Both Adam and Elisa Baker have denied any wrongdoing in the case. Elisa Baker was arrested on Oct. 10 on unrelated charges, then charged with obstruction of justice on Oct. 12 after investigators say she admitted writing a bogus ransom note.

According to Monday's motion to reduce bond, Elisa Baker told her attorneys on Oct. 22 that she had information about the disappearance and death of Zahra Baker.

Elisa Baker's defense attorneys notified police the next morning, indicating that Baker was willing to cooperate with investigators. But, they said, investigators had to move fast because weather could destroy evidence, according to the document.

Investigators were told that Zahra Baker was deceased, that her body had been dismembered and that body parts would be discovered at different sites. The defense team suggested that Baker needed to be present because of the remote locations of the sites.

Baker went out with law enforcement agents to three sites on Oct. 25, according to the court document. At each site, she described what would be found there and told officers where to look.

At one point, she was photographed by television news cameras inside a red SUV being driven by law enforcement agents.

The document says officers recovered the gel liner of the prosthetic leg near Christie Road in Hudson because of Baker. The site is near where Elisa Baker used to live.

Investigators also found evidence at two other sites because of Baker, the document says: a bone later identified as Zahra Baker's at the Christie Road site and remains believed to be those of Zahra Baker at another Caldwell County location along Dudley Shoals Road.

The document says Baker also directed investigators to other sites where possible evidence was located, including the dumpster where Zahra's mattress was discarded and undisclosed items found at the family's home.

Baker has continued to cooperate with authorities, the motion says. She was still in Catawba County jail Monday night. It was unclear Monday evening when a judge is expected to rule on the motion.

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Sources: McClatchy Newspapers, WCNC, Google Maps

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