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Zahra Baker – Stepmom Charged With Murder

02/22/2011 7 comments

Yesterday, Elisa Baker was charged with second degree murder in the death of Zahra Baker.

The pretty, freckled-faced Australian girl, known for her bubbly personality and wide smile, was reported missing in October which led to the obstruction charges against Elisa Baker.

District Attorney James Gaither and Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins announced Elisa Baker is facing second degree murder charges in the death of her 10-year-old stepdaughter, Zahra.

Investigators believe Zahra was killed September 24th and that there were five “aggravating factors,” the judge can take into account during sentencing.  District Attorney James Gaither said Elisa Baker had a history and pattern of physical, verbal and psychological abuse of the victim, Zahra Baker.

“The defendant took advantage of a position of trust or confidence including a domestic relationship, to commit the offense,” the indictment charged, according to CNN.

The public has asked repeatedly why it has taken so long for someone to be charged with Zahra’s death.  Zahra’s severed head and other bones have never been located which may be the cause of the delay in charges. 

Adam Baker was on Australia’s 60 Minutes over the weekend, proclaiming his innocence and saying that Elisa’s claim that he dismembered Zahra’s body was the biggest lie Elisa Baker had ever told.

Adam Baker is not presently facing charges in his daughter’s murder.  Gaither said, “At this time, the state has no credible evidence to suggest that anyone other than Elisa Baker was involved in the murder of Zahra Clare Baker.”

Adam Baker, said he was happy his daughter was finally getting the justice she deserved and that he was manipulated by his wife.

Baker spoke with WBTV and said, “Elisa is very manipulative, um, abusive…to me. Very controlling.  Plus with work, I was gone first thing in the morning and didn’t get home til late.  Um, was told that Zahra was in bed because Zahra normally went to bed early.  I checked every night and from what I could tell she was in bed.  It looked like she, something was in bed.”

Elisa Baker told police that it was her husband who cut up the girl’s body before disposing it in several locations around the couple’s home, court documents showed.

He has always denied those accusations and police said there was no evidence to suggest Elisa was telling the truth.

Police Chief Tom Adkins left the door open for additional charges by saying,  “Not every case is clear-cut and only the facts and evidence of the case can dictate who is charged and for what offenses.  We will continue our investigation and follow every lead until the first day of trial.”

What the future holds for Adam Baker is hard to say, but at the very least – in my opinion – he is guilty of child neglect!

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NY Daily News

CNN

Petit Family – Death Sentence Handed Down

12/03/2010 2 comments

Jennifer Hawke-Petit

Yesterday, New Haven Superior Court Judge Jon Blue imposed the death sentence that jurors agreed upon last month.  Steven Hayes, 47, was convicted in October of 16 of the 17 charges against him, which included murder, capital murder and kidnapping. Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, 17-year-old Hayley Petit and 11-year-old Michaela Petit all died in the Cheshire, CT home invasion.

“This is a terrible sentence,” Blue told Hayes. “But in truth, it is a sentence you wrote for yourself in flames on July 23, 2007.”

In his impact statement, Dr. William Petit said the crime on his family was like, “a bomb going off in your house.”

Hayley Petit

Dr. Petit remembers the look on his father’s face when he asked about his girls, “He just shook his head from side to side and sobbed … Our home was no more.”

Hayes told the court that death will be a relief“I am deeply sorry for what I’ve done. “… I stand before the court as Steven Hayes, convicted murderer, but that is not the real Steven Hayes.”

“I destroyed innocent lives and took away a family. I did what I did, and live with it … I was an out-of-control train destined to crash. The death I wanted was my own, not the death of others.”

Dr. Petit said, “I miss my entire family, everything we had together,” he said. “… They were three special people. My children were my jewels.” He said he will never get to walk his daughters down the aisle, or meet his grandchildren. Now, he said, he is left to deal with “a giant hole in the universe, in my heart.”

Michaela Petit

“I lost my entire family,” he said. “… I lost my past and my future.”

“Evil does exist, and it can strike at any time … Evil is among us, and we need to rid the world of it.”

The Petit and Hawke families cried and embraced after the sentence was handed down.

Hayes’ official execution date is May 27, 2011.  If Hayes doesn’t waive some or all of his appeals, it could possibly be decades before he is put to death.

Impact Statement of Dr. William Petit

Impact Statement by William Petit, Sr

CNN

WTIC

Hartford Courant

Zahra Baker Alert – Death Been Called

11/13/2010 3 comments

Police Chief Tom Adkins – no questions, great regret, dreading this moment, as investigators trained to follow leads, recovered enough physical evidence that they HAVE found Zahra, bone on Christie Road matched sample.

DNA profile created from Zahra mother and father will be sent , Remains found sent to the SBI lab for postive id remains are consistent with a child!

Time table for results are not available at this time must be cautious in releasing further info. so as not to hinder case, information from now on will be limited workers are devastated that Zahra is not alive and not brought home safely!

God bless you sweetheart!

Petit Family Jury Votes For Death

11/09/2010 4 comments

I was horrified when I first encountered this story three years ago and have followed the proceedings ever since.  I suppose it touched me deeply because I have family in the area.

Yesterday, Steven Hayes was convicted on 16 of the 17 charges against him, including nine counts of murder and capital murder and four counts of kidnapping. Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and daughters, 17-year-old Hayley Petit and 11-year-old Michaela Petit, died in the home invasion.

Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky viciously attacked the Petits in their home in Cheshire, Connecticut, on July 23, 2007.

They brutally beat Dr. William Petit, raped and strangled his wife, raped young Michaela and set the house on fire before fleeing.

The two girls were tied to their beds and doused with gasoline.  Both died of smoke inhalation.

Before the murders, Hayes forced Jennifer Hawke-Petit to go to a bank to withdraw money from a bank account.  It appeared from her demeanor, Hawke-Petit believed she could save her family by just following the instructions to withdraw the funds.

The five men and seven women jury, began a fourth day of deliberations and quickly signaled they had reached a verdict. The jury determined that death is the appropriate punishment for Hayes.

Petit called the decision “appropriate and just.”

“I thank the jury for doing their job,” he said, adding later “I think in a civilized society people need to be held responsible for their actions … especially when they’re viciously violent.”

Joshua Komisarjevsky is scheduled to stand trial next year.

Dr. Petit spoke outside the court moments after the verdict.

CNN

Zahra Baker – Prosthetic Leg Belonged To Zahra

11/02/2010 Comments off

Police announced the prosthetic leg recovered last week does, indeed belong to 10-year-old Zahra Baker.

The prosthetic device was found last Tuesday near a Caldwell County home where her stepmother once lived.  Police say a scanner was used to pull the serial number from a transponder inside the leg.  Zahra lost part of her leg due to a bout with cancer.

Zahra was reported missing October 9 and investigators believe she is dead.

A mattress found  at a Caldwell County landfill last week is being tested for DNA and investigators continue to search the family’s home for other evidence.

Elisa Baker, the girl’s stepmother, remains in custody on obstruction of justice charges. Police say she admitted writing a bogus ransom note the day Zahra was reported missing.  Meanwhile, Elisa Baker was indicted today on charges of obstruction of justice for writing a ransom note authorities believe was intended to throw the investigation of Zahra’s disappearance off.  The grand jury indicted her yesterday.  The indictment stated she “unlawfully, willfully and feloniously did with deceit and intent to defraud a police investigation, obstruct justice by constructing and placing a false ransom letter and reporting an abduction of her step-daughter, Zarah Baker.”

Adam Baker was arrested and charged with a host of crimes, the most serious: assault with a deadly weapon. He has since bonded out of jail and has been released.

Police continue to search for Zarha and have searched the yard and home where the family lived on several occasions.

CNN

WRAL

WBIR

Hickory Daily Record

Zahra Baker – Prosthetic Leg Found

10/28/2010 2 comments

Just days after Zahra’s father, Adam, was arrested on charges unrelated to her disappearance and her stepmother, Elisa, began cooperating with police, Hickory Police confirm a prosthetic leg has been found in a brushy area off a North Carolina road.

Announced late a, the prosthetic leg was found late Tuesday afternoon off Christie Road in Caldwell County and authorities are using its serial number to confirm it belonged to the young girl. Zahra got the leg in Australia, where both her birth parents are from.  The area is near where Elisa Baker used to live.

Zahra’s disappearance, reported on October 9, is being probed as a homicide. Chief Tom Adkins said that the prosthetic leg is “consistent with” that of Zahra, the 10-year old, freckle-faced youngster who lost her leg to bone cancer at age 5.  Later, Zahra survived a bout with lung cancer.

Police and FBI are currently back in the Baker home and have brought in construction machinery, including a backhoe. Investigators were seen using rakes to comb through the dug-up dirt and police dogs are searching the area. Additionally, police removed at least one bag of evidence from the house Wednesday morning.

CNN

Charlotte Observer

The Search For Zahra Baker Continues

10/15/2010 1 comment

She has touched the hearts of thousands around the world.  The pretty little girl with the Aussie accent belongs to all of us now.

Search teams, including police and firefighters, continue their extensive search for 10-year-old Zahra.

Several days were spent searching a five-acre plot  that included the local tree-trimming business where Zahra’s father worked.  A pond on the property was drained however, there was still no sign of Zahra.

100’s of leads that have come in on the department’s tip line since the department began looking for 10-year-old Zahra Baker.

Dogs trained to locate human remains were deployed across multiple locations in Catawba, Burke and Caldwell counties Thursday, but have not located the child.

Questions about whether more should have been done to protect Zahra amid warning signs of possible abuse still remain.   Family and friends said they saw Zahra with black eyes and bruises and that her parents kept her locked in her room.

This past spring, Zahra completed the fourth grade at Hudson Elementary, but did not show up for school this fall.

Allegedly, school staff saw signs of trouble, visited Zahra’s home, and reported concerns to the Department of Social Services.

“They utilized every resource…and any referral process that was available in the school for the well-being and welfare of Zahra,” said Caldwell County schools spokesperson Libby Brown.

The Caldwell County DSS officials have not responded to multiple requests for information.

Searchers have made multiple visits to the Hickory home where the Bakers’ moved in August or September. Police now report that Zahra was seen sometime in mid-September.

Search Warrant for Baker Home

On Wednesday, they also searched the Bakers’ previous address, a mobile home, in the Caldwell County town of Hudson.

Police are familiar with the Hudson residence as they were called there more than a dozen times for incidents including family disputes, two break-ins, and a report by Elisa Baker’s daughter that accused Baker of using her information to get utilities in her name without her permission.

A lawyer for Baker said Tuesday his client claims she had nothing to do with Zahra’s disappearance.

The stepmother, Elisa, appeared in court on obstruction charges, handcuffed and in a pink jumpsuit and answered simple “yes” and “no” to the judge’s questions regarding her admission that she penned the $1 million ransom note.

She is being held on $40,000 bond.  That is in addition to $31,500 bond set for her various unrelated charges!

“She is scared to death. It’s scary coming out here and seeing all the court reporters and courtroom of people who are so much against her right now,” said her attorney, Scott Reilly.

Her next scheduled court date is November 3.

Reilly said he would be filing a motion to get the bond reduced, calling it “excessive.” The maximum bond for such a charge is usually $10,000, he said.

Contrary to Burke County Sheriff John McDevitt’s assessment of Adam Baker, Hickory police say Zahra’s father has cooperated with investigators throughout the search for his daughter and is continuing to do so.

“He’s spending a lot of time with us. He’s continuing to submit to daily interviews and after those interviews, he is allowed to go home,” said Hickory police. “He has not asked for a lawyer and he has not made us aware that he has retained an attorney.”

As I was prepping this story Val, with loyal reader, george, posted some excellent work (a must read!) at The Hinky Meter: The short story is, Elisa Baker had apparently never been served with notice of almost ALL the charges she was arrested for on Sunday, UNTIL Sunday when authorities finally found her!

Unless he is blind, deaf and dumb, I do not believe for a moment that Adam Baker isn’t guilty, equally as much as Elisa!

Hickory Record

CNN

ABC

Herald Online

Zahra Baker Went Missing, But When?

10/12/2010 2 comments

In what is becoming an all too common occurrence, another little girl was reported missing on Saturday afternoon.  She is 10-year old Zahra Clare Baker.  What makes Zahra’s story unique is she is a cancer survivor, but the cancer claimed her lower left leg as well as impairing her hearing.

Elisa Baker claims Zahra was last seen sleeping in her bed at her home located in Hickory, NC at 2:30am.  Police were notified Zahra was missing at 2 pm Saturday, October 9, 2010.

Yup, that’s right, 12 hours later!  Now the story gets a little murky.  Adam, the dad says he last saw Zahra on Thursday because of his work schedule.  So, dad never peeks into Zahara’s room and both these losers assume the kid is just asleep and nobody checks on her?

Actually, we need to reverse gears here for a second.  Adam and Zahra are from Australia.  Zahra’s bio-mom, who resides in Australia has not had any contact with the little girl since she was 8-months old.

Adam and Elisa met on the internet and married about 2 years ago, then Adam and Zahra moved to the U.S.

Ok, back to Saturday.  Around 5 a.m. authorities responded to a mulch fire in the backyard.  Adam, for whatever twisted reason told authorities his vehicle had been doused with gasoline.  Why, with an active fire in your yard, would you suddenly stop to sniff your vehicle?  Wait, could it be because when police checked the vehicle the found…dun dun da…a ransom note addressed to Mr. Coffey – Adam’s boss who just happens to own the home at 21 21st Street?

Oh yeah, fire and all and still nobody checks on the ‘sleeping’ Zahra!

Ok, we have to reverse gears again!  Seems the Bakers have a tendency to move around.  They moved to the house in Hickory six weeks ago.

Ok, back to the ransom note - “Mr. Coffey, you like being in control now who is in control we have your daughter and your … son is next unless you do what is asked 1000000 ($1 million) unmarked will be in touch soon.”

“No cops” was also written on the note.

Cops checked on the Coffey family and they are all fine and said they are questioning the validity of the note.

Supposedly and I guess conveniently, the school district was informed that Zahra was being home schooled this year.  Police, FBI and U.S. Marshals are canvassing neighbors to find out when Zahra was last seen in order to establish some sort of timeline.

Several neighbors say they had never seen Zahra since the Bakers moved in about six weeks ago, and were surprised to learn a girl reportedly lived there.

“I never saw a sign of their daughter,” said next-door neighbor Charles Bost. He chatted regularly with Adam Baker over the fence separating their backyards, but he said Baker never mentioned having a daughter.

“I’ve been out in the backyard quite a bit, and I’ve never seen that little girl,” Bost said.

We now also know that cadaver dogs hit on decomposition in both family cars and it is possible some blood may have been found in one of the vehicles.

Police Chief Tom Adkins told reporters Monday afternoon. “The longer this thing goes, the likelihood [is] that this outcome will not be positive.”

New information is surfacing from relatives. Brittany Bently is married to Elisa’s nephew says, she believes Elisa played a role in Zahra’s disappearance.

Elisa had something to do with it. I just think this is something for a long time that we knew was going to happen.”

She claims “She was locked in her room, allowed five minutes to eat, that was it. She was beat almost every time I was over there for just — just the smallest things. Lisa would get mad and take it out on Zahra – things the kid didn’t deserve. She just had a horrible home life. One time I remember she had a black eye and she said it was from the door. But we all knew, suspected it was from Elisa.”

Elisa, who has not been cooperating with police was arrested Sunday on unrelated charges:

* Six counts of worthless checks in Catawba County

* Six counts of worthless checks in Caldwell County

* Failure to return rental property in Caldwell County

* Larceny by employee in Burke County

* Failure to appear on three counts of communicating threats in Caldwell County

* Failure to appear on charges of driving without a license and unsafe tires in Caldwell County

Seems the upstanding Adam faces many of the same types of charges, but because he has been cooperating, police have not yet filed the charges.

My gut feeling is Zahra went missing long before Saturday and I do not, in my heart-of-hearts, believe little Zahra is still alive, but I hope and pray I am so wrong!

Anyone with information about Zahra’s whereabouts is asked to call the Hickory Police Department at 828-328-5551 or call 911.

I just received the following heads-up:

Police announced on Tuesday morning that they will hold a media briefing at 11:30 am on Tuesday to talk more about the case. WBTV.com will have live video of this press conference.

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