Investigators looking for 10-year-old Zahra Baker’s remains — Hickory Police have long believed the child to be dead — are in the process of draining a pond near where the missing child’s prosthetic leg was found last week, WBTV in Charlotte reported Thursday. Search teams and recovery crews returned to the area located in Caldwell County to continue scouring the area for possible evidence and to complete the draining of the pond. Police announced Wednesday that potential evidence in the Zahra Baker case had been found in the past week’s search efforts.
A bone thought to be human was discovered Wednesday and sent to the state Medical Examiner’s Office in Chapel Hill for further study. If the bone can be determined to relate to Zahra’s case, it will be turned over to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation for further lab testing.
The bone was not found in the pond. Investigators are uncertain what they might find in the body of water, but noted that they wanted to be thorough.
Appearing on HLN’s “Nancy Grace,” which has covered the Zahra Baker case from its beginning, Captain Robert Timlin of the Clayton County (GA) Police’s Underwater Search and Recovery Team explained what investigators were attempting to do in Caldwell County:
“What they`ve decided, Nancy, probably would be the best thing to do at this time is to drain this lake down. Obviously bring it into view from top-side. Committing a diver into that certainly is an option, and could evidence be located, certainly, but to be able to drain it to where they can have — work from the topside is more reasonable now that they have the ability to do that.”
Timlin added that the search, once the pond is drained of water, will slow down. He told Grace, “It will be done in a pattern, a grid pattern but it will be slow and methodical because you don`t want to risk wading out into there or destroying any evidence or pushing it further down into the soil.”
The area where the pond is located and where the bone was discovered is off of Christie Road in Caldwell County, a short distance away from a residence once inhabited by Elisa Baker, Zahra’s stepmother. It is a local illegal trash dumping site where investigators discovered Zahra Baker’s prosthetic leg last Tuesday.
Elisa Baker was indicted on a felony obstruction of justice charge Monday, the same day authorities confirmed that the prosthetic was indeed Zahra’s. The child had been outfitted with the prosthetic after losing her leg to bone cancer at the age of 5.
Elisa Baker’s obstruction of justice charge came as a result of writing a ransom note that led to police issuing an Amber Alert and launching a missing person investigation. She confessed to writing the fake note two days after her husband, Adam Baker, reported his daughter missing. Hickory Police canceled the Amber Alert and focused on the case as a homicide afterward.
Authorities began searching the Caldwell County area after being tipped that they might find something there. Elisa was taken from her Catawba County jail cell, where she has been held since Oct. 10, and taken to several search sites on Monday, Oct. 25. Observers noted that she never left the police vehicle in which she was transported. One of those search areas included where the prosthetic leg was found the following day. Hickory Police later acknowledged that, for the first time since confessing to writing the ransom note, Elisa Baker was cooperating with the investigation.
In another odd twist to the case, two letters purported to be written by Elisa during her stay in jail reportedly surfaced on a serial killer memorabilia website this week. In the alleged letters, the angry writer says they — she and husband Adam — “didn’t really kill” Zahra but what Adam Baker did afterward was “horrifying” and made her fear him. The writer shows frustration at her incarceration and blames her being jailed on both the police, who “know where she is,” and her husband, who “knows what happened to Zahra.” The writer also blames her husband for writing the ransom note that landed her in jail.
Hickory Police could not confirm the authenticity of the letters but are attempting to ascertain if they were actually written by Elisa Baker.
Details in the case remain sparse as Hickory and other involved law enforcement and recovery agencies remain tight-lipped. How much evidence has been gathered and how much of that is usable in constructing a case against a potential suspect is unknown at present.
Elisa Baker remains a person of interest.
An arrest regarding the disappearance of Zahra Baker has yet to be made.
“Bone found during Zahra search being taken to NC medical examiner,” WBTV.com
“Nancy Grace” transcript for Nov. 3, 2010, CNN.com