Hickory (N.C.) Police have discovered that the last time 10-year-old Zahra Clare Baker was seen by someone outside her immediate family might have been two weeks before the little girl was reported missing. WBTV of Charlotte reported that furniture store employees informed authorities Friday that they remember seeing Zahra Baker in the Hickory business with her stepmother, Elisa, narrowing the gap in time that investigators have to work with in establishing where — and possibly when — the child went missing. Before Friday’s report, police had been unable to find anyone who had seen the missing 10-year-old for up to a month prior to the missing person report filed by her father, Adam, on Saturday, September 9.
Linda Austin said she noticed the child’s prosthetic leg. “And I thought that was a strange name, which it is it’s different, pretty but different,” she said.
Zahra Clare Baker is a bone cancer survivor. Besides having a leg prosthesis, she also is fitted for hearing aids.
The store has video surveillance cameras but they weren’t operational at the time Elisa and Zahra Baker reportedly visited the business.
Another employee, Pat Adams, said, “She was standing in the aisle way and as I walked past, I put my hand on her shoulder and said excuse me sweetheart and she looked at me and smiled.” Adams said she saw the same smile in the photos online.
The investigation into Zahra Baker’s disappearance entered its second week Saturday. Hickory Police were called to the Baker residence the previous Saturday when her parents said they discovered the child missing. Police had been there earlier in the day, responding to a yard fire. During that response, officers found a ransom note addressed to Adam Baker’s employer, demanding money and claiming to have abducted the man’s daughter. A subsequent check found the family intact and unharmed.
Adam Baker told authorities that his wife told him she had heard his daughter cough from her room at around 2:30 a.m. The fire occurred around 5:00 a.m. Zahra Baker was reported missing at around 2:00 in the afternoon after her parents checked on her and found her gone.
Although Hickory Police issued an Amber Alert, working on the supposition that the earlier discovered ransom note may have had something to do with her disappearance, they would later cancel the Alert and alter their investigation to focus on the case as a potential homicide.
Elisa Baker confessed to writing the ransom note on Monday. Search warrants of the residence revealed possible blood evidence in one of the vehicles parked in the Bakers’ yard. Subsequent searches with cadaver dogs reportedly resulted in hits (alerts to human remains) on two vehicles, apparently the same two that were damaged by the yard fire. Dogs also reportedly scented traces of human remains on property in nearby Burke County, where the company Adam Baker works for stores equipment. A neighbor said a sheriff’s deputy told him that the dogs had been alerted to a mulch pile and a wood chipper kept on the property.
Cadaver dogs were also taken into the Baker home Friday. Investigators have not revealed if anything was discovered.
Elisa Baker remains in police custody after being arrested on various charges unrelated to the Zahra Baker’s disappearance. She was charged Wednesday with obstruction of justice for penning the ransom note.
Adam Baker has not been charged. He was present at the Burke County and the home residence searches. Although he told ABC’s “Good Morning America” Monday that it was possible his wife had something to do with his daughter’s disappearance, he has remained silent since. Authorities noted that he was not particularly cooperative when they searched the Burke County property.
“Somebody knows something,” said Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins, “and we need them to come forward.”
Anyone with any information regarding missing Zahra Baker are urged to call Hickory Police Department 828-328-5551, 911, or *HP.
WBTV report via WAFB.com