Just as the investigation into 10-year-old Zahra Clare Baker’s disappearance was nearing its second week, investigators returned to her Hickory, North Carolina, home for a more intensive search. According to the Charlotte Observer, the child’s father, Adam Baker, was present during the search, which included a team of cadaver dogs. Zahra Baker, who is a bone cancer survivor, was reported missing by her father last Saturday and cadaver dogs have since been alerted to the scent of human remains on the property.
Authorities noted that the set of dogs used Friday were different than the dogs used in the previous search. The search included the house and the surrounding yard.
Investigators were also seen removing a plastic bag, a mattress and box spring from the house.
Adam Baker told reporters that he is still actively searching for his missing daughter and believes she is still alive. The missing person case became a homicide investigation Tuesday when authorities, working on evidence gathered at the house and on the confession of Elisa Baker, Zahra’s stepmother, that she faked a ransom note found on the property before Zahra was reported missing, announced that they suspected the 10-year-old may have been a victim of something other than an abduction.
A search warrant where cadaver dogs were used had revealed scent of possible human remains in two of the Bakers’ vehicles. It was also reported that dogs found scent on a wood chipper and a mulch pile on another property used by Adam Baker’s employer to store machinery.
Authorities Friday did not disclose whether anything pertinent to the investigation was found.
Elisa Baker, who was arrested the day after the missing person report was filed on unrelated charges, was charged with obstruction of justice for writing a fake ransom note. The note, found on one of the Bakers’ vehicles during a response to an early morning yard fire, was addressed to Mark Coffey, Adam Baker’s boss, demanding a ransom and stating that the writer had kidnapped Coffey’s daughter. A subsequent check by Hickory Police found the family safe and unharmed. The note did not mention Zahra Baker.
Zahra Baker was reported missing about nine hours later.
Although authorities had issued an Amber Alert for the missing girl, it was discontinued when the investigation turned to that of a homicide. Along with gathered evidence, investigators had also discovered that Zahra Baker had lived a restricted life. Relatives and neighbors of the Bakers reported that the child was regularly beaten and locked in her room for house, released only for minutes to eat.
Complicating matters for investigators from the beginning was establishing a timeline for the missing girl. Until Friday, Hickory Police had been unable to find anyone outside the immediate family who had seen the 10-year-old, a bone cancer survivor with a prosthetic leg and hearing aids, for a month. Employees at a Hickory furniture store reported Friday that they saw Zahra Baker with her stepmother, Elisa, two weeks before she was reported missing.
The parents reported that Zahra had been in bed at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, about two-and-a-half hours before the yard fire.
Elisa Baker has been named a person of interest.
Adam Barker has yet to be charged.