Instead of reducing Elisa Baker’s bond Wednesday, Catawba County District Judge Robert Mullinax Jr. increased it, citing Baker’s extensive list of warrants and propensity for not showing up for court dates. Elisa, who was arrested on Oct. 10 for several outstanding warrants and is a person of interest in the homicide investigation of her missing 10-year-old stepdaughter Zahra Clare Baker, appeared via video from jail. She watched noncommittally, according to the Hickory Daily Record, as her own daughter took the stand for the prosecution, revealing that Baker might be a flight risk if released from jail.
“She said she wished she could leave the state,” Amber Fairchild, Baker’s 25-year-old daughter told the judge.
Fairchild testified that her mother had been in contact with a man in London up until the week before Zahra Baker was reported missing. The man had allegedly given Baker $10,000. She also testified Elisa spoke about leaving North Carolina on Oct. 10, the day of her arrest.
Fairchild also answered prosecutor Eric Bellas about her mother’s nomadic lifestyle. Fairchild revealed that Elisa Baker had lived in five places in the last 22 months. Elisa met Zahra’s father, Adam, online and traveled to Australia, where she lived with him for a year-and-a-half before returning to the United States in 2008.
Baker’s attorney, Scott Reilly, was hoping to get a bond reduction to state standards, which range from $1 to $10,000. Reilly argued that his client was a lifelong resident of Catawba and nearby Caldwell counties, and was not a flight risk.
Bellas countered, “The only time the defendant does come to court is when the sheriff brings her to court.”
Elisa Baker’s outstanding warrants appeared extensive. Bellas told the court he didn’t even know if he had all of Baker’s prior offenses. He said her avoidance of court dates went back as far as 2005. He also noted that she had unserved warrants from 2010, 2009, 2007 and 2003.
Instead of a reduction, Judge Mullinax raised the bond on the obstruction of justice charge from $20,000 to $65,000. Elisa’s total bond now stands at $97,200. He also placed extra restrictions on Baker should she be able find the means to make bail. She would be subject to curfew and be required to wear an electronic monitoring device.
Reilly said later that he doubted Elisa Baker would be able to come up with sufficient funds. He also said that the amount of the bond was unheard of for the charges Baker was currently accused of ,and said he just wanted fairness for his client.
But Elisa’s problems do not simply involve writing worthless checks and threatening people, nor are they contained to not appearing in court for what seems to be up to a couple dozen outstanding warrants. Her most pressing problem is that the obstruction of justice charge stems from a ransom note she confessed to writing that has led Hickory Police to label her as a person of interest in the missing person-turned-homicide investigation involving her stepdaughter, Zahra Baker.
The reduction hearing also revealed that the ransom note was found on a windshield of the Bakers’ Chevy Tahoe, which was parked in the Bakers’ yard. Hickory Police, responding to a yard fire at 5:00 a.m. on Oct. 9, discovered the note. The note was addressed to Adam Baker’s employer, Mark Coffey, demanding a million dollars ransom money for his daughter. Although police were able to determine that Coffey’s daughter and family were unharmed, they were called back to the Baker residence less than 10 hours later when Adam reported his 10-year-old daughter missing.
Adam Baker told police his wife had told him she heard Zahra cough around 2:30 a.m..
Elisa Baker was arrested the following day for outstanding warrants. She confessed to writing the ransom note the next day. Three days after she was reported missing, Hickory Police announced that the missing person case had become a homicide investigation.
Zahra has yet to be found, although there have been extensive searches over a three-county area. Police have been working on the assumption that the 10-year-old, a reportedly cheerful bone cancer survivor with a prosthetic leg and hearing aids, is no longer alive. Cadaver dogs have alerted to several locations, including two of the Baker vehicles and a wood chipper and mulch pile on another property, suggesting that the child may have met with an untimely end.
Although Elisa was arrested and later charged with obstruction of justice, Adam Baker has yet to be charged or named as a person of interest. Hickory authorities have noted that he has been cooperative throughout the investigation and search for his daughter. Elisa Baker, beside the ransom note confession, has not.
Adam told “Good Morning America” the day after his wife, whom he met online in 2005, was arrested that it was possible his wife may have had something to do with the disappearance of his daughter.