The search for missing 10-year-old Zahra Clare Baker entered its third week Saturday with Hickory Police still keeping quiet council about the investigation. Although most developments in the Zahra Baker case have been kept close to the vest, the Hickory Daily Record discovered that authorities searched a Caldwell County landfill Thursday. Although their specific search parameters were unknown, mattresses were observed being unearthed, examined, and the cloth covers cut away from the main body, then taken away. How the mattresses fit into the search for the missing North Carolina girl remains unclear.
The Daily Record reported that a backhoe was brought in to help excavate and move sections of the landfill. Authorities would not confirm that the mattresses were the specific reason for the search and Hickory and Caldwell County officers guarded the gates at the Foothills Environmental Landfill, only letting in commercial vehicles. The media was not made privy to the information about a search and it at first appeared that investigators meant to keep the proceedings to themselves. Landowners of neighboring properties, it seemed, had been told not to let members of the media onto their property.
When asked, B. J. Fore of the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office said that those instructions were not entirely accurate.
He explained: “We asked the land owners to keep people off of the hills overlooking the landfill because the media is taking the focus off what we’re trying to do here. We couldn’t order them to refuse access, because it’s private property, but we asked them to cooperate.”
Fore told the Daily Record he would take reporters to the landfill himself if given the go-ahead by Hickory Police Maj. Clyde Deal, who was leading the investigation at the site. But Deal could not be reached for comment.
Members of the media were allowed into the landfill Friday.
Although it is unclear if the two developments are connected, a mattress and box springs were taken from the Baker residence in Hickory nearly a week after the girl was reported missing.
In other developments in the Zahra Baker investigation, stepmother Elisa Baker remains in jail after a judge raised her effective bond to $92,700 Wednesday, deeming her a flight risk. Although arrested for unrelated charges, including writing worthless checks and making threats, Elisa Baker confessed to writing a fake ransom note found at her residence earlier on the day that the 10-year-old was reported missing and was later charged with obstruction of justice.
Elisa Baker reportedly was visited this week in jail by noted defense attorney Lisa Dubs in addition to her lawyer Scott Reilly.
The note and other evidence gathered by search teams and alerted cadaver dogs (picking up the scent of possible human remains in two of the Baker vehicles) prompted Hickory authorities to announce October 12 that the missing person case had become a homicide investigation. Dogs have reportedly alerted to scent on two separate properties in the past two weeks. Elisa Baker was named a person of interest but has yet to be charged specifically in connection with her stepdaughter being missing.
Authorities also requested Zahra Baker’s medical records earlier in the week. It has not been disclosed why investigators issued the request. However, medical records are usually used in the identification of bodies or bones.
Adam Baker, Zahra’s father, has not been charged in the case. According to investigators, he has been cooperative throughout.