Elisa Baker speaks from prison about murder of 10-year-old Zahra

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HICKORY, N.C. - For the first time on Wednesday night, Eyewitness News is hearing from the only person convicted in the murder of 10-year-old Zahra Baker.

Elisa Baker spoke from the Raleigh, N.C. Correctional Institution for Women only to Eyewitness News.

"I plead guilty to something I did not even do and it wasn't even a murder," said Baker.

Baker is now serving a minimum 25-year prison sentence and she agreed to talk with Eyewitness News.

Dressed in her prison uniform and wearing handcuffs, Baker talked with Eyewitness News for more than an hour about her stepdaughter Zahra.

"Zahra was a blessing. She brought a lot into my life," said Baker.

Baker showed Eyewitness News the tattoo she said Zahra picked out for her and talked about the time the two shared together before Zahra died in September of 2010.

Baker said Zahra had been sick that day with a stomach bug. 

When she went to check on her in her bedroom, Baker said her stepdaughter wasn't breathing.

"I didn't see her chest moving up and down. Automatically I got scared … started doing CPR," said Baker,  who said her biggest mistake was not calling 911.

Elisa Baker said instead of calling 911 she called her husband, and Zahra's father, Adam Baker.

She said she remembers their conversation when he got home.

"We need to go ahead and call 911. He said Lisa sit down. Take you some medicine. Calm down. I'll take care of it," said Elisa Baker.

Elisa Baker said Adam Baker walked around the yard and after several hours told her he wanted to go to Walmart to get out of the house, leaving Zahra behind in her bedroom.

It wasn't until the next afternoon she said Adam Baker got utensils and trash bags from the kitchen and then went into the bathroom and turned on the water, drowning out the sound of what she says he was doing.

Police said it was Elisa Baker who dismembered Zahra, but from prison, she blamed her husband.

She told Eyewitness News he asked her to help get rid of Zahra's body, and she demanded answers.

"At this point you need to tell me what you did, because I'm scared and I don't know what to do. And he said you are going to take your medicine and everything is going to be fine. I've got a plan," said Elisa Baker about Adam Baker.

Elisa Baker said that plan called for placing Zahra's remains at different locations in Caldwell County.

As each day passed, she says she struggled with whether to go to police, believing the dismemberment may have something to do with Adam Baker's culture in Australia.

"I thought it was maybe a strange ritual that he done. For all I know the Aborigines… I don't know. I regret not telling sooner. I regret not calling 911. But people do make mistakes," said Baker.

Eyewitness News showed police and prosecutors the entire jailhouse interview with Elisa Baker.

They told Eyewitness News they are very familiar with Elisa Baker's account of what happened, but they said the evidence in this case makes them confident that Adam Baker wasn't involved in his daughter's death or the disposal of her body.

Some of that evidence focused on the couple's cell phones.

On Sept. 25, Elisa Baker's phone pinged in the areas of Caldwell County where parts of Zahra's body were later found. 

Police said at that same time, Adam Baker's phone pinged in Conover, more than 20-miles away, where coworkers and others have said he was at work.

"Not only the physical evidence we were able to obtain using the phones, but the evidence we obtained from several different witnesses, that goes to support the statement that Adam gave us and goes to disprove the statement that Elisa gave us," said Major Clyde Deal of the Hickory Police.

Investigators admit at first they focused more on Adam Baker then Elisa Baker.

When they interviewed him, they found out he had been in and out of the house for more than two weeks and hadn't seen his own daughter and didn't know she was dead.

On October 15, 2010, just six days after Zahra was reported missing Adam Baker spoke with Eyewitness News for the first time.

At the time, reporter Dave Faherty asked Adam Baker what he thought happened to Zahra and Baker said he did not know.

Baker also said he did not know if his wife had had any involvement in the case.

Elisa Baker now says Adam Baker did know what happened to Zahra, but it was her decision to cooperate with police … leading them to Zahra's remains -- a decision to this day she said she does not regret.

"No, because I wanted her found and put like she was supposed to be," said Elisa Baker.

Eyewitness News asked Elisa Baker if she murdered Zahra and said she, "No, No. And they had no evidence of it ever being murder."

Several months after Elisa Baker's conviction, a hunter found a skull in the northern part of Caldwell County.

The medical examiner determined that skull to be Zahra's, but said there were no signs of trauma.

Elisa Baker hopes to use that evidence when she appeals her conviction.

Adam Baker was never charged in connection with Zahra's death, but he was in the country illegally and was deported back to Australia more than a year ago.

Adam Baker took Zahra's remains with him.