CALDWELL COUNTY, N.C. — Next week marks 10 years since police in Hickory began investigating the death of Zahra Baker. The 10-year-old vanished from her home on Oct. 9, 2010, and her remains were found weeks later scattered across Caldwell County.
Our Dave Faherty spent six weeks reporting on Zahra’s death and is the only one to interview the woman who killed her.
A decade later, Faherty said he remembers getting the phone call from a deputy police chief on a Saturday afternoon that Zahra was missing and that he was very concerned there was more to the case.
In Caldwell County, Jake Icenhour said he visits the Zahra Baker memorial every day. It was there along Pine Mountain Road on his property where some of her remains were found.
“How can anyone do something like that? How can you chop somebody up and scatter them? What kind of person can do something like that?” he asked.
It would be weeks after Zahra was first reported missing from her home in Hickory that police began finding some of her remains. Channel 9 was there when her stepmother, Elisa Baker, led investigators to two locations in Caldwell County. She spoke with us from prison after being convicted of second-degree murder. She told us Zahra had been sick and died at the home.
“I didn’t see her chest moving up and down. Automatically I got scared, started doing CPR. Most people would have called 911 … That was my biggest mistake,” she said.
Police focused their initial investigation on Adam Baker, Zahra’s father. He had been in and out of the house for two weeks and hadn’t seen his own daughter and didn’t know she was dead. He spoke with us prior to her body being found.
When we asked Adam Baker what he thought happened to his daughter, he said he didn’t know. When we asked if he thought his wife was involved, he responded with the same answer.
But investigators said it was cell phone records that placed Elisa Baker near Zahra’s remains. Adam was 20 miles away in Conover where eyewitnesses described seeing him.
Elisa Baker is adamant that she did not kill her stepdaughter. During the jailhouse interview, she said Adam Baker was the one who got rid of the body. He has since returned to Australia after being cleared by police.
Icenhour keeps up Zahra’s memorial as a reminder to others about the little girl he never met and other cases of child abuse still out there.
“Maybe I’ll be blessed for doing it. The community needs to know what happened here. Everybody needs to know," he said.
Elisa Baker agreed to a second interview with Faherty three weeks ago but the morning of the interview she backed out and has now decided not to do it.
Cox Media Group