• Timeline of events in Zahra Baker's disappearance


    HICKORY, N.C. - The following is a timeline of events in the case of Zahra Baker, a 10-year-old Hickory girl who was reported missing in October 2010. Her remains were later discovered and her stepmother was charged in her death.

    Oct. 9, 2010, approximately 2:30 a.m.: Zahra is reportedly last seen sleeping in her bedroom at her Hickory home.

    Oct. 9, 2010, approximately 2 p.m.: Zahra is reported missing by her father and stepmother.

    Morning of Oct. 10, 2010: Zahra's stepmother is arrested on several charges unrelated to the case. The charges include writing bad checks and failing to return property.

    Afternoon of Oct. 10, 2010: Police gather surveillance video from businesses near the home to put together a better timeline of events leading to Zahra’s disappearance. Dozens of police officers go door to door, handing out Zahra’s pictures.

    Investigators also follow up on a call to the Hickory Fire Department from the Bakers’ home, where a small fire started on the front lawn.

    Morning of Oct. 11, 2010: Zahra's father appears on “Good Morning America” to plead with anyone with information about Zahra’s disappearance to come forward.

    Afternoon of Oct. 11, 2010: Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins holds a brief press conference to update the public on the 10-year-old's disappearance.

    A search warrant is released that reveals more details about the case. According to the warrant, investigators who responded to the brush fire outside the Bakers’ home found a ransom note inside of a Chevrolet Tahoe that was parked outside.

    Afternoon of Oct. 12, 2010: Hickory police obtain a warrant for Zahra's stepmother after they said she admitted to writing and leaving the ransom note. Elisa is charged with felony obstruction of justice.

    Evening of Oct. 12, 2010: Police search a wooded area late into the night. The area is dozens of miles from where Zahra was reportedly last seen, down a dead-end dirt road off of Hartland Road, north of Morganton. They search around a wood chipper and in mulch piles.

    Morning of Oct. 13, 2010: Zahra's stepmother appears in court.

    Evening of Oct. 13, 2010: Investigators drain a pond and use a dog to sniff through piles of mulch and tree-trimming equipment.

    About 150 people gather at a candlelight vigil at East Hickory Baptist Church.

    Oct. 14, 2010: Police launch a massive search at a remote property north of Morganton, but it comes up empty.

    Oct. 15, 2010: Zahra's father is with investigators at the home where Zahra reportedly went missing. K-9s were also seen at the home, searching in wood piles behind it. A plastic bag, a mattress and a box spring are taken out of the home by investigators.

    Oct. 16, 2010: Investigators narrow the timeline of when Zahra was last seen by someone other than a family member to Sept. 25. Police continue to ask the public to contact them with any information that could assist in the case.

    Oct. 17, 2010: K-9 teams continue to search areas identified by tips and interviews.

    Oct. 19, 2010: The 911 call made by Zahra’s father is released. 

    Morning of Oct. 20, 2010: Zahra’s stepmother appears in court for a bond hearing. A judge increases her bond from $40,000 to $65,000, citing “disturbing and unsettling” allegations surrounding the charge.

    Afternoon of Oct. 20, 2010: A team of investigators begins searching a landfill in Lenoir in connection with Zahra’s disappearance. In a news conference, Chief Adkins would say only that searchers are looking for a “piece of evidence.” 

    Oct. 22, 2010: Police end the landfill search and announce that they were searching for a mattress belonging to Zahra. Searchers tested several mattresses found in the landfill, but did not find Zahra's, police said.

    Oct. 25, 2010: Zahra's father is arrested on charges unrelated to her disappearance. Zahra's stepmother is taken out of jail and leads investigators to three locations in the search for the missing girl.

    Oct. 26, 2010: A mattress matching the description of the one police have been searching for is found. An employee at the Lenoir landfill found it while re-grading the area investigators searched. The mattress is being tested for DNA evidence.

    Oct. 27, 2010: Police announce that a prosthetic leg was found the day before in a rural area off Christie Road in Caldwell County. 

    Nov. 1, 2010: Police confirm the prosthetic leg found on Oct. 26 is Zahra's. They matched its serial number to the number on medical records that detectives collected from Zahra's native Australia.

    Nov. 3, 2010: Investigators find a bone in Caldwell County that they said may be related to the case. The bone was sent to the medical examiner's office in Chapel Hill for further examination.

    Nov. 8, 2010: District attorney asks the state attorney general to speed up testing on evidence in the case.

    Nov. 9, 2010: Six Crime Stoppers organizations offer up to $1,000 each for information about Zahra's disappearance.

    Nov. 10, 2010: Searchers find human remains in the Dudley Shoals area of Caldwell County.

    Nov. 11, 2010: Zahra Baker's biological mother, who lives in Australia, travels to Hickory and visits the memorial outside of the Bakers' Hickory home.

    Nov. 12, 2010: Chief Adkins announces that investigators have recovered enough physical evidence to believe they've found Zahra. DNA evidence from the bone found on Nov. 3 matches a DNA sample taken from Zahra's home, and the remains found on Nov. 10 are consistent with those of a child, he said. 

    Nov. 29, 2010: Warrants in the investigation are released that say Zahra was sexually abused and dismembered.

    Jan. 18, 2011: Elisa Baker is indicted on bigamy charges. An Associated Press report shows Baker had at least seven husbands.

    Feb. 21, 2011: A grand jury indicts Elisa Baker for second-degree murder. A report from the medical examiner's office is released and lists Zahra's cause of death as "undetermined homicidal violence."

    July 12, 2011: Elisa Baker's attorney files a change of venue motion, saying his client can't get a fair trial in the Catawba County area.

    Sept. 15, 2011: Elisa Baker sentenced to 18 years after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.

    Nov. 17, 2011: Ground was broken for a playground dedicated to Zahra Baker on Nov. 16, which would have been the girl's 12th birthday.

    Dec. 1, 2011: A law inspired by Zahra Baker's case went into effect in North Carolina.

    Dec. 7, 2011: It is announced that Zahra Baker's remains were released to a funeral home sometime in November.

    Jan. 5, 2012: Elisa Baker pleads guilty to conspiring to distribute and possess drugs.

    April, 2012: A skull was found off Winkler Way near Highway 268, Hickory police said.  The skull was sent away for DNA testing.

    May 19, 2012: The Zahra Baker Memorial Playground is official opened and dedicated to the memory of Zahra.

    Feb. 21, 2013: DNA testing confirms the skull found off Winkler Way near Highway 268 identified as that of Zahra Baker, Hickory police said. 

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