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Archive - Jan 4, 2011 - News Article

Man arraigned in Travis Baker murder

January 4, 2011

The man accused of murdering a Catawba County teen was arraigned Tuesday in court.

John Lee Mitchell, 48, is charged with murdering Travis Lee Baker, 19, who was reported missing in 2007.

Mitchell's attorney, Lisa Dubs, was present for the arraignment, which is the formal reading of a criminal complaint against a defendant. Mitchell is in Catawba County jail with no bond.

Investigators combed the county for signs of Baker or his red Camaro, and the teen's remains were located in June 2009 on a property in Catawba County.

Ex-treasurer's case continued

January 4, 2011

The Hickory woman accused of stealing money from an elementary school organization had her case continued in court.

Holly Lafone Specht, 30, is charged with stealing money from the Webb A. Murray Elementary School's Parent Teacher Organization when she served as the organization's treasurer during the 2008-09 school year.

Specht was scheduled to appear in Catawba County Superior Court on Tuesday, but her attorney, Mark Killian, appeared in her place.

Specht's attorney requested the case be continued, so he could obtain evidence relating to the investigation from third parties.

Inconsistencies emerge in Zahra case

January 4, 2011

New details emerged Tuesday in the Zahra Baker case, revealing inconsistencies in accounts provided by key players in the investigation.

According to recently unsealed search warrants, Zahra's stepmother, Elisa Baker, told police her stepdaughter died Sept. 24. Elisa Baker said Zahra's father, Adam Baker, then dismembered the child and scattered her remains the next day in various locations in Caldwell and Catawba counties, including Christie Road in Hudson and the Dudley Shoals Road/Burns Road areas.

Fire at mall closes store

January 4, 2011

An electrical malfunction led to a fire at Valley Hills Mall on Tuesday morning.
Hickory Fire Department responded to an activated fire alarm at 5:05 a.m. Tuesday at the mall, 1960 U.S. 70 SE. Even though no smoke was seen from the outside of the mall, firefighters were let into the building by a security guard. The guard confirmed he smelled smoke inside the mall.
After searching the mall, firefighters saw smoke and water coming from the Hot Topic store on the mall's lower level. Firefighters forced entry into the store and found smoke in Hot Topic's storage area.

29 more warrants released in Zahra's case

January 4, 2011

A judge released 29 more warrants Tuesday in the Zahra Baker murder investigation.
The warrants total 200 pages and include information from Hickory Police's search for the missing 10-year-old Australian native.
Check The O-N-E's Wednesday edition for details uncovered in the warrants.

Burke pleads guilty

January 4, 2011

A Newton man was sentenced to 12 years in prison Tuesday after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.

Jonathan Caleb Burke, 31, of Newton, was charged with reckless driving, felony hit and run and second-degree murder after he hit and killed Tammy Wallis, 29, of Newton. Wallis was killed as she walked to her mailbox in September 2008.

Burke was offered a plea agreement that consolidated his reckless driving and felony hit-and-run charges into the second-degree murder charge.

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