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HICKORY â€” The mother of a 10-year-old Australian girl who authorities believe was killed in North Carolina says dealing with her daughter's death has been painful.
But Emily Dietrich wrote that she believes her daughter, Zahra Baker, is at peace.
"My search for Zahra was finally over," she wrote in a diary of the trip that she gave News 7 Australia, the TV network that accompanied her to Hickory. "I may not be able to ever hug her, or give her a kiss, but I can always tell her I love her and that I am proud of her."
The only person charged in connection with the disappearance, death and dismemberment of Zahra Baker might not face the death penalty or life in prison.
The O-N-E has learned that as part of an agreement with District Attorney Jay Gaither, Zahra's stepmother, Elisa Baker, won't face first-degree murder charges. Without a first-degree murder conviction, Baker would avoid the death penalty, as well as life in prison.
Many people choose to give charitably during the holidays, but residents should be wary about scams aimed to cheat generous donors.
"If there's a way to cheat someone out of money, someone will think of it," said Catawba County Chief Deputy Coy Reid.
Reid said receiving requests for donations through the phone should immediately send up a red flag.
"We get people about once a year who call people to say they're collecting money for the sheriff's office," Reid said, "but we don't do that. We're not allowed to."
Demand for North Carolina nonprofit services increased substantially since the economic recession, forcing organizations to rethink they way they provide crucial services for needy residents.
Nonprofits in the state reported a 62 percent increase in service need since the recession started several years ago, according to the North Carolina United Way. This increase in demand was coupled with a decrease in private and federal funding and support for the nonprofit agencies.
Fire destroyed the kitchen of a Sherrills Ford restaurant Friday.
Firefighters responded to Lineberger's Steakhouse located on N.C. 150 East, after an employee driving by the building reported a blaze.
Sherrills Ford-Terrell Fire and Rescue Capt. Richard Harris said no one was in the building at the time of the fire, and emergency workers forced entry into the restaurant to fight the blaze.
A routine traffic stop resulted in three arrests Thursday when a sheriff's deputy stopped a vehicle for running a stop sign.
A Catawba County sheriff's deputy was doing a property check in Newton about 3:30 a.m. Thursday, according to Catawba County Chief Deputy Coy Reid. The deputy saw a 1994 Honda Accord run a stop sign, and he noticed the vehicle's license plate was obscured.
Thousands of disadvantaged children and their families will have a merry Christmas this year, thanks to the generous giving of area volunteers.
The annual Catawba County Christmas Bureau expects to serve more than 3.400 children and their families this holiday season, providing them with food, clothes and gifts during a two-day distribution at the American Legion Fairgrounds in Hickory.
Zahra Baker's obituary said she was a determined, outgoing child.
That spirit was reflected Thursday at the child's public memorial service in Hickory.
The service included a picture slideshow of Zahra in happier times: playing miniature golf, sticking out her tongue, hugging her father, riding on a motorcycle and playing with a snake.
Dozens attended Thursday's memorial service at Drum Funeral Home in Hickory. The number paled in comparison to the hundreds of people who participated in a candlelight vigil held in downtown Hickory on Nov. 16, what would have been Zahra's 11th birthday.
Capital defenders appointed to represent Zahra Baker's father and stepmother were removed from their positions Wednesday.
The North Carolina Capital Defender's Office in Raleigh confirmed the removal Thursday, saying the provisional counsel appointments weren't meant to be long term.
Lisa Dubs and Mark Killian, two Hickory attorneys were appointed to represent Elisa and Adam Baker, respectively, on what the Capital Defender's Office called "imminent" murder charges in Zahra's death.
Sheriff David Huffman can still catch criminals -- it just might take him a little longer than it used to.
But that's OK, Huffman said Thursday, because a new sheriff will soon be in town.
Huffman, 65, retires Friday after 28 years as the county's top law enforcement official.
"There comes a time in a person's life when you know it's time to step down," he said. "And this is the time."