Bond increased for stepmother
A judge increased bond Wednesday for a woman police consider a person of interest in her stepdaughter's homicide investigation.
Judge Robert Mullinax Jr. increased Elisa Baker's bond for a felony obstruction of justice charge from $40,000 to $65,000, citing "particularly disturbing and unsettling allegations" against her.
Elisa Baker, 42, is the stepmother of Zahra Baker, the 10-year-old girl who was reported missing Oct. 9 from her Hickory home. Police are searching for Zahra in a homicide investigation, but they say they have hope she is alive.
Elisa Baker's obstructing justice charge stems from her admission Oct. 11 that she wrote a ransom note demanding $1 million, which was found on the Baker property the day Zahra was reported missing.
Elisa Baker's attorney, Scott Reilly, called for the bond hearing after her first appearance in court Oct. 13. Reilly argued that Baker's $40,000 bond was excessive.
Reilly waived Elisa Baker's right to appear in court, and Elisa Baker instead appeared at the hearing by video camera from Catawba County jail.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Eric Bellas, who asked Mullinax to raise Elisa Baker's bond to $100,000, presented evidence at the bond hearing to prove she is a flight risk and a threat to the community.
"The only time the defendant comes to court is when the sheriff's office brings her directly to jail," Bellas said.
Bellas cited 15 instances in Elisa Baker's past where her driver's license was suspended for failing to appear in court. Bellas also said Elisa Baker has unserved warrants from 2010, 2009, 2007 and 2003.
Elisa Baker's biological daughter, Amber Fairchild, testified at the hearing, saying she feared for her family's safety if her mother was released from jail.
"If she was to get out (of jail), I would have to leave the state," said Fairchild, who has three children of her own.
Fairchild said her mother had no less than five residences since moving back to North Carolina in 2008 after living briefly in Zahra and Adam Baker's native country Australia.
This includes residences in Hickory, Hudson and Granite Falls. Fairchild said Elisa Baker lived in Hickory with Elisa Baker's father. Elisa Baker and her father, however, had a falling out after Elisa Baker purchased items in her father's name.
Fairchild also testified her mother used the Internet to contact a man living in London, and during the course of one year, the man gave Elisa Baker $10,000.
Elisa Baker met her husband, Adam Baker, on the Internet.
Elisa Baker appeared stoic throughout the hearing, even after Mullinax increased her bond amount.
Wednesday's increase in bond for Elisa Baker brings her total bond amount to $97,200, an amount Elisa Baker can't pay, Reilly said.
He said Elisa Baker has no assets or income and is awaiting disability money for conditions of Lupus and seizures.
Reilly blamed the increase on media presence and publicity surrounding the case.
He said bond amounts should be based on severity of the charges and a defendant's prior criminal history, not on a case's notoriety.
"All we want is some consistency and fairness," he said.
Reilly said presentation of evidence doesn't normally happen during a bond hearing.
Mullinax mandated that if Elisa Baker makes bond, she is required to wear an electronic monitoring device, have a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and surrender her passport.