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Canine smells human remains

October 10, 2010

Zahra Clare Baker

A search and rescue dog gave a positive alert Sunday for the presence of human remains in vehicles located near the home of a missing 10-year-old Hickory girl.
According to a search warrant, an organization specializing in recovery of persons and bodies arrived about 12:45 p.m. Sunday at Zahra Clare Baker's house, located at 21 21st Ave. NW in Hickory, and searched two vehicles located on the property.
The warrant says the canine gave the positive alert for human remains on or in both vehicles, a 1996 Chevrolet Tahoe and a 1990 Toyota Camry. The Camry is registered to Brian Keith Cull, of Granite Falls, according to Gov-Records.com.
A ransom note is also listed among the things taken from the vehicles during the seizure.
The hand-written note, written on the back of a Duke Power bill envelope, claimed a girl was kidnapped and demanded $1 million. The words "no cops" were also written on the note, which was attached to the windshield of the Tahoe, according to the search warrant.
Other items seized during the search include three swabs of possible blood, assorted drug paraphernalia, two toothbrushes, three passports, two gas cans and two lighters.
Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins said Monday time is running out in the search for Baker.
"The timeline is so broad right now. We can't put her in the house at any timeframe," Adkins said Monday during a press conference at Hickory Police Department.
He appealed to the public for any information about Baker's whereabouts.
"We need teachers. We need doctors. We need store clerks," Adkins said. "Anyone who has seen this girl in the past month."
Police said new information in the case makes it "less likely" a stranger abducted Baker.
"Although nothing has been ruled out at this point, there have been details that have surfaced in the past 12 hours indicating that a stranger abduction is less likely than once anticipated," Hickory Police said Monday in a press release.
Hickory Police Department, however, isn't ruling anything out when it comes to locating Baker, who was reported missing Saturday from her home at 21 21st Ave. NW in Hickory.
Baker is hearing-impaired and requires hearing aids in both ears. Her hearing aids are not with her, Adkins said, making it "very unlikely" Baker ran away.
Baker also has a prosthetic left leg resulting from a battle with bone cancer, and police have not found her prosthesis.
HPD, in collaboration with other state and federal agencies, is trying to get a better idea of what Baker's life was like before she was reported missing.
Adkins said Monday that Baker's family lived at several different locations recently, and investigators will interview the family's neighbors to see what they knew about the Bakers.
It is unknown how long the Baker family lived at their current address.
Investigators will also interview Baker's former teachers in Caldwell County. She was home-schooled at the time of her disappearance.
Baker's stepmother, Elisa Baker, reported Baker missing Saturday afternoon. Elisa Baker said she last saw Baker on Saturday at 2:30 a.m. asleep. Adkins said he didn't know when Baker was last seen by someone other than her stepmother and father, Adam Baker.
An Amber Alert for Baker was issued immediately after she was reported missing and will remain in effect until she is located, police said.
Police arrested Elisa Baker on Sunday at 10:45 a.m. on outstanding charges unrelated to Baker's disappearance, according to police. Charges against Elisa Baker include driving while license revoked, larceny by employee, six simple worthless check charges, four communicating threats charges and a driving with unsafe tires charge.
Police said inconsistencies developed during interrogation of Elisa Baker, leading police to believe she was not being truthful. They have not ruled out Elisa Baker or Adam Baker as people of interest in the case.
Adam Baker and Adkins appeared Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America" to speak about the ongoing investigation.
Adam Baker said on the TV show that it's possible Elisa Baker is involved in his daughter's disappearance.
"I wouldn't like to think (Elisa Baker is involved)," he said. "It's kind of what I've heard so far. It could be possible."
Elisa Baker is in Catawba County jail under a $31,500 bond.
Police said Monday that there are outstanding charges for Adam Baker, but they are not making an arrest at this time because he is cooperating with police.
Investigators gathered video surveillance footage on Sunday from businesses near Baker's home to establish a timeline leading to her disappearance.
Hickory Fire Department responded during the weekend to a call for service to the Baker house, but investigators aren't saying if the service call is related to Baker's disappearance.
According to the search warrant, a pile of mulch was on fire about 5:30 a.m. Saturday behind Zahra Baker's residence.
Baker is 5-feet 1-inch tall and weighs about 85 pounds. She has short, reddish-blond hair.
The State Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Marshals Service are assisting HPD with the investigation.
"We are using every available resource we have at our disposal to find Zahra," Adkins said. "We are not giving up hope that Zahra will return home safe and sound."
Anyone with information regarding Baker's disappearance is asked to call 9-1-1 or Hickory Police Department at (828) 328-5551.

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