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Community mourns Zahra's death

November 16, 2010

Raindrops fell Monday on Zahra Baker's former residence in Hickory, but a newly added plastic tarp kept the ever-expanding memorial for the 11-year-old dry. Balloons, stuffed animals, angel ornaments and hand-written letters encircle a tree in the front yard of Zahra's former home, located at 21 21st Ave. NW. The plastic tarp that covers the memorial is held down with pieces of wood to ensure nothing is damaged by the rain scheduled to arrive in the coming days.
"Here's a child that's never had a good life, from what I've been reading," said Joe Few, of Northlakes, who stopped by the memorial Monday to say a prayer for Zahra. "Someone would have taken that child in."
Few is originally from Buffalo, N.Y., and he snapped pictures of the memorial to show friends and family.
While the front yard of the former Baker residence is a memorial for Zahra, the home's front porch turned into a public forum for justice. Signs tied to the porch railing demand retribution in Zahra's murder. One sign says, "We pray you get what's coming to you," while another sign reads, "(Department of Social Services of) Caldwell and Catawba both failed Zahra."
The signs also point fingers at Zahra's father and stepmother, Adam and Elisa Baker.
"When you hide a child away from the public, something's wrong," one sign says.
Elisa Baker remains in Catawba County jail under a $97,200 bond. She is charged with felony obstruction of justice and several other charges unrelated to Zahra's disappearance.
Adam Baker was also arrested during the search for Zahra on several worthless checks charges, as well as three counts of failure to appear. Adam Baker was released from jail on a $7,000 bond several days after his arrest.
No charges have been filed in Zahra's murder.
"We are meeting with the District Attorney's Office on a regular basis," said HPD Maj. Clyde Deal on Monday. "Nothing has been turned in (to the District Attorney's Office) yet, because this is an ongoing investigation."
Angela Vaden, of Hickory, drives by the former Baker residence daily on her way to work and watches the memorial grow.
Vaden has four children and four grandchildren, and she called Zahra's situation "horrifying."
"Whatever they did to that little girl, they need to have done to them," she said. "It's the most horrifying experience I've ever seen."
Ruby Carbajal was one of many people who stopped by the Baker house Tuesday to pay respect to Zahra.
"It's because of the tragedy," said Carbajal, of Hickory. "She went through so much, and she came in and beat cancer twice. She lived a horrible life."
Carbajal is the mother of two children, and she is horrified thinking about what happened to Zahra.
"I never thought this could happen here," she said. "It definitely hits home."
For Helen Triplett, of Granite Falls, the investigation also hit close to home. Triplett lives on Dudley Shoals Road in Caldwell County, which is near the area investigators combed for clues during the search for Zahra.
"For everything I've heard, (Zahra) was such a wonderful person," Triplett said. "I've kept up with it in the newspaper, and it just breaks my heart."
Majority of the people who visited Zahra's former home Monday never knew the young cancer survivor, but Virgie Punch, of Hickory, has something in common with Zahra.
The two share a birthday on Nov. 16, and Punch will never celebrate another birthday without thinking of Zahra.
"I'll always remember her birthday on my birthday," she said.

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