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Area citizens will not decide Elisa Bakerâ€™s fate after a judge granted a change of venue request last week, a ruling that stirs mixed emotions for Catawba County residents.
â€¨Some people believe the accused child murderer would "get what she deservesâ€ť in Catawba County, but others say it is only fair to move the case to another county.
â€¨Newton resident Robby Brooks said he has followed Elisaâ€™s case from the beginning and said the trial should have remained here.
â€¨â€śThat woman ought to be hung up, tied and beat the dog out of her,â€ť Brooks said. â€śWhat happened to that little girl was uncalled for. I know she is guilty, and if I was on the jury, she wouldnâ€™t walk.â€ť
â€¨Elisa is charged with second-degree murder in the death of her 10-year-old step-daughter, Zahra. A cancer survivor, Zahra had lost a leg and lived with a hearing impairment. After Elisa and her husband, Adam Baker, reported Zahra missing in October, Elisa was arrested for obstruction of justice after she admitted to writing a fake ransom note.
After Zahraâ€™s dismembered body was found, Elisa was charged with second-degree murder, in addition to a host of misdemeanors.
â€¨The judge in Elisaâ€™s case granted a venue change to prevent potential jurors with pre-trial emotions like Brooks from getting involved.
Superior Court Judge Timothy Kincaid agreed with arguments from Elisaâ€™s attorney, Scott Reilly, on Monday that it would be hard to find 12 impartial jurors in Catawba County. He granted Reillyâ€™s venue change request, but the new trial locations have yet to be determined. Kincaid, Reilly, and the Catawba County District Attorneyâ€™s Office will meet again on Sept. 12 to discuss potential moves.
â€¨Now, with a change of venue in the near future, citizens like Brooks feel Elisa might get off the hook.
â€¨â€śShe needs to be put away for life in prison,â€ť Brooks said. â€śThe fake ransom note that she wrote â€“ it leads straight to her.â€ť
â€¨Other citizens, like Newton-resident Harry Williams, believe that moving the trial is the right decision.
â€¨â€śEverybody needs a fair trial,â€ť Williams said. â€śThey should take her to somewhere where no one knows about whatâ€™s going on. They might have heard something, but they wonâ€™t have the same information that everyone around here does.â€ť Â
â€¨Like Williams alludes to, publicity has been a major issue in the run-up to Elisaâ€™s trial. Reilly, who wants the trial moved â€śas far away as possible,â€ť said the overwhelming amount of prejudicial media has â€śpoisonedâ€ť the minds of Catawba County citizens â€“ potential jurors.
â€¨Williams agrees that Elisa would not get a fair trial here, and said he would like to see the case moved eastward. Williams is a retired state trooper and said he got his start in the 1924 courthouse.
â€¨â€śIt is more fair that way, and the trial will be more fair,â€ť Williams said.â€¨Many citizens polled by The O-N-E said Elisa could not receive a fair trial in Catawba County, but did not wish to comment on their personal opinion of her guilt.
â€¨Elisa is scheduled to appear in court next on Sept. 12 for arguments about where the case should move to in addition to her arraignment.