Search for Zahra continues
Area law enforcement drained a pond late Wednesday on property in Burke County where they've been searching for missing 10-year-old Zahra Baker.
The land is owned by a family who runs tree trimming company where Zahra's father, Adam, works. It is an area where mulch, wood chips and heavy equipment are all stored. Hickory Police Deputy Chief Clyde Deal said there was nothing specific they were looking for.
"We always want to err on the side of doing more than you need to than not doing as much as you should have done," he said.
Investigation around the pond continued until about midnight, and police did not report the discovery of any new evidence.
Earlier Wednesday afternoon, seven officers and a police dog searched for Zahra on a wooded Burke County lot among piles of mulch and a wood chipper. The property has equipment belonging to the tree services company that employs her father, Adam Baker. He has not been charged, but police have said he hasn't been ruled out as a suspect.
An officer who asked for anonymity because he's not authorized to discuss the case confirmed the site was among several where officers are searching for the girl. The officer said a different dog got a "hit" at the scene a day earlier, but nothing was found then.
Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins has said police can't find anyone outside Zahra's household who has seen her alive in the last month. The uncertain timeframe has made it difficult for investigators to narrow down places to search for her.
Adam Baker has said it was possible his wife could be involved in the disappearance, and other relatives echoed those remarks. Her stepmother, Elisa Baker, is jailed, accused of trying to throw off investigators with a fake ransom note. She also faces charged unrelated to the case.
She showed little emotion as she faced a judge over an obstruction charge that could bring her up to 30 months in prison if convicted. Her court-appointed attorney, Scott Reilly, said she was "scared to death" and very emotional about everything.
"She's upset about being held in jail. She's upset about being away from her family," he said.
That portrait of the concerned stepmother contradicts how relatives and former neighbors described Baker. They said in interviews and court documents that she was nasty-tempered and violent and often took her rage out on Zahra.
"She was always beating her," former neighbor Karen Yount said Tuesday. "I told her to stop but she wouldn't listen to anyone. That poor girl."
Caldwell County Court records show that Yount and the woman's relative Brittany Bentley each filed a complaint in May accusing Elisa Baker of making violent threats against them on separate occasions.
Other neighbors say they feared for the girl's safety. One said he spoke to an investigator from the Department of Social Services who visited the Bakers' house a few months ago to investigate claims Zahra was being beaten.
Adam Baker was from Australia, and met his current wife over the Internet, a family friend said. Zahra's mother lives outside the U.S. Elisa Baker has two daughters and a son from a previous marriage.
That son, Douglas Proctor, said some family members attended the vigil and that he was acting as a spokesman for the family. He asked to be left alone.
"We just want our privacy observed and respected," he said.