Sheriff steps up security for Baker hearing

With all signs pointing to the end of the Elisa Baker murder case being today, law enforcement officials are preparing for a crowd at the courthouse.

“This is a high-profile case, and we anticipate more people being there,” said Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid. “We will have extra security inside and outside the courtrooms and will have an extra metal detector set up as well.”

Elisa’s pre-trial change of venue hearing on Monday was postponed until Wednesday, and then today, after attorneys on both sides said they needed to discuss undisclosed “issues” in the case. Neither side has publicly discussed what the issues may be, though there have been reports and speculation that a plea agreement is being finalized.

The biological mother and grandmother of Zahra Baker, the 10-year-old disabled girl that Elisa is accused of murdering, are also expected to attend the hearing on Thursday – additional company that Reid said is another reason security is being increased.

“We’ve had additional security in the courtroom before, but none before for this high-profile of a case,” adding that media attention surrounding the case is larger than any during his law enforcement career.
Reid said more officers have been used in the past for court cases involving large families or temperamental issues.

The sheriff’s office is in charge of court and jail security, and it’s one of the office’s three main duties, according to a Catawba County Sheriff’s Office Organizational Chart. In addition to a court security lieutenant, sergeant and corporal, the sheriff’s office has five court security bailiffs and part-time court security and lobby security bailiffs, according to the chart.

There have not been formal threats toward Elisa while she’s been locked up, Reid said. However, anonymous online posters have issued threats on Internet threads and media sites since last year.

Elisa’s hearing is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. today.

“Right now, as long as there is seating room, people will be allowed to come in first come, first serve,” Reid said. But the press should take up half of the courtroom by themselves, and the final decision is up to the judge.”