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Zahra's accused killer arraigned - or was she?

February 23, 2011

First the woman accused of murdering 10-year-old Zahra Baker was arraigned, and then she wasn't.

At 1:47 p.m. on Wednesday, District Attorney Jay Gaither's office widely distributed a press release reporting that Elisa Baker appeared before Superior Court Judge Robert C. Ervin during a court proceeding on Tuesday. According to that release she was "arraigned" and received Scott Reilly as court-appointed counsel.

In an arraignment hearing, a defendant typically enters a plea to the charges they are facing.

After Gaither announced Baker's indictment Monday, she was initially scheduled to be arraigned on Friday, but at first, the press release from Gaither's office notified the media that the arraignment was moved to Tuesday.

Now the story from Gaither's office has changed.

Shortly after The Observer News Enterprise, The Associated Press, Hickory Daily Record and Charlotte Observer reported that the arraignment occurred without any sort of notice or change to public court calendars, Gaither contradicted his office's original press release.

"Elisa was assigned an attorney, and that has to happen before the case can move forward," Gaither told the AP, explaining the "arraignment" was a misunderstanding.

Now the arraignment has been set for April 4.

On Tuesday, Baker was assigned Reilly, who has been representing her on other charges prior to the indictment this week. The other charges she faces ranges from bad checks to bigamy, and are mostly unrelated to Zahra. She is being held on a total bond amount of $307.700.

On Tuesday afternoon, The O-N-E first discovered that Baker's arraignment date was changed. According details published by the Catawba County Sheriff's Department website, Baker's next court date changed from Friday to April 4. The O-N-E attempted to contact Gaither's administrative assistant Eric Farr to obtain an explanation for the change.

Calls made by The O-N-E on Tuesday were not returned.

On Wednesday, Farr issued the press release reporting the arraignment.

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