Another day of searching the wooded areas of Christie Road in southern Caldwell County turned up nothing new in terms of bone recovery for investigators seeking more evidence and clues into the disappearance of 10-year-old Zahra Baker.
It was four weeks ago today that the Hickory girl was reported missing by her father Adam and stepmother Elisa Baker from their home at 21 21st Ave NW in Hickory.
Since then, Hickory Police Department, with the assistance of various agencies – most notably the State Bureau of Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshal Service and Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office – has actively been trying to find any trace of Zahra.
Search teams have combed through the location of the Baker home in Hickory for evidence recovery and has done the same at various sites in Caldwell County, with Christie Road being the most active search location.
Friday’s search turned up nothing new off Christie Road, a location searched because Elisa Baker once lived in that area of Caldwell County. According to authorities and family members, the Bakers lived in numerous locations following their marriage in 2008 after an online meeting that brought Zahra and Adam to the United States.
“We have finished up on Christie Road,” Hickory Police Department Maj. Clyde Deal said, noting that the operation started winding down around 4 p.m. Friday. “Based on the information we had, we probably accomplished what we had hoped to accomplish (at the search site).”
The search along Christie Road covered several days last week and lasted three more days this week.
Deal said some items that possibly pertain to the case were found but no bones. A bone was located by investigators Wednesday at an undisclosed location. That bone, Deal said, was not chipped or a slivered fragment but a full bone. He would not comment on what type of bone it may be.
“I don’t know that we expected to find a lot more than we found,” Deal said.
Zahra’s prosthetic left leg was found in a brushy area off Christie Road last week. Investigators are trying to link the bone to the case – being treated as a homicide. Those items along with a mattress being tested for DNA are the primary pieces of evidence investigators have talked about so far. Test results from the Medical Examiner’s Office and State Crime Lab will help determine the direction the investigation could take, and Deal said authorities are hopeful to have those results late next week, though there’s no guarantee of that.
“We have some more leads that we’ll continue to pursue,” Deal said. “Based on those leads and some lab results we hope to get back, we’ll determine where to go next. We’ll head in the direction the evidence leads us.”
Elisa remains jailed at the Catawba County Detention Center following her indictment on an obstruction of justice charge for admitting to writing a phony ransom letter tied to Zahra’s disappearance. She also faces several other charges not related to the case and has a total bond of $97,200.
Adam was in jail three days last week on unrelated charges, but he posted bond Oct. 27 and has been free since.
Elisa allegedly has written several letters from her jail cell. The handwritten letters make allegations that Adam knows what happened to Zahra, that they “really didn’t kill her but what he did after the fact is kinda horrifying.” The letters go on to indicate that Zahra is not missing, that police know where she is and what Adam’s involvement is, without going into specific details.
Investigators with HPD are examining the letters for validity and relevance to the case.
Meanwhile, The Associated Press is reporting that Zahra’s biological mother in Australia believes her daughter is dead. Emily Dietrich told Australia’s Seven Network in her first interview since her daughter’s disappearance that she has little hope of seeing Zahra alive again.
Dietrich said in the interview that she suffered postnatal depression after Zahra’s birth and handed over custody to Adam. Later she decided she wanted to be in the girl’s life and spent years trying to track the pair. But every time she found Adam, she said he would disappear.
“I never got to say goodbye,” Dietrich said.
She discovered Adam was living in the United States via the Internet. Just three days later, she said, Zahra was reported missing.
“Why would it happen that I would find her and three days later this would happen?” she asked.