The only person charged in connection with the disappearance, death and dismemberment of Zahra Baker might not face the death penalty or life in prison.
The O-N-E has learned that as part of an agreement with District Attorney Jay Gaither, Zahra's stepmother, Elisa Baker, won't face first-degree murder charges. Without a first-degree murder conviction, Baker would avoid the death penalty, as well as life in prison.
The agreement comes after Baker cooperated with police investigators searching for the missing 10-year-old. According to a bond reduction motion filed by Baker's defense attorney, Lisa Dubs, the jailed stepmother led police to Caldwell County sites where they found remains that DNA testing confirmed to be Zahra's. Baker also provided information that led investigators to other evidence secured during their homicide investigation.
Baker is currently jailed on obstruction of justice charges after admitting she wrote a fake ransom note following Zahra's disappearance Oct. 9.
Earlier this week, search warrants used in the police investigation were made public. These documents revealed gruesome details about Zahra's death and the manner in which her body was discarded. According to warrants, police found blood and other human evidence in the plumbing below a bathtub inside a Hickory home. Other documents revealed that a comforter and car cover were used to transport parts of Zahra's body away from that home, and Baker directed police to where those items could be found.
In exchange for that cooperation, as well as continuing cooperation in the investigation, the district attorney's office agreed not to pursue first-degree murder charges, according to published media reports.