Before Elisa Baker’s sentencing on Thursday, Adam Baker had been primarily quiet.
He had talked openly to police and investigators, but to the public, his involvement in the murder of 10-year-old Zahra Baker was mysterious. On Thursday, however, he addressed the court, the public and Elisa herself for the first time openly.
“Elisa, I trusted you with the most precious person in my life,” Adam said. “You not only lied to me, you also lied to Zahra. Zahra loved you more than anything in the world. ... You filled her life with lies.”
He looked directly at Elisa while she sat stoic and unresponsive to his words – her eyes fixed straight ahead and her mouth closed.
“Zahra will never get to go to high school,” he continued. “She’ll never have a real boyfriend, never get married and never have children. You have destroyed my life and you made my life hell with false accusations.
You destroyed my family’s life and you devastated a community. There are no words to explain the hate I have for you or the hurt and pain I feel every day for the loss of Zahra.”
While Adam’s statement to Elisa was emotional and direct on Thursday, many citizens feel those words could also be for himself. Throughout the past 11 months, Adam has argued his innocence in the murder. Through allegations, claims and suspicions, Adam stuck to his story. And now, after Elisa’s sentencing and case are over, Hickory Police and state attorneys have presented evidence that may forever leave Zahra’s father unconnected to her murder.
On Thursday, Hickory Police Capt. Thurman Whisnant said it is the collective conclusion of law enforcement that Adam was not involved with the murder. However, Whisnant also said it was difficult for officers to believe that Adam did not know where Zahra was from Sept. 24, when Zahra reportedly died, until Oct. 9, when he reported her missing.
“It was hard for us to believe, and we did in excess of 80 hours of interviews with him for that reason,” Whisnant said. “His story never changed other than typical inconsistencies. With the totality of everything, there is no evidence to suggest he is involved.”
Though Elisa initially told prosecutors that Adam helped dismember and hide the body, police found inconsistencies with Elisa’s story and used interviews with Adam; Elisa’s daughter, Amber Fairchild; and cell phone records to determine that she was lying.
Whisnant said he and other investigators primarily used historical cell phone records to determine Adam’s innocence with the murder.
Investigators obtained records through T-mobile back to Sept. 18, 2010, and used “pings” from the most near-by cell phone towers to determine where Adam’s phone and Elisa’s phone were on the day Zahra reportedly died. Whisnant said while Elisa’s phone made three calls very close to where Zahra’s remains were found from 2:33 to 5 p.m. on Sept. 24, Adam’s phone was not in the area.
Cell phone records from Adam support Adam’s statement, but the records do not support what Elisa said happened on that day, Whisnant said.
Whisnant admitted that as the investigation went on, investigators “had a difficult time determining the practices of Adam Baker” from the time Zahra died on Sept. 24 to when she was reported missing on Oct. 9.
“The recurring theme through interviews was that Adam worked a lot, worked long hours. He was gone in the morning and came home late in the evenings.”
During the two-week period, Elisa also told Adam not to go into Zahra’s room because she was sleeping and didn’t need to be bothered, according to Whisnant’s testimony from interviews. Adam also told investigators that doctors informed him to not bother Zahra if she was sleeping, Whisnant said.
Adam told an SBI investigator that he was using a lot of marijuana at the time between Zahra’s death and her reported disappearance – another factor investigators thought would have contributed to him not knowing of her vanishing.
“He himself even made a comment to the effect of, ‘Since May, I have smoked marijuana more than I have spent quality time with my daughter,’” Whisnant said.
“(But) we did have a hard time with it in light of everything.” He still has charges Though Adam may never be charged in connection with Zahra’s murder, he does face other charges in Caldwell and Catawba counties.
In Caldwell County, Adam faces failure to return rental property, communicating threats, communicating threats/assault with a deadly weapon and five counts of simple worthless check charges, according to information provided by N.C. District 25 Senior Legal Assistant Eric Farr. Adam is scheduled to be in court on Nov. 3 for those charges.
In Catawba County, Adam faces identity theft and obtaining property by false pretense charges. Adam was supposed to be in court Sept. 6 for those charges, but his attorney, Mark Killian, filed said he plans to file a change of venue in the case. Killian said he will pursue a motion for change of venue due to a large amount of biased media coverage surrounding his client’s case.
“It would be very difficult for Adam to get a fair trial here,” Killian said.