Adam Baker can't leave US

Police aren't yet ready for Adam Baker to return to his native Australia.

Hickory Police Department said Wednesday that officers hastened criminal proceedings to keep Baker in the country.

"The charge was going to come," said Hickory Police Maj. Clyde Deal.

"We would have preferred to have waited to do it like we did everything else, with a grand jury indictment. ... We did have to speed it up."

Baker was arrested Tuesday and charged with two felonies, obtaining property by false pretenses and identity theft. According to Hickory Police, the charges are unrelated to the disappearance and death of Baker's 10-year-old daughter, Zahra.

Baker also faces an immigration detainer, which will keep him in the United States even if he posts his $10,000 secured bond.

Catawba County Sheriff's Office Capt. Joel Fish said Wednesday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be notified if Baker, an Australian citizen, attempts to post bond. Baker's request for release will then be heard during a federal hearing, and ICE will determine how and if Baker's return to Australia occurs, Fish said.

Baker appeared in Catawba County District Court on Wednesday in a first appearance for his felony charges. He was brought into the courtroom from jail wearing a lime green jumpsuit with his hands cuffed.

Baker told District Court Judge Robert Mullinax Jr. that he understood the charges against him, which are considered Class H felonies.

Mullinax told Baker the maximum sentence for those charges is 30 months in jail.

Baker asked for court-appointed counsel on his latest charges, and Mullinax agreed to appoint Mark Killian as Baker's attorney. Killian represents Baker on several other charges unrelated to Zahra's case.

Baker's probable cause hearing is set for May 4 in Hickory District Court.

Deal said Baker's most recent charges pertain to an incident when Baker illegally turned on the power at his rental house on 21 21st Ave. NW in Hickory.

Police were made aware of Baker's alleged criminal activity in December, Deal said. Since then, the department has been conducting interviews and obtaining court orders to build their case against Baker.

Baker's wife, Elisa, faces similar criminal charges of identity theft and obtaining property by false pretenses. She is charged with second-degree murder in Zahra's death and remains in Catawba County jail under a more than $300,000 bond.

She allegedly murdered and dismembered Zahra in September before scattering her remains throughout parts of Catawba and Caldwell counties.

Criminal charges against Baker came days after multiple media outlets reported Baker was ready to return to Australia after he settled legal debts from worthless check charges. Those charges surfaced in late October when police arrested Baker during an early morning interview at Hickory Police Department.

Baker was booked in Catawba County jail in October on a $7,000 bond and was released after several days.