DA gets help with new law

The local district attorney's office is using the help of state representatives to make dismembering a corpse to conceal a crime a felony in North Carolina.

State representatives Tim Moore and Mark Hilton are currently drafting a bill in partnership with Catawba County District Attorney Jay Gaither that will re-word an existing law to make dismembering a corpse to conceal a crime a Class C felony.

"I certainly would hope and believe that this bill will receive a lot of support," Moore said.

Moore said he was contacted by the district attorney's office about the bill.

"We were looking at our statutes," Gaither said, "and we realized there was not a law addressing this issue."

Gaither and his staff looked at how other states treated dismembering a corpse to conceal a crime and realized it is usually severely punished.

"It's about respecting the dignities awarded to the remains of the deceased," Gaither said.

Hilton said he and other supporting representatives plan to bring the bill to a vote within the next two weeks and are in the process of drafting it now.

"It gives prosecutors another tool in the toolbox," Hilton said.

Hilton added that the bill "probably" has roots in the Zahra Baker case.

Baker is the 10-year-old Hickory girl who was originally reported missing Oct. 9. After her remains were found nearly a month later, Elisa Baker, Zahra's stepmother, was charged with second-degree murder.

"When you're looking at the circumstances of that case, you want to look for things to prosecute for, but they don't exist," Hilton said.

Gaither said his recommendation to state representatives is something he does every year.

"As I go through my job to better protect children and better protect the community, I'm going to make that recommendation," Gaither said. "It's something that I do every year."