World News- Zahra Baker's evil stepmum may one day walk free
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Zahra Baker's evil stepmum may one day walk free
She was a real-life evil stepmother and many hoped she would be sentenced to death, but Elisa
Baker has managed to use the law to her advantage one more time.
Baker, who admitted murdering her disabled 10-year-old Australian stepdaughter Zahra Baker, cutting
her up with a saw and dumping the body parts in North Carolina bushland, learned on Monday she could
one day be a free woman.
The 44-year-old self-described gothic and bigamist faced a death sentence for the 2010 murder of little
bone cancer survivor Zahra, but did a deal with prosecutors in 2011 that led to a lesser second-degree
murder charge and a maximum 18-year jail sentence.
With the murder sentence set in concrete, prosecutors had one last chance to ensure Baker was kept behind
bars for the rest of her life.
That was dashed on Monday in a Statesville, North Carolina, courtroom.
Baker was originally facing 140 years for seven felony drug charges involving the alleged sale of 50,000
prescription pills, including to some teenagers, but she managed another plea deal, with prosecutors agreeing
to drop all but one charge: conspiracy to distribute prescription drugs.
On Monday, US District Court Judge Richard Voorhees confirmed the deal and sentenced Baker to 10 years.
The decade sentence will begin when Baker completes the 15 to 18-year second-degree murder sentence.
Baker could be out of jail before her 70th birthday.
Zahra's tragic life story began soon after she was born in Wagga Wagga, with mother Emily Dietrich suffering
postpartum depression and leaving Zahra's father, Adam Baker, to raise Zahra in Queensland.
When Zahra was five she was diagnosed with bone cancer and doctors were forced to amputate one of her legs.
She was also inflicted with lung cancer and lost her hearing.
Mr Baker, a single dad, one day came across a US woman, Elisa Fairchild, on a gothic website.
An online relationship developed, the mysterious woman soon was on a plane to Queensland and in a surprise to
family and friends, Mr Baker and the American were married.
The wedding was a surprise to Fairchild's friends and family in North Carolina, as she was still married to a
man back in the US.
In fact, Mr Baker was her seventh husband.
The Bakers moved to North Carolina and Zahra, despite using a prosthetic leg and hearing aids, captivated the
locals with her bright smile and laugh, but at home family and friends feared the little girl was the victim of
mental and physical abuse from her stepmother.
One day Zahra went to school with a black eye.
The world came to know Zahra on October 9, 2010, when Mr Baker called authorities to say Zahra was missing, a
fire had been lit in the rear of their small rented home in Hickory, North Carolina, and a ransom note demanding
$US1 million was found on his work car.
Baker soon after admitted she wrote the note.
Fearing Zahra's body would never be found, authorities agreed to do a deal with Baker.
She took them to bushland and searchers found some body parts and a prosthetic leg, which were identified as Zahra's.
Just a few weeks ago a small skull found by a hunter was identified as Zahra's.
Her memory has been commemorated with a park built in Hickory named the Zahra Baker All Children's Playground,
but the cheerful little girl who had every right not to smile, will never have a chance to ride on a swing or zoom down a slippery dip.
She will never have a chance to live a normal life.
Her evil stepmother, however, will likely one day walk out of jail and be given that opportunity.
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Zahra Baker murder: Stepmother Elisa finally admits she did it
The stepmother of Australian girl Zahra Baker has pleaded guilty to her death, nearly a year
after the 10-year-old disappeared in the US. She will serve a maximum of 18 years in prison.
Elisa Baker, 43, entered a courtroom in North Carolina overnight wearing a hot-pink jail jumpsuit and handcuffs.
She sat between two defence lawyers and teared up before pleading guilty to second-degree murder, with
aggravating factors that included dismembering Zahra's body.
Baker also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, and to charges unrelated to Zahra, including
obtaining property by false pretences and financial identity fraud.
Prosecutors were presenting testimony from witnesses overnight prior to Baker's sentencing.
Adam Baker, Zahra's father and Elisa's husband, was present in the courtroom in Newton.
Adam, who came to the US with his daughter after meeting Elisa online, faces multiple
criminal charges of his own, although none are related to his daughter's death.
Elisa Baker's guilty plea comes almost a year after Zahra - who had her lower left
leg amputated as a five-year-old after battling bone cancer in Australia - was reported missing from her home.
Initially, she and Adam told police they believed their daughter had been kidnapped, but that story
quickly unravelled as police arrested Elisa and charged her with forging a ransom note.
Not long after her arrest, Elisa Baker began co-operating with police searching for the girl,
according to warrants unsealed in the case.
She told police that Zahra had been dismembered, and led them to some of the girl's remains at sites in two counties.
She told police that Adam Baker helped scatter the remains, but mobile phone records showed he was in
different locations on the days when Elisa said Zahra's body parts were disposed of.
Zahra's death was caused by "undetermined homicidal violence", medical examiners said in documents.
An autopsy was done even though authorities hadn't recovered many bones, most notably the girl's
skull, months after she was reported missing.
Several bones showed cutting tool marks consistent with dismemberment.
The case revealed Elisa Baker as a woman with a troubled past, constantly shifting
addresses and staying one step ahead of bill collectors and social service agencies
investigating reports of child abuse.
The Associated Press found that she has been married seven times, including several overlapping marriages.
Those who knew Elisa described her as an attractive high school student who became manipulative,
cunning and insecure, struggling with obesity.
By the time she met Adam, she had largely detached herself from society, immersed
in an online world of assumed identities and grandiose stories about her past, according to records and friends.
Stepmother of Zahra Baker indicted on second degree murder charge
The stepmother of Australian girl Zahra Baker has been charged with her murder.
Elisa Baker, 42, who had previously been charged with obstructing justice in the investigation of Zahra's death, was
indicted for second-degree murder by a grand jury in Catawba County, North Carolina, and faces 30 years in jail if convicted.
Authorities said they did not have "credible evidence" anyone other than Ms Baker was responsible for Zahra's murder.
Ten-year-old Zahra was reported missing from her family's home in Hickory by her father Adam on October 9. Her remains
were found a month later.
Zahra, who walked with a prosthetic leg, had a hearing aid and survived cancer twice, moved from Australia to the US with
her father two years ago after he met his new wife on the internet.
A search warrant published last month said that Elisa Baker had led police to the places where they found Zahra's remains.
She claimed that her husband dismembered the body. Mr Baker has denied the allegation.
Ms Baker has been in jail since October 2010, after she allegedly confessed to writing a fake ransom note for $US1 million
following Zahra's disappearance.
According to the indictment, Ms Baker had a history of abusing Zahra, physically, verbally and psychologically.
She also hid Zahra from "family and others" before and after the murder and that she "desecrated" Zahra's body to cover her tracks, the indictment said.
Ms Baker allegedly "took advantage of a position of trust or confidence, including a domestic relationship, to commit the offence".
The indictment states that Zahra was killed "on or about" September 24, more than two weeks before she was reported missing.
Ms Baker is to face court on February 25. She already faces charges of bigamy. According to court documents, she was married
six times before she wed Zahra's father, and at one stage was married to three men simultaneously.
Mr Baker, who separated from Zahra's mother when Zahra was a baby, also faces several charges unrelated to the case.
He appeared on Australian TV last Sunday denying involvement in Zahra's death.
Zahra was born in Wagga Wagga and lived in Newcastle, the Hunter Valley and Townsville before moving to North Carolina.
Zahra Baker's dad denies involvement in death
The father of a little girl killed in the US last year has denied involvement in her
death during an interview with 60 Minutes.
The girl, Zahra Baker, 10, was reported missing from her family's Hickory, North
Carolina home, 93km northwest of Charlotte, by her father on October 9,
with the remains of the two-time cancer survivor found on November 12.
Her stepmother, Elisa Baker, was indicted last month for allegedly marrying her father, Australian Adam Baker, before divorcing her previous husband.
She has been in jail since October, when she was charged with obstruction of justice after allegedly confessing to writing a fake ransom note for $1 million following Zahra's disappearance.
Elisa Baker has told authorities the 10-year-old died on September 24.
She has said Adam Baker dismembered his daughter, who wore a prosthetic leg and was hearing impaired, and dumped the body parts in various locations.
Adam Baker denies that claim during the television interview, The Sun-Herald reported today.
"That's the biggest lie she's ever told," he said.
Mr Baker said he feared his wife, who he calls Lisa, was hurting Zahra after he noticed his daughter had a black eye.
"I asked both Lisa and Zahra how that happened. Lisa started out saying Zahra slipped in the bathroom, hitting her head on the cabinet. Zahra backed that up. I think she was told to - she was scared."
Meanwhile, in Hickory a $US85,000 ($83,800) project to introduce play equipment suitable for children with disabilities to a playground was unveiled last week in Zahra's honour, the Hickory Record reported.
"There's no one here that wasn't touched in some way by Zahra," Hickory mayor Rudy Wright said. "We want to honor her here for special needs children."
The new addition will be named the Zahra Baker All Children's Playground, and will include a bronze plaque saying, "Zahra, you touched us. 1999-2010," along with her photo.
Work on the park was expected to be completed by the end of July.
Little Zahra 'chainsawed' claim
Zahra Baker's Australian father Adam dismembered her body after she died, search warrants allege.
Her stepmother Elisa Baker said that she and her husband then disposed of the body parts in several bushland locations not far from their adopted home town of Hickory, North Carolina.
But her statement is not backed up by phone records. They suggest he was not at the sites where the 10-year-old cancer survivor's remains were dumped on September 24 or 25, but records
pointed to her being at the sites, the warrants allege.
The Bakers have not been charged over Zahra's death, although Elisa Baker has been held in custody on an obstruction of justice charge for allegedly writing a fake ransom note found on October 9, the day Zahra was reported missing.
Other information revealed in the search warrants said the Bakers may have played an online "murder with chainsaws" game just days before Zahra died.
The game, described as "chainsaw massacre role-playing", also involved Mrs Baker's former husband, Aaron Young, a blogger alleges in the police records.
"The date of September 22 was given regarding their virtual family 'doing a murder with chainsaws'," the search warrant states.
Herald Sun (6-1-2011)
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