Something very shifty going on here, what a pathetic life those in care of this girl have given her…It does not look good…
SHE was uprooted from Australia two years ago, a little girl who has endured the tragedy and hardship of cancer but always kept smiling.
Relatives of the missing 10-year-old disabled girl, feared murdered in the US state of North Carolina, have described the child’s life as miserable, saying she was locked in her room for most of the day and was punished over little things.
Zahra Clare Baker, originally from Wagga Wagga, NSW, was reported missing on Saturday, but police said they have had trouble finding anyone outside the household who had seen the girl alive in the last few weeks.
Authorities also cast doubt on what the couple had told them.
They are now treating her disappearance as a homicide, after her stepmother Elisa Baker allegedly admitted to writing a $US1 million ransom note.
North Carolina police were told of Zahra’s disappearance last Saturday when they were contacted by her father Adam Baker.
This morning police charged Zahra’s American step-mother, Elisa Baker, with felony obstruction of justice after they say she admitted writing the ransom note.
Zahra, whose bone cancer left her with a prosthetic leg and hearing aids, moved to North Carolina from Australia with her father Adam two years ago when he married an American woman, Elisa, after meeting her on the internet.
“I just think this was something for a long time that we knew was going to happen, everybody that was close to the family,” relative Brittany Bentley said on the CBS network.
Adam Baker has said it was possible his wife could be involved in the disappearance and other relatives echoed those remarks.
Zahra was reported missing after a yard fire at the home. The girl’s stepmother, Elisa Baker, was arrested on Sunday on about a dozen charges unrelated to her disappearance.
Bentley, who is married to Elisa Baker’s nephew, said she would have Zahra over for weekends and the girl would get mad when it was time to return home.
Zahra “was locked in her room, allowed five minutes out a day to eat, that was it”, Bentley said.
“She was beat almost every time I was over there for just the smallest things. Elisa would get mad, she would take it out on Zahra, things the kid didn’t deserve. She just had a horrible home life.”
Neighbours also feared the worst. A search warrant revealed that police dogs detected the smell of human remains on cars belonging to the father and stepmother.
“There were warning signs along the way, but you never want to think the worst,” said former neighbour Kayla Rotenberry.
The stepmother said she last saw Zahra sleeping in her room about 2.30am on Saturday, yet Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins said investigators don’t know the last time anyone saw her.
Adkins, the police chief in a city of 40,000 residents about 80km northwest of Charlotte, said the father was co-operating with police, but Elisa Baker wasn’t.
Zahra had two hearing aids, which were left at the house, and a prosthetic left leg from the knee down, police said.
She was being home-schooled, but had attended public schools in the past.
Zahra was described by family friends as shy but constantly smiling, in spite of her health problems. The stepmother could be short-tempered toward her, two former neighbours said, but the woman also fought tears when a charity fitted her for hearing aids a few months ago.
The police chief said he wouldn’t rule out any suspects, including Adam Baker.
Rotenberry, the former neighbour, said she and her fiance were good friends with the Bakers when they lived in the nearby town of Sawmills. About six months ago she noticed that Elisa Baker’s hand was swollen, Rotenberry said.
“She told me that she was trying to spank Zahra, but hit her on her prosthetic leg,” she said.
“When Adam asked her about the injury, she said she fell and hurt her hand. She didn’t want him to know. She knew he would be mad.”
Another former neighbour, Brandy Stapleton, 22, of Lenoir, said that Elisa Baker told her the same story about how she injured her hand.
“She wasn’t the person everyone thought she was.”
Elisa Baker has two daughters and a son from a previous marriage.
Watch the police announcement
Zahra was born in Wagga Wagga and spent her early life in Newcastle, before Zahra and her family moved to Townsville where described by her grandmother Karen Baker as handling “everything with a smile”, attended a Camp Quality weekend for sick children.
The family had only recently moved to the small town of Hickory, northeast of North Carolina’s largest city Charlotte – where the FBI and US Marshals Service have now joined local police in the search for Zahra.
Police have been told Elisa Baker was the last to see Zahra at 2am on Saturday US time. A fire in the backyard of the family home was reported at 5am that day.
Broke down in tears
Police had arrested Zahra’s stepmother on Sunday on unrelated outstanding fraud charges.
On Monday, Mr Baker appeared on Good Morning America and said he hoped his wife, whom he reportedly met on the internet, was not involved in the disappearance.
“I wouldn’t like to think so but going off what I’ve heard so far, it could be possible,” Mr Baker said. He said he last saw his daughter on Thursday night and did not realise she was missing until Saturday.
“[I] came back from looking at a job and started some work in the yard and heard her mother [Elisa] come out and started screaming that Zahra was missing.
“She didn’t know very much. She came out screaming and panicking, telling me Zahra was gone.
“I went inside searched the house, started searching around the block, called the police.”
Mr Baker then broke down in tears, saying he wanted his daughter back. “I just hope I can get my daughter back. I miss her so much.”
Stunned and shocked
Karen Baker was also in tears late yesterday and said from her Newcastle home that her son was devastated.
Mrs Baker begged anyone in her son’s home town in the US to come forward with information.
“We are just stunned and shocked and so upset about what has happened,” she said.
“Adam is obviously very upset, but he is holding up.
“The North Carolina police have been in constant contact, keeping us up to date with what is going on, but there is nothing we can do from here – we feel so helpless.”