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Child Abuse

May 18, 2012
Times Leader

ONLY 10 years old, she survived two kinds of cancer which left her with a hearing loss and a prosthesis.

Zahra Baker, the freckle-faced youngster in Hickory, N.C., had a good attitude despite her problems. However, she eventually was murdered and dismembered.

Extensive information about the case is included in a book, "StepMONSTER," written by Hickory Daily Record journalists. Newspaper accounts reveal her stepmother, Elisa Baker, told numerous lies, and Zahra had been abused, had frequent bruises and was locked for hours each day in her room.

The stepmother's cruelty was shown when Zahra wanted a bicycle, and Elisa said she couldn't have one until she could run up and down a hill on her prosthetic leg.

A former neighbor planned to buy the bike for her, but the Bakers moved before he had enough money available.

NOT ONLY was Zahra murdered, but her body was sawed apart with sections thrown from a car in various places, especially in areas where hunters discard animal carcasses. Some body parts including her head where the fatal wounds were inflicted have never been found.

The murder occurred Sept. 24, 2010, but she wasn't reported missing until Oct. 9. The book notes authorities don't think her father, Adam, was involved in the murder/dismemberment.

Not only did he work, but Elisa told him not to go to Zahra's room as she was sleeping. Adam, a illegal immigrant from Australia, also admitted he smoked marijuana "more than I spent quality time with my daughter," the book reports.

Both parents faced numerous charges unrelated to the death. Elisa was sentenced to prison for second-degree murder, and Adam eventually was deported.

THE LITTLE girl is being remembered in Hickory Saturday when the Zahra Baker All Children's Playground will be dedicated, and among those helping to build it were Hickory Chief of Police Tom Adkins and his wife, the former Kathy Bailey, former Barnesville residents.

A scholarship has been established in Zahra's name.

THIS CASE also brings attention to child abuse; as Donna Miller once noted, "Child abuse is a problem no one really talks about. Abuse and neglect is the No. 1 cause of injury to children in the country. More children die of abuse or neglect than of natural causes."

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