Elisa Baker arraigned in stepdaughter's murder

Elisa Baker in court.
Elisa Baker in court.
Zahra Baker (left) and Brittney Starbuck, a relative. (Source: MySpace)
Zahra Baker (left) and Brittney Starbuck, a relative. (Source: MySpace)

HICKORY, NC (WBTV) - The woman indicted earlier this week in the death and dismemberment of Zahra Baker was arraigned in criminal superior court Tuesday afternoon.

On Monday, a grand jury indicted Elisa Baker for second-degree murder as the sole suspect in the death of her 10-year-old stepdaughter who was reported missing in October.

During the arraignment proceeding, Judge Robert Ervin explained the charge against Baker.  She also received Scott Reilly as court-appointed counsel.  Baker's next court date will be April 4.

Just hours after Baker was indicted on Monday, the state medical examiner's autopsy report was released regarding Zahra's death, which was classified as "Undetermined - homicidal violence." (Click here to read more about the autopsy report - Warning: Contains graphic content)

Also on Monday, the district attorney and the Hickory Police chief held a press conference where they talked about the indictment and the case.

Related story: Just who IS Elisa Baker?

"At this time, the state has no credible evidence to suggest that anyone other than Elisa Baker was involved in the murder of Zahra Clare Baker," said Jay Gaither, prosecutor for the 25th District, which includes Catawba County.

Full coverage of the Zahra Baker case

Elisa Baker's indictment also included "aggravating factors," which indicates a history and pattern of physical, verbal and psychological abuse the victim, according to Catawba County Clerk of Court Al Jean Bogle.

The grand jury's indictment also said that Elisa Baker "desecrated the victim's body to hinder detection..."  The girl's body was dismembered after her death and her remains were scattered in at least two places in Caldwell County.

Zahra's father, Adam Baker, spoke to WBTV News just hours after the indictment occurred.  He claims he was hoodwinked by Elisa Baker and essentially kept in the dark about the status of his daughter.

Related: Adam Baker talks to WBTV Monday

Elisa Baker's bond was immediately increased by $200,000 as the grand jury's charge was added.  Her total bond is now $307,700 and she is facing 17 charges.

Last year, Elisa Baker led investigators to the remains of Zahra, which were found in rural areas in Caldwell County.  She also told police that Zahra's body was disposed after the girl died of "illness," according to court documents.
On Monday, the Caldwell County Department of Social Services released information on the Zahra case, stating that their file on her began in Jan. 2010 and the last entry was in July -- about two months before she died -- when the family moved to Hickory. (Click here for the Caldwell Co. DSS summary of service)

On Sunday evening, Adam Baker spoke to 60 Minutes Australia about Zahra's death.

60 Minutes Australia is a current affairs program which is based on the CBS version in the United States with the same name.

Adam and Zahra were from Australia and they moved to Hickory about two years ago after he met Elisa.

"Zahra had been my life you know, and now she's gone," said Adam Baker.  "I don't know what to do. I feel very, very empty."

In October of 2010, Adam called 911 and reported Zahra missing.

Police say shortly thereafter, Elisa admitted to writing a fake ransom note and she was jailed on unrelated charged.  Eventually, Elisa led investigators to Zahra's scattered remains.

Court documents show Elisa told police she and Adam chopped up Zahra and dumped her remains after the young girl died from an illness.

In the 60 Minutes interview, Adam Baker said, "That's the biggest lie she ever told."

Adam told 60 Minutes, it is difficult for him to be here in the U.S. where people think he is a murderer.

When asked about his alleged involvement in her death, Adam said he had no part in any of it, and that he didn't feel there was a case against him.

"I had no part in my daughter's death or dismemberment," he said.

During the interview, Adam said he believes Elisa played some role in Zahra's death and disappearance, and he said Zahra would still be alive today if he had never brought Elisa into their lives.

Because of ongoing legal issues here in the United States, WBTV is not able to provide a full transcript, or the full video, of the interview.

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