HUDSON, NC (WBTV) - Jake Icenhour and his wife, Priscilla, brought birthday balloons Thursday morning to a memorial he built along Christie Road in Caldwell County.
He did so, he said, with a purpose: "To celebrate that little girl's birthday."
That little girl, Zahra Baker, would have been 18 years old on Thursday had she lived. Seven years ago she went missing. It turned out she had been murdered and dismembered. Her stepmother later pleaded guilty and is now in prison.
Zahra's scattered remains were found in several spots in Caldwell County, including a wooded area on property along Christie Road owned by the Icenhour family. Jake built the memorial just feet from the spot. It's there, he says, to remember Zahra but also to bring attention to child abuse.
"People need to keep a watch out for the kids," he said. "If they see any signs of abuse they need to report it to the sheriff or someone."
The memorial with its concrete foundation and wooden pillars will stay on the site, he said. He hopes that every time someone drives by they will think about what happened to Zahra and what other children might be facing. He hopes that spurs them to get involved to stop child abuse.
"If this site saves just one kid, then all the work and the money and the labor to build it would have been worth it."