Zahra Baker's remains returned to her father

Published: Dec. 6, 2011 at 7:58 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 5, 2012 at 7:58 PM EST
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HICKORY, NC (WBTV) - Zahra Baker's remains are now in the custody of her father.

The Medical Examiner's office in Chapel Hill released the remains to a Hickory Funeral home two weeks ago. The remains were cremated and given to Adam Baker, Zahra's father.

Adam Baker has told us in several interviews that his wish is to return home to Australia and to give Zahra a proper service and burial there.

No paperwork was filed by law enforcement, the District Attorney's office or Elisa Baker's attorneys requesting the Medical Examiner's Office to continue holding on to the remains.

Policy at the Medical Examiner's Office is that after a waiting period, if they are not notified, they will release remains to a family member or a person "in standing."

Officials have said in the past that Adam Baker would be the first person eligible to ask for Zahra's remains.

He can't leave the country yet, however, because of several outstanding misdemeanors and two felonies against him unrelated to the Zahra Baker Case.

Elisa Baker pled guilty to second degree murder in September and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

She is awaiting trial on federal drug charges.

At Elisa's hearing, authorities said there was no evidence to implicate Adam Baker in the death of his daughter.

On December 1, a new law was enacted in North Carolina and has become known as "Zahra's Law" or House Bill 227.

The updated law makes it a felony to disturb or dismember human remains.

According to the law, "any person who, with the intent to conceal the death of a person, fails to notify a law enforcement authority of the death or secretly buries or otherwise secretly disposes of a dead human body is guilty of a Class I felony."

The law also includes punishment for anyone who "attempts to conceal evidence of the death of another by knowingly and willfully dismembering or destroying human remains, by any means, including removing body parts or otherwise obliterating any portion thereof, shall be guilty of a Class H felony."

Parts of 10-year-old Zahra Baker's body were found in multiple sites around Catawba and Caldwell counties months after her disappearance was reported in October 2010. Zahra's arm bone, prosthetic leg, torso and pelvic area were found.

Police said they also found a saw, which they believe was used to cut up the girl's body. A vertebrae and other bones of Zahra were also found with saw cut marks on them, an investigator said earlier this year.

But Zahra's head and many other body parts were never found.

When asked last year if the rest of Zahra's remains would ever be located, Chief Tom Adkins said "There's only one person in the world who knows, and she's not talking."

Elisa Baker pleaded guilty in the death of her 10-year-old stepdaughter in September 2011. Baker pleaded guilty to various charges including second-degree murder, obstruction of justice, and bigamy.

The potential maximum total sentence for all charges would typically be 60 years in prison. But, under the plea deal in presented in court, Baker would be sentenced to only a maximum of 18 years in prison.

This act took effective on December 1 and applies to offenses committed on or after that date.

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