Skeletal remains found not far from 2010 Zahra Baker search area

CALDWELL COUNTY, NC  (WBTV) – Two turkey hunters stumbled across skeletal remains in rural Caldwell County Tuesday morning leaving authorities to wonder if they could belong to Zahra Baker, the 10 year old Australian girl murdered and dismembered in 2010. "I know what the rumors are that are going around," said Sgt. B.J. Fore of the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office. "We don't know if it is connected to the Zahra Baker case and won't until experts can determine what was found."

Weeks after Zahra Baker was reported missing in the fall of 2010, her stepmother Elisa Baker took authorities to three separate locations where she said dismembered remains of the girl were scattered. One of those sites was the Indian Grave Road section of Caldwell county but search teams found nothing after spending days scouring the roadsides and hills sides. Tuesday's discovered along Winkler Way is just a few miles away from the Indian grave area. "They did search up the road a bit," said one Winkler Way resident, "but they never did search down here. "

Sheriff Alan Jones confirmed that skeletal remains were found but would not confirm reports that among the remains were a skull. Despite intensive searches during the Zahra Baker case, the little girl's skull was never found. Authorities said at the time that finding the skull could possibly be a key piece of evidence in determining how the girl died. Elisa Baker pled guilty to 2nd degree murder and was sentenced to up to 18 years in prison but never said how the girl was killed.

Investigators said they were treating Tuesday's discovery as a crime scene. Hickory police officers were seen driving into the scene including two of the chief investigators in the Zahra Baker case. A man wearing and F-B-I jacket was also seen in the area where the remains were found.  So far, no one has been able to determine age, race or gender or the remains. Whatever is found will be sent to the medical examiner's office in Chapel Hill where DNA tests are likely. It could be weeks, say officials, before any conclusive information including an I-D could be determined.

"There will be closure we hope for someone be it Zahra's family or someone else," said Fore.

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