Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Hunt for Zahra Baker

Good Morning, America


Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins
Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins

On Monday morning, October 11, 2010, Adam Baker, along with Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins, appeared on Good Morning America, where they provided details of Zahra's disappearance and made a heartfelt plea for anyone with information about the girl to come forward. Baker also reportedly said at the time that it was possible that his wife may have been involved in the girl's disappearance. Although he claimed he hadn't seen his daughter since Thursday, October 7, 2010, due to his work schedule, it was previously reported that he had also stated that he hadn't seen Zahra since Wednesday, October 6, 2010. The police report on the girl's disappearance noted that he, Elisa and Zahra had attended Oktoberfest on Friday, October 8, together as a family. As a result, many people—including police—were left wondering when Adam Baker had really last seen his daughter and why there were such blatant discrepancies about it.

Later that day, police called a news conference and revealed that detectives had not been able to find anyone who had seen Zahra in recent weeks.

"We can't confirm anyone has seen Zahra within the past month," Chief Adkins said. "Without this information, we cannot positively select the area to search for her ... [and] cannot confirm with any confidence how long Zahra has been missing."

Elisa Baker
Elisa Baker

Police also announced that search warrants had been issued for the two vehicles belonging to Adam and Elisa Baker, which had been impounded from their home. Several swabs of what appeared to be blood were collected from the Tahoe and sent to the crime laboratory. Assorted drug paraphernalia were also seized.

At one point that day, police went to Morganton in neighboring Burke County and searched the property of a tree service company where Adam Baker was employed as a laborer, according to police. A search team, with police dogs, spent several hours at the site after the dogs picked up suspicious odors in log and mulch piles there, as well as a wood chipper, according to the Hickory Daily Record and Fox News. The company was about 19 miles from Baker's home.

The next day, Tuesday, October 12, 2010, in a move that came somewhat abruptly, the AMBER alert for Zahra was canceled by the Hickory Police Department when Chief Adkins announced that Elisa Baker had admitted to writing the ransom note found on the Tahoe's windshield. Investigators believe the note was an effort to mislead police in their search for Zahra.

Elisa was also charged with obstruction of justice and a dozen other charges including writing bad checks, larceny, communicating threats and driving with a revoked license. Soon after making the arrest announcement, Adkins began referring to the case as a homicide investigation although a body had not been found. According to Adkins, the shift to a homicide investigation was a result of Elisa Baker's admission to having written the ransom note.

Police spent much of that Tuesday using backhoes and other equipment to search in a 50-foot-wide mulch pile at the tree service company. Crime lab personnel also carefully examined the wood chipper, but at day's end authorities didn't appear to be any closer to finding out what had happened to Zahra.

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