Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Hunt for Zahra Baker

Second Call


Adam Baker
Adam Baker

At approximately 2 p.m. that same day, Adam Baker called the Hickory Police Department to report that someone had poured gasoline inside his Chevrolet Tahoe, presumably during the previous night. He mentioned the note left on his car's windshield, and indicated that he thought that his young daughter, Zahra, had been kidnapped. An officer was sent to the house and, with the Bakers' consent and assistance, searched the residence for the missing girl. However, he did not find Zahra.

By the next day, news of the missing girl had circulated through the community and made its way to the FBI. For reasons that were not made public at first, Elisa Baker, Zahra's stepmother, was taken into custody by police at 10:45 a.m. on charges that included writing bad checks and failure to return property. Police were careful to note that the charges against Baker were unrelated to the case of her missing stepdaughter.

Maria Claxton
Maria Claxton

As a result of the kidnapping report, Maria Claxton, who worked with the South Carolina Search and Rescue Dog Association, was requested by the FBI and the local police to report to the Baker residence with a dog trained to locate people or bodies. Upon her arrival at approximately 12:45 p.m., Claxton walked a search and rescue dog in and around the Baker home and the vehicles located on the property. Roughly 15 minutes later, the dog "gave a positive alert for the presence of human remains in or on both vehicles, the silver-in-color Chevrolet Tahoe...and...burgundy in color Toyota Camry," according to a search warrant document. Both vehicles were taken to a secure location at the Hickory Police Department where investigators from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) as well as agents with the FBI began processing it in their search for clues that police hoped might shed some light on what had happened to Zahra. An AMBER alert was also promptly issued.

Meanwhile, local police officers spent much of the afternoon going door-to-door throughout Zahra's neighborhood, showing the girl's photograph to neighbors and asking if anyone had seen her. They also asked for permission to search outbuildings, such as sheds, and wooded areas of adjacent properties. By the end of the day, however, they came up empty-handed—it didn't seem that Zahra was anywhere to be found.

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