Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Hunt for Zahra Baker



Zahra Baker
Zahra Baker

Cute, freckle-faced Zahra Baker was born in 2000 in Wagga Wagga, Australia, in the state of New South Wales about halfway between Sydney and Melbourne. By 2004 she was living in Giru, Australia, a small sugar-producing town of 400 people in Queensland, in the northeast part of the country on the Coral Sea coast. Her father had taken a job at a mill there and his mother, Karen Baker, helped look after Zahra for him. While living in Giru, Zahra came down with bone cancer in 2006, when she was only six. When the cancer worsened, doctors decided to amputate her left leg above the knee. The brave little girl told an older woman who was herself fighting cancer that losing her leg was not to be worried about.

"It's okay," she said, "because I'm going to be getting a Barbie leg, so I don't want you to be upset."

Zahra Baker
Zahra Baker

Months later, in 2007, doctors discovered the cancer had spread, finding tumors in the little girl's lungs. She received chemotherapy at Royal Brisbane Children's Hospital that year. Although the treatment seemed to stop the growth of the tumors in her lungs, it affected Zahra's hearing, requiring her to wear hearing aids in both ears.

"She was always hopping around on her crutches flat-out through the ward and was always full of life, energy and was always happy, considering the illness she had been fighting," acquaintance Wendy Wieck said, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. "My husband and I used to marvel at the obvious love her dad and grandma had for her and how they had both put their lives on hold to help her with her treatments."

Wieck met Zahra at the hospital while her own daughter was being treated for an illness there. She said that the girls played together and did their school homework together.

"They don't make them much tougher than little Zahra Baker," reporter Jessica Johnston wrote in an article about Zahra in the Townsville Bulletin. "The eight-year-old Giru girl has overcome more challenges than most people would in a lifetime, but nothing could wipe the smile off the bubbly youngster's face...."

Elisa and Adam Baker
Elisa and Adam Baker

Estranged from Zahra's mother since the girl was eight months old, Adam Baker took Zahra and left Australia in 2008 to move to North Carolina after meeting Elisa Fairchild online, where she described herself as a 40-something gothic fairy. The online image she chose for herself depicted her as having red angel wings. She also purportedly told stories about being a police officer who had been shot in the line of duty, and about having been a bounty hunter. It is believed that the stories were untrue.

Elisa Fairchild purportedly told friends that Adam Baker was her soul mate and that she wanted to spend her life with him.

"Who says long distance relationships don't work?" she wrote on her MySpace page, which depicted skulls and crossbones and played the song, "Living Dead Girl" by Rob Zombie.

The couple married soon after Adam and Zahra's arrival in America, but, when all was said and done, Elisa proved to be not a gothic fairy, but a fairy-tale wicked stepmother.

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