Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Hunt for Zahra Baker

Zahra's Biological Mother Speaks Out


Emily Dietrich with a newborn Zahra
Emily Dietrich with a newborn Zahra

Meanwhile, in early November 2010, Emily Dietrich—Zahra's biological mother—gave her first media interview since Zahra's disappearance and told a reporter for Australia's Channel 7 News that she had not seen Zahra since relinquishing custody of Zahra to Adam Baker while Zahra was still an infant. She said she granted custody to the girl's father because she suffered from post-partum depression. She told Australian reporter Robert Ovadia that Adam Baker had disappeared with the child shortly after she had granted him custody, and that she had tried time and again to find him and Zahra. Problem was, she claimed, that he had disappeared each time she found him.

"He had no right to do any of it, to keep her from me," she said in the Channel 7 News interview, which has since made its way onto YouTube.

Dietrich, from Wagga Wagga, said she had most recently tracked Zahra and her father using the Internet and found them in North Carolina only three days before Zahra disappeared and was feared slain.

Emily Dietrich with Zahra
Emily Dietrich with Zahra

"Why did it happen that I only found her and three days later this happens?" she said, sobbing. "I never got to say goodbye. I never got to say hello."

Dietrich said she believed Zahra was dead.

"I don't feel it [that she is still alive]," she said. "Mothers just have this bond with their children and just having no hope in me makes it hurt even more, with what they're finding and the way they're saying she was treated. The only hope I have in me now is that she is gone, so that she's not being hurt anymore."

She said she feared that the police in North Carolina would find additional evidence in Zahra's disappearance, evidence that "would tell a story I don't want to hear."

Dietrich's interview occurred around the same time that Hickory investigators revealed that they had found the bone that could be Zahra's.

Emily Dietrich 2010
Emily Dietrich 2010

A week later, Dietrich traveled to the U.S., along with an Australian news crew, and visited the memorial outside the home where Zahra had lived with her father and stepmother. She wept almost incessantly as she viewed the stuffed animals, photos, notes and letters placed at the shrine by those mourning Zahra. Many of them were from other children about the same age as Zahra.

Dietrich provided her DNA to detectives so that it could be compared to the DNA of the bone that had been found, as well as to any other body parts that might be located.

"She [Elisa Baker] had no place to just dispose of something that was in the way," Dietrich said later, according to The Charlotte Observer.

"I want her to sit in jail and I want her to live every day of her life remembering why she's there and what she's done," she added. "She needs to sit there and rot."

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