Police never recovered the severed head of Zahra Baker, a 10-year-old disabled girl whose stepmother was charged with her murder and dismemberment.
In an indictment released today, Elisa Baker, 42, is accused of abusing, murdering and desecrating the body of her stepdaughter Zahra, said Catawba County District Attorney James Gaither, Jr.
Gaither declined to discuss the cause of death and the coroner's report stated only Zahra died as a result of "undetermined homicidal violence."
According to the coroner's report much of Zahra's skeletal remains were found scattered over two different sites. Police did not find, however, the girl's head and several other bones.
Two different types of tool marks were found on many of the bones indicating that she was dismembered after she died. The bones also indicate her flesh was scavenged by animals.
The missing head may account for the lengthy delay in charging Elisa Baker with murder.
Gaither said Elisa Baker had demonstrated a "history and pattern of physical, verbal and psychological abuse" against Zahra.
He accused the woman of taking "advantage of a position of trust and confidence" in order kill Zahra and then "desecrated her body to hinder detection and prosecution."
Police today did not reveal the way Elisa Baker allegedly killed and dismembered Zahra, saying the details "must be kept close to the investigation and not be discussed in order to protect this case."
Zahra, who lost a leg and much of her hearing in a childhood battle with cancer, was reported missing Oct. 9, but police believe she had disappeared weeks before that date.
On Oct. 27, police found a prosthetic leg and matched the serial number to the one she used.
The girl had a grueling life. Abandoned by her biological mother in Australia when Zahra was an infant, the girl was stricken with bone cancer. She lost her left leg and much of her hearing and grew up using a prosthesis and hearing aids.
Her father married Elisa Baker and moved to U.S.
Relatives and neighbors said that Elisa Baker, 42, was abusive to Zahra, who was often bruised.
On Nov. 3, cops found Zahra's remains scattered over several locations they were guided to by Elisa Baker.
Police allege that in the hours after Zahra's parents reported her missing, Elisa Baker allegedly penned a bogus $1 million ransom note.
Before Zahra's body was found, Elisa Baker was indicted for obstructing justice, a charge stemming from the ransom note. She is currently in jail awaiting trial.
Two weeks before police found the girl's remains, Elisa Baker indicated in a jailhouse letter that the child was dead, but expressed no remorse or guilt. Instead, she felt sorry for herself and made vague accusations against her husband, Adam Baker.
In the letters, written to crime memorabilia dealer Eric Gain, Elisa Baker said Adam did something "horrifying" to Zahra after she was dead.
Adam Baker's attorney told ABC News in November that those claims were nothing more than a "desperate" attempt at distraction.
"There's no way I would do that to my baby," Adam Baker told television station WBTV. "There's no way in the world I would hurt my daughter."