Police revealed new twists in the investigation of missing 10-year-old Zahra Baker today, including the existence of a $1 million ransom note, positive dog alerts for human remains in cars belonging to both of her parents, and doubts about the parents' timeline dating back as far as a month.
The little girl who lost her hearing and her left leg in a childhood battle with cancer was reported missing from her Hickory, N.C., home Saturday afternoon.
Her stopmother, Elisa Baker, has been arrested on charges unrelated to the girl's disappearance.
Former neighbors of the Bakers in Sawmills, N.C., described a troubled relationship between Elisa and Zahra Baker, though they described Zahra as a "normal, happy 10-year-old" with good manners who played well with neighboring children.
Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins appealed for anyone who has seen the little girl in the last month to step forward, saying that the parents' timeline of events had "inconsistencies." Because the girl was homeschooled, police said they're having trouble contacting anyone other than her parents who saw her recently.
"At this point in the investigation, we are having a very difficult time establishing a true timeline," Adkins said. "We are running out of time, folks. The longer this thing goes, the likelihood this outcome will not be positive. So we need help. ... This is going all over the place.
"We need teachers, we need doctors, we need store clerks. We need anyone that has seen this girl in the last week, in the last month, anything that they feel is important for us to know," he said.
Search warrants for the Bakers' two cars and home contained confounding details, including the discovery of a $1 million ransom note left on one of the family's two vehicles. The note, however, was not addressed to Zahra's parents, but to her father's boss, Mark David Coffey.
"Mr. Coffey, you like being in control who is in control now we have your daughter and your pot smoking red head son is next unless you do what is asked 1,000,000 unmarked will be in touch soon [sic]," read handwriting on the note, according to the warrant.
"No cops" was also written twice on the note.
Coffey reportedly owns the property on which the Bakers live and was present the day Zahra was reported missing.
The ransom note was discovered on the windshield of Baker's car by officers responding to a fire in the Baker's backyard about 5:30 a.m. However, it wasn't until 2 p.m. that Baker called police to report Zahra missing.
The father told police that someone had poured gasoline in his car during the night and left the ransom note, and that he believes his daughter was taken by whoever threatened Coffey.
Adkins said the police are "questioning the validity of that note" and have received no further demands.
The warrant also revealed that a search dog gave a "positive alert for the presence of human remains in or on both vehicles" belonging to Elisa and Adam Baker.
Investigators seized several items from the Baker home, including two gas cans, burn samples from the morning fire and drug paraphernalia, the warrant states. Two samples of "possible blood" were taken from one of the cars, according to a warrant.
This morning, Adam Baker told "Good Morning America" the girl's stepmother may have been involved in the girl's disappearance.