Zahra Baker Case: Father Arrested on Unrelated Charges

Police following new lead in search for missing 10-year-old, presumed dead.

ByABC News
October 15, 2010, 12:52 PM

Oct. 25, 2010— -- The father of missing North Carolina 10-year-old Zahra Baker was arrested early today on charges unrelated to the disabled girl's disappearance, including assault with a deadly weapon.

Adam Baker, 33, was arrested at 3:12 a.m. on five counts of worthless checks, two counts of communicating threats, one count of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of failure to return rental property. Adam Baker was taken into custody while at the Hickory Police station after voluntarily coming in to give a statement, a police official told ABC News.

Zahra, who lost her left leg and hearing in a childhood battle with cancer, was reported missing on Oct. 9, the same day a $1 million ransom note was found on their property. Zahra's stepmother, Elisa Baker, was arrested the next day on unrelated charges but eventually admitted she penned the ransom note, police said last week. She has been charged with felony obstruction of justice.

Police embarked on a new, "promising" search today for Zahra's remains on property less than a mile from a home where Elisa Baker lived three years ago, an investigator told WSOC. It's the latest target of a search that expanded quickly from the Baker's home to the surrounding area, to a wood chipper and mulch piles at the end of a dead end street, to old family homes and, most recently, to a landfill roughly 20 miles from the Bakers' current home.

Investigators concluded the landfill search Friday without finding a specific piece of evidence they were looking for: a mattress that belonged to Zahra. Police had hoped the mattress would provide DNA evidence in the case, WSOC reported.

Last week, Elisa Baker's bond was raised from $40,000 to $65,000 by a judge who cited "disturbing and unsettling" allegations surrounding the obstruction of justice charge. During the bond hearing, Elisa Baker's adult daughter, Amber Fairchild, took the stand to say that she feared her mother.

Adam Baker was being held on $7,000 bail at the county jail, police said. It wasn't clear if he has a lawyer.

Outside of Zahra's parents, who said they last saw her in bed the morning she went missing, authorities have only been able to find a single witness, a furniture store owner, who said they had seen the girl in the past few weeks.

Hickory police said that early in the investigation Adam Baker was cooperating fully, but county officials remained suspicious of him.

"He seems concerned. I don't know how sincere his concern is," Burke County Sheriff John McDevitt said days after Zahra disappeared. When asked if he believed Adam Baker, McDevitt said, "I don't."