Zahra Baker Case Now a Homicide Probe; Stepmom Denies Involvement in Disappearance

Stepmother denies she is responsible for disabled girl's disappearance.

ByABC News
October 5, 2010, 4:48 PM

HICKORY, N.C., Oct. 12, 2010— -- The search for missing 10-year-old Zahra Baker was reclassified today as a homicide investigation as a MySpace page believed to belong to the girl's stepmother surfaced showing a picture of the missing girl with the words "The Dark Child!!! lol."

Police Chief Tom Adkins of Hickory, N.C., struggled to keep his composure today as he announced that he was canceling the Amber Alert for the little girl, who had lost her hearing and her left leg in a childhood battle with cancer.

"The decision to focus this investigation from a missing child, or abducted child, will turn into a homicide investigation," Adkins said between long pauses.

He also said that the girl's stepmother, Elisa Baker, who is already in custody on unrelated charges, admitted to police that she wrote a ransom note that was left on one of the Baker's cars Saturday, the day Zhara was reported missing. Police are charging Elisa Baker with felony obstruction of justice, Adkins said, marking the first time she's been charged in connection with her disabled stepdaughter's disappearance.

A lawyer for Elisa Baker said today his client claims she had nothing to do with Zahra's disappearance.

"I spoke to her at 3 a.m. this morning. I went to see her at 7 a.m. this morning. She still hadn't had any sleep," attorney Scott Riley told ABC News' Charlotte affiliate WSOC. "She's very emotional, very upset."

A MySpace page apparently run by Elisa Baker under the username "gothicfairy6668," and is covered in gothic images including a skull and crossbones background. The page, first reported by WBTV, features a slideshow of what appear to be personal photographs including several pictures of the missing girl.

Much of the biographical information on the page coincides with that of Elisa Baker, from the user's age of 42, her husband's name Adam, as welll as photos of her husaband and Zahra.

The last time the user logged on was Oct. 8, the day before Zahra was reported missing. In the "Details" section of the page, the user wrote that she's a "proud parent." Under "Mood," she wrote "crazy."

Commenters have filled the pages with angry tirades against her.

Though the girl was first reported missing on Saturday, police cannot find anyone outside her immediate family that's seen her in the past few weeks and an extensive search -- which included help from federal authorities and volunteers -- has proved fruitless.

"We understand the public wants to help find Zahra. The problem is we cannot confirm with any confidence how long Zahra has been missing," Adkins said. "Without this information, we cannot positively select the area to search for her."

Search warrants for the Bakers' two cars and home contained confounding details in the case, 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 police have told me that we're not actually involved," Coffey told ABC News today. "They feel like the ransom note was just a distraction. You know, that my family is not in any imminent danger.

"Just pray for the little girl and let's pray that, you know, we can find her alive," he said. "She was a sweet little girl -- is a sweet little girl."

Police are looking into claims by a relative and former neighbors that Zahra was physically abused by her stepmother before she vanished.