Oct. 20, 2010 -- Investigators have turned their search for 10-year-old Zahra Baker's remains into a hunt for evidence in a North Carolina landfill, police said today.
A team from the Hickory, N.C., police department along with state and federal officials "are searching for a piece of evidence" in a landfill roughly 20 miles from the disabled girl's home, but are not expecting to find the girl's body there.
"We hope that if we find this evidence that it will provide a good, solid timeline that will assist us in working this case," Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins told reporters today.
Adkins said that information gleaned from several interviews led the police to the landfill where they could be searching for days. Adkins would not disclose what the piece of evidence was, but police interest in the landfill came about a day after authorities combed through Zahra's medical records and found the model and serial number for her prosthetic leg. Zahra, who was reported missing on Oct. 9, lost her left leg and hearing in a childhood battle with cancer.
The landfill police are searching services the region in which the Bakers live. Police said that once they determine which part of the landfill to search, they will "definitely have to dig down."
Zahra's stepmother, Elisa Baker, was arrested the day after the girl was reported missing on several charges unrelated to Zahra's disappearance. Days later, police said Elisa Baker admitted to writing a ransom note for $1 million in connection with the case. She has been charged with felony obstruction of justice.
Elisa Baker's bond was raised from $40,000 to $65,000 today by a judge who cited "disturbing and unsettling" allegations surrounding the obstruction of justice charge, ABC News affiliate WSOC reported. During the bond hearing, Elisa Baker's adult daughter, Amber Fairchild, took the stand to say that she feared her mother.
It was also revealed in court that Elisa Baker had received $10,000 over the past year from a man identified as Carver Fullman from England, WSOC reported.
Police are still looking for anyone to come forward with information or sightings of the girl any time in the last month. Outside of the girl'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.
Zahra Baker's Father Contradicts Statements in 911 Call
On Tuesday police released two 911 calls made by Zahra's father, Adam Baker, and stepmother on the same day their daughter was reported missing.
In the first call, obtained by ABC News' Charlotte affiliate WSOC, Elisa Baker reports that a fire has broken out in the family's back yard.
Police told WSOC-TV Tuesday that they believe the fire had been set deliberately, but no one has been charged in connection with the incident.
Eight hours later on the morning of Oct. 10, Adam Baker, 33, made a second 911 call to report his daughter was missing, police said.
"Hey, how are you doing? I need police," a seemingly calm Adam Baker said to one dispatcher, before he was transferred to a second dispatcher, who took down his information.
On a recording of the second call obtained by ABC News, Adam Baker said that the last time he saw his daughter was at 2:30 that Saturday morning. But two days later on "Good Morning America," Adam Baker said that because of his work schedule, he hadn't seen the girl since Thursday. The girl's stepmother, Elisa Baker, was the last one to see her alive at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, Adam Baker said.
Adam Baker has said that it is possible Elisa Baker was involved in his daughter's disappearance.
MySpace Page, Search Warrant Could Offer Clues
Baker can be heard on the call describing how the police had been out to his house the night before on a seemingly different case.
"The police were out here last night after finding a ransom note for my boss's daughter. I got up a little while ago and it appears they took my daughter instead of my boss's daughter," he told the 911 operator, saying that he last saw his daughter around 2:30 a.m. that night.
Listen to the full recording of Adam Baker's 911 call HERE.
"I don't know if they set a fire in the yard to distract us to go out and then they snuck in the door, or, I don't know," he continued. "Somebody had put gas in my company's truck that I drive for work. They left the ransom note on the company vehicle to my boss saying they had his daughter and his son was next."
It was that ransom note that Elisa Baker admitted to writing, in order to throw off the investigation, police said.
Later in the call, Baker chuckles with the dispatcher after he described his daughter's disappearance.
"My daughter's coming into puberty so she's in that brooding stage, so we only see her when she comes out, when she wants something," he said.
Through her court-appointed attorney, Baker continues to deny she had anything to do with Zahra's disappearance.
Authorities confirmed over the weekend that the missing girl was last seen alive on Sept. 25. On that day, the girl and her stepmother visited a Hickory furniture store, said the store's manager, Pat Adams. The Associated Press reported Adams said she went to police after seeing the girl's picture on the news and recalling the visit.
A MySpace page apparently run by Elisa Baker under the username "gothicfairy6668" was covered in gothic images including a skull and crossbones background, before it was taken down. The page, first reported last week by WBTV, features a slideshow of what appear to be personal photographs, including several pictures of the missing girl. The caption of one image of Zahra reads, "The Dark Child!!!lol"
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 well as photos of her husband 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."
While executing search warrants for the Bakers' two cars and home, police recovered possible blood samples, samples of the materials burned in the fire as well as drug paraphernalia.
Police are looking into claims by a relative and former neighbors that Zahra was physically abused by her stepmother before she vanished.
Relatives, Neighbors Claim Abuse
A photograph of missing 10-year-old Zahra Baker with a bruise under her eye surfaced last week in which the girl has what family friend Brandy Stapleton called a visible bruise under her eye.
Stapleton said she took the photo, obtained exclusively by ABC News, on Aug. 9 -- the last day she saw the little girl.
Stapleton said on the day she took the picture of Zahra, the child seemed down and so she thought a picture could cheer her up. Baker initially told her not to take the picture, Stapleton said, because Zahra's eye was bruised. But Stapleton insisted because she wanted to see the little girl smile.
At the time, Stapleton said she didn't think much of the bruise because Zahra's stepmother would often say her daughter was clumsy.
Bobby Green, a former neighbor, told reporters Tuesday that Zahra frequently had bruises but that Elisa Baker would always explain them away. "It's always she fell down, or she rolled out of bed or she didn't have her leg on right and couldn't walk right and fell. It's always Zahra's fault, for her injuries," Green said.
Brittany Bentley, a relative of Zahra's, said Tuesday the girl "was beat almost every time I was over there for just the smallest things" by her stepmother.
"Elisa would get mad, she would take it out on Zahra, things the kid didn't deserve," Bentley said on CBS' "Early Show." "She just had a horrible home life."
Bentley, who is married to Elisa Baker's nephew, said Zahra was locked in her room most of the day and only allowed out for five minutes to eat.
"I just think this was something for a long time that we knew was going to happen, everybody that was close to the family," Bentley said, apparently referring to Zahra's disappearance.