Stepmother detained after girl vanishes

Stepmother detained after girl vanishes »Play Video
Zahara Clare Baker
HICKORY, N.C. (AP) - A North Carolina police chief said Monday that investigators are having trouble finding any non-relatives who saw a disabled girl alive in the weeks leading up to a weekend report that she had vanished.

Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins said at a news conference Monday that police are seeking anyone who may have seen Zahra Clare Baker in the last few weeks. The girl whose bone cancer left her with a prosthetic leg and hearing aids was reported missing on Saturday, hours after a fire at the home where she lived.

The girl's father said the stepmother saw her sleeping early Saturday. He also said it was possible the woman could be involved in the disappearance.

The police chief said investigators were having trouble establishing a timeline for the disappearance: "We don't know the last time anyone saw her."

Adkins said a ransom note was found at the house but wouldn't elaborate.

The stepmother, Elisa Baker, was arrested on unrelated charges Sunday.

"I just hope I can get my daughter back. I miss her so much," Zahra's father, Adam Baker, told ABC's "Good Morning America" as he choked up. He was interviewed alongside Adkins.

The girl's stepmother told her husband she last saw Zahra sleeping in her bed at 2:30 a.m. Saturday, about 2 1/2 hours before the fire was reported. Adam Baker said he was panicked after the fire, but didn't immediately check on his daughter.

Investigators have collected surveillance video from businesses near the family's home and used dogs to search the neighborhood. The police chief wouldn't rule out any suspects, including Adam Baker.

Adam Baker was asked if he thought his wife was involved and said, "I wouldn't like to think so. On what I've heard so far, it could be possible."

The chief wouldn't let Baker elaborate on what he had heard because of the ongoing investigation.

Zahra was described by family friends as shy, home-schooled child who remained upbeat despite her health problems. The stepmother could be short-tempered toward her, two former neighbors said, but the woman also fought tears when a charity fitted her for hearing aids a few months ago.

On Monday, friends of the family said they were bracing for the worst.

"I just don't have a good feeling about this," said former neighbor Kayla Rotenberry. "She was such a sweet girl. This is just a nightmare."