N.C. Girl's Birthday Comes Amid Grim Revelations

HICKORY, North Carolina -- A disabled Australian-born girl was dismembered and police needed her stepmother's help to find the remains because they were in such remote locations, according to court documents filed Monday by the woman's lawyers.

The latest, macabre details in the case of Zahra Baker, who would have been 11 Tuesday, were revealed as attorneys for the stepmother argued the woman's bond should be lessened because she helped police.

Elisa Baker has been in custody since the day after Zahra was reported missing, and she is accused of trying to throw off investigators by writing a fake ransom note for another child.

Zahra's father was also arrested on a host of charges unrelated to the girl's disappearance, but is free on bail. Calls to his lawyer were not returned.

No one has been charged in Zahra's death, but police have cast doubt on her parents' claims they last saw her alive Oct. 9.

Zahra's remains and the prosthetic leg she needed after an amputation because of her bone cancer were found at remote sites around Hickory, a town of about 41,000, the documents said.

As police continued their investigation, a mountain of remembrances accumulated at the Bakers' now-abandoned home, with pictures, birthday cards and angels hanging from a tree outside the home in Hickory.

Spending her lunch break to pay respects at the growing pile of toys and flowers left in Zahra's memory, retail grocery worker Cathie Price cried as she talked about how the community is dealing with the girl's death.

"Most little kids, they're afraid of having monsters under the bed or in the closet," Price said. "This poor little child, she was living with monsters right out there in the open."

Elisa Baker told police on Oct. 24 that Zahra "was deceased, that her body had been dismembered and that it would be recovered at different sites," according to the documents. She was allowed to accompany police the following two days to sites within about 15 miles (24 kilometers) of Hickory.

The court papers were reported by Charlotte-area TV stations and posted on the website of WCNC-TV.

Zahra's parents told authorities she was last seen in her bed at their home in Hickory. Soon after she was reported missing, police had trouble finding anyone other than Zahra's parents who had seen her alive in the weeks before her disappearance. A suspicious early morning fire occurred at the family's home several hours before she was reported missing.

It was then that police discovered a ransom note addressed to Adam Baker's boss on the windshield of Baker's car. Police went to that man's house, and found him and his daughter to be fine. Elisa Baker admitted writing the note and faces an obstruction of justice charge, police said.

Adam Baker, 33, is facing one count each of assault with a deadly weapon and failure to return rental property, two counts of communicating threats and five counts of writing worthless checks, authorities said.

Zahra's biological mother had traveled from Australia to Hickory last week. Emily Dietrich, from Wagga Wagga in New South Wales province, told the Australia-based Seven Network Sunday she hopes to be able to return her daughter's remains to her native country.

Some 100 miles (160 kilometers) northeast of Hickory, Kristie Pope was organizing a vigil in Greensboro. Mourners will gather at a local Ben & Jerry's, which is making a special birthday cake for Zahra.

"She could be my kid, with the freckles and the hair," said Pope, a mother of three. "She reminds me a little of what my daughter looked like at that age."