HICKORY, N.C. -- A skull found in Caldwell County last April has been identified as that of Zahra Baker.
The skull was found in the woods on Winkler Way off N.C. 268 on April 17 by a hunter.
Zahra, a two-time cancer survivor, was 10 years old when she was killed and dismembered in September 2010. Her stepmother, Elisa Baker, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Zahra’s death in September 2011, but her skull had never been found before now.
The NC SBI Crime Lab, the state medical examiner and Marshall University in West Virginia worked to compare a DNA profile used in the case against Elisa Baker to match the skull with Zahra Baker.
Officials say cellphone records place Elisa Baker at the skull site.
“This information gives the members of ‘Team Zahra’ mixed emotions,” said Chief of Police Tom Adkins. “It brings up the tragedy of Zahra’s death and the life she lived before she was killed but it also gives us and the community a sense of finally bringing her home."
The examination, however, was not able to provide more information on how Zahra was killed.
“For me, it was hard to wrap my head around how anybody could do that,” said neighbor Will Baker, who walks daily at the park bearing Zahra’s name in Hickory.
(Archive: Loggers find items related to Zahra Baker case; stepmother indicted)
Family members have been notified and the remains will be returned to the appropriate people with the assistance of the Australian Consulate.
“We know she’s at peace where she’s at, but to know all of her remains are together, I think it’s important,” said neighbor Amanda Maddox. Maddox was pregnant when Elisa Baker murdered Zahra.
“You lose faith in humanity,” she said.
Elisa Baker is scheduled to be sentenced March 4 in a federal drug conspiracy case in Statesville.
“Our county and all the folks who worked on this case are reminded of the days spent trying to find Zahra. She will be in our memories for the rest of our lives,” said Caldwell County Sheriff Alan Jones.