Loggers find items related to Zahra Baker case; stepmother indicted

Zahra Baker, Elisa Baker

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by RAD BERKY, BETH SHAYNE, TONY BURBECK / NewsChannel 36

WCNC.com

Posted on January 18, 2011 at 3:21 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 19 at 9:22 AM

CALDWELL COUNTY, N.C. -- Loggers working in Caldwell County Tuesday found a briefcase containing items related to the Zahra Baker case on the same day a new criminal charge came down against Elisa Baker, Zahra's stepmom.

The briefcase contained what appeared to be a blanket or clothing related to the 10-year-old who was reported missing in October 2010.

The briefcase was found off Christie Road, which is where investigators found Zahra's prosthetic leg on Oct. 26.

Tim Bristol is one of the loggers who was working in the area when the briefcase was found. He said the case appeared to be brand new and they suspected right away it might be related to the death of Zahra Baker.

“We thought it probably had something to do with this case, you know,” he explained. “I think it’s tragic and if we can find something to help, I hope we did it.”

The girl was reported missing on Oct. 9. Search warrants indicate Elisa Baker, Zahra's stepmother, told Hickory police that Zahra died on Sept. 24, but there are no details as to how or why she died.

The same warrant says Baker told police that Adam Baker, Zahra's father, dismembered the girl's body and hid parts of it in several locations around Caldwell County.

Elisa Baker is behind bars on charges unrelated to Zahra's death. So far, no one has been charged in connection with the death.

Meanwhile Tuesday, Elisa Baker was indicted on bigamy charges. Investigators said she was still married to another man, Aaron Yong, when she married Adam Baker.

Police said Elisa and Young fooled people into thinking they were siblings when they stopped living as husband and wife. Young's brother told NewsChannel 36 the whole family even celebrated Christmas together.

Though the charge of bigamy is a minor one--a Class I felony--without serious criminal penalties, the indictment brought Tuesday might have hidden consequences.

Missy Owen, a Charlotte attorney, told NewsChannel 36 a conviction would invalidate Elisa Baker's marriage to Adam Baker, which would keep the couple from using spousal privilege in a legal proceeding.

"If the marriage is invalidated, that privilege no longer exists...They would be sworn under oath and required to tell the truth," Owen said. "If they are looking to use one of the Bakers against each other....seeking to have their marriage determined null and void would be very important."

The North Carolina statue on spousal privilege specifies that spouses can be compelled to testify about each other behaviors, but they can't be asked to reveal "confidential communication."

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