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Case of missing N.C. girl called homicide

Zahra Baker’s stepmother allegedly wrote a ransom note. Zahra Baker’s stepmother allegedly wrote a ransom note.
Associated Press / October 13, 2010

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HICKORY, N.C. — Police indicated yesterday that they believe someone killed a 10-year-old North Carolina girl whose bone cancer left her with a prosthetic leg and hearing aids, saying they were shifting from a missing person search to a homicide case.

Zahra Clare Baker was reported missing Saturday, but police said they can’t find anyone outside the household who has seen the girl alive in a month. Relatives described the child’s life as miserable, saying she was locked in her room for most of the day and punished over little things.

Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins said at a news conference that the girl’s stepmother confessed to writing a ransom note found at the house where the girl lived, and she has been charged with felony obstruction of justice.

Uncertainty over when the girl was last seen alive has stymied efforts to search for her, the chief said. Volunteers have offered to help look for her around the city of 40,000 residents.

“The problem is we cannot confirm with any confidence how long Zahra has been missing,’’ Adkins said. “Without this information, we cannot positively select the area to search for her.’’

Adkins did not take any questions and did not offer further explanation of why the case was being treated as a homicide.

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