HICKORY, N.C. – Kristie Pope decided to create an organization to help fight child abuse after hearing about a 10-year-old disabled girl whose remains were found weeks after she was reported missing.
The Hickory Daily News reported Sunday that Pope started The Zahra Project in memory of Zahra Baker who needed hearing aids and had a prosthetic leg after a battle with cancer. Police are investigating her death as a homicide and no one has been charged with killing her.
Zahra Baker’s stepmother has been charged with obstruction, accused of faking a ransom note to mislead investigators. Elisa Baker also told authorities that Zahra’s body was dismembered after she died. No cause of death has been publicly revealed.
Pope, a 40-year-old mother of three, says 6,000 people are following The Zahra Project that she started on Facebook in October.Neighbors and relatives have said that Elisa Baker had a short temper and was abusive toward her stepdaughter. Caldwell County Department of Social Services investigated the family because Zahra went to school with bruises and a teacher alerted school officials, who have said they are prohibited by law from discussing the case.
“I wanted to get people together who were sick of watching how DSS has failed kids,” Pope said.Pope, a dog trainer who lives in Greensboro, was in Hickory for a dog show when Zahra was reported missing.”It was the closeness of it. It was just up the street from me,” she said. “Here I was, showing my dog and I wondered if I could have made better use of my time.“Part of the goal of The Zahra Project is to get legislation written to try to prevent the deaths of children from abuse.”I think there were a lot of people thinking like I was, wishing we could make a change,” Pope said. “There are strengths in numbers, and we can make a change. We just have to get all our resources together.”As Pope envisions it, “Zahra’s Bill” would create tougher penalties for people who abuse children and would punish parents or legal guardians if they are present when someone else abuses their child among other things.
HICKORY, NC — A North Carolina newspaper is reporting that 10-year-old Zahra Baker’s dismembered body was concealed in a bed comforter and a car cover before being discarded in a dumpster behind a Hudson grocery store, according to court documents.
The Charlotte Observer reports that several warrants were released Tuesday by order of Superior Court Judge Nathaniel Poovey.
Prosecutors wanted them to remain secret, saying their release could jeopardize the investigation.
Zahra Baker, who had used a prosthetic leg and hearing aids after a bout with cancer, was reported missing in October and police say they found her remains earlier this month.
Eleven warrants detail the account of the girl’s stepmother, Elisa Baker, whose lawyers say she led police to the girl’s remains. The warrants say a polygraph test showed deception when police asked if she hurt the girl.
The warrants don’t say how Zahra died. No one has been charged in her death. Elisa Baker is jailed on charges of obstructing the investigation. Zahra’s father, Adam Baker, is free on bond after being arrested on unrelated charges.
According to documents released Tuesday, Elisa Baker –through her attorney– admitted that she and her husband wrapped the girl’s prosthetic leg in a white trash bag and threw it in the apartment dumpster.
The documents also show, Elisa Baker said she and Adam Baker dumped a mattress and box springs at a trash dump.
Meanwhile, a memorial service for Zahra Baker has been postponed.
Her family had planned a public memorial service on Thursday, but Drum Funeral Home in Hickory says it has decided to make the service private and hold it at a later date.
The funeral home will allow guests to stop by and sign a register book and view a tribute with photographs of the girl Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Burial plans for Baker have not been determined. Adam Baker has said in a televised interview that after the case is over, he would like to return to Australia with his daughter’s remains. Adam Baker met his wife on the Internet while he was living in Australia.
More than 1,000 people attended a vigil in downtown Hickory on Nov. 16 — what would have been the girl’s 11th birthday.
Respectfully submitted via ABC11
Zahra Baker: Her Tragic Demise
Zahra Baker is a little girl who lived with her father and step-mother in Hickory, North Carolina. She is the picture of innocence, freckle-faced and smiling in every photo. She is a cancer survivor, loved by her friends and classmates. She is the proverbial “girl next door.”
Thirteen days ago Zahra Baker was reported missing. No one knows what has happened to Zahra these past two weeks. But what we do know is that she has been for many months a victim of domestic abuse.
The headlines tell the tale of her disappearance and the search for clues for her abductor. It is a tragedy. It is tragic not only because the inquiry into her disappearance quickly became a homicide investigation; it is also tragic because of how she was treated while we know she was alive, and how we reacted.
Nearly every account given by members of her family and by her friends described a life of suffering at the hands of her stepmother. Locked in her room, beaten and bruised, Zahra is like a character found in some fable written long ago. We hope and pray that Zahra’s story will have a miraculous and happy ending. Its beginning, however, has been told and retold in articles and interviews of friends and relatives… and it is a tragedy — a saga that began long before Zahra was reported missing.
The real shame is in the way Zahra was treated by her family and in the tacit acceptance with which we — her friends, neighbors and community — allowed her plight to unfold in our view, in our midst and in our silence.
How many beautiful, bright-eyed little girls must die or go missing before we are willing to reveal domestic violence for the scourge that it is in America?
How many hundreds of thousands of hours must police officers, sheriffs and federal agents spend sifting through garbage containers, mulch piles and ponds before it is too late and a child or a neighbor has gone missing?
How many social workers must open files and police officers respond to complaints, only to leave in despair when family members and friends protect the abusers from prosecution, before we are willing to stand together for what is right without pressure or shame?
How many prosecutors will go to court unprepared or leave frustrated because they or their judges do not consider domestic assaults on loved ones to be “real” crimes, before we can believe that the system works?
How many times will each of us defend someone by asking “what did she do to deserve it?”, before we realize that we have become part of the culture that has to change?
What did little Zahra Baker do to deserve her abuse? What did she do? She faced down cancer with a smile and overcame physical challenges with an irrepressible spirit… that is what she did.
But even this joyful little angel could not overcome or escape the ravaging of what has been described by friends and family as domestic abuse. How many Zahra’s have we watched in silent acceptance of the horrors that have been recounted as her daily life? Whether Zahra Baker is ever found and her abductor or killer brought to justice, her treatment — before her disappearance — is an indictment of us all.
It is not enough for victims to speak out, if we are not willing to listen and to speak with them!
It is not enough for victims to stand up, if we are not willing to help them up and to stand with them!
It is not enough for victims to walk away, unless we are willing to show them a path and to walk with them!
Domestic violence affects one in every three women in America. Who is that one in your life? And, what are you doing today to protect her?
Break the silence; end domestic violence!! ©
Written by David Moretti, Board Member for Becky’s Fund, a national nonprofit organization focused on domestic violence prevention and education.
Learn more about Becky’s Fund and how you can get involved.