Stepmother pleads guilty in Australian girl's death

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 15, 2011 11:43 AM
Stepmother pleads guilty in Australian girl's death

WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Reuters) - A North Carolina woman pleaded guilty on Thursday to second-degree murder in the death of her 10-year-old stepdaughter, a cancer survivor whose prosthetic leg and other remains were found scattered at several sites.

Zahra Baker, a freckled Australian native who also had a hearing impairment as a result of cancer, was reported missing last October in the small town of Hickory.

An intense, highly-publicized search ended with the discovery that the child had been dismembered. Many of her remains, including her head, have not been found.

The girl's stepmother, Elisa Baker, entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors that called for a prison sentence of between 177 to 222 months.

Baker also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, admitting to writing a ransom note to support her initial claim that Zahra had been abducted.

Elisa Baker later told police that she found Zahra unresponsive in her bedroom on September 24, 2010, and was unable to revive the girl with CPR. She accused Adam Baker, her husband and the girl's father, of dismembering Zahra. He has not been charged in the death.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Greg McCune)