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home : community : community July 11, 2020

4/16/2020 9:50:00 AM
Pinwheels & Remembering Zahra--10 Years After
Pinwheels at the Hickory Police Department(Photos Courtesy of Children’s Advocacy & Protection Center of Catawba County)
Pinwheels at the
Hickory Police Department


(Photos Courtesy of Children’s Advocacy &
Protection Center of Catawba County)
Pinwheels in Longview
Pinwheels in Longview

+ view more photos
Pinwheels at Corinth Church



Wayne Howard
Staff Writer


April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.  We reported in an earlier article about the report Sherry Reinhardt of the Lincoln County Coalition Against Child Abuse and Child Advocacy Center gave to Lincoln County Commissioners in February and showed the pinwheels on the Courtsquare in Lincolnton. 

Child abuse is a problem all over the country, but for the people of Catawba County, the observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month hits a bit closer to home.  That’s in large part due to something that happened here ten years ago.  This year marks 10 years since the death of Zahra Baker. She was only 10 years old at the time of her death. 

Zahra Baker was born in Wagga Wagga, Australia. Her mother,Emily Dietrich, had postpartum depression after Zahra's birth, and gave up custody to Zahra's father, Adam Baker.

Adam Baker met Elisa Fairchild, who lived in North Carolina, online.  The two were married in Australia, then moved to Caldwell County just north of Hickory. Zahra, who had battled two forms of cancer in her early years, had survived that ordeal.  She lost one leg and had to wear a prosthetic; she also lost much of her hearing and had to wear hearing aids.  She was enrolled in public school, but later the Bakers took her out of school, supposedly to home school her.  There had been reports while she was in school about possible abuse.  Neighbors claimed that Elisa was physically and mentally abusive, and neglected Zahra. Two teachers visited the home after Zahra, who was then in the fourth grade, went to school in Hudson with a black eye. Child Protective Services from both Caldwell County and Catawba County visited the various residences of the family multiple times before Zahra died. The Bakers moved several times, finally settling in Hickory. 

On the morning of October 9, 2010, Elisa made a 9-1-1 call reporting a fire in the back of the residence. When police arrived, they found a small fire and the smell of gasoline coming from Adam's company truck. Later that day, Adam Baker said he found a $1 million ransom note on the truck the night before, addressed to his boss and landlord. He implied that whoever started the fire, may wanted to distract the family, in order to take Zahra, mistakenly confusing her for the landlord's daughter. The landlord's daughter was safe with her family, who knew nothing about what had happened at the Baker residence.



1 - Court Street Grill 300

Elisa Baker was suspected from the beginning, but police were unable to find Zahra's body.  Elisa was jailed on unrelated charges.  Eventually, she confessed that Zahra had died, although she claimed from natural causes, and that no knowing what to do, they had dismembered and disposed of her body.  Zahra's prosthetic leg was found in late October off a road in Caldwell County.

In November 2010, Elisa Baker led police to different areas in Catawba County and Caldwell County to find Zahra's scattered remains. Numerous bones were found but Zahra's skull wasn't found until April 2012.

On February 21, 2011, Elisa Baker was indicted for second-degree murder.  Convicted of that and other crimes, she got a lengthy prison sentence.  Adam Baker denied any involvement with the murder.  He was arrested on other unrelated charges, but never on any relating to the abuse and murder of his daughter.

The Zahra Baker cases brought international media coverage to Hickory, and much sadness. In April 2012, the month her skull was eventually found,  more than 300 volunteers gathered to build the Zahra Baker All Children's Playground at Kiwanis Park in Hickory. The Children's Advocacy and Protection Center of Catawba County had planned a big Pinwheels for Prevention event there to remember Zahra and kick off Child Abuse Prevention Month at the beginning of April, but the Covid-19 pandemic forced those plans to be cancelled. 

The Children’s Advocacy & Protection Center of Catawba County joined Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina in a more widespread project to remind that everyone has a part in preventing child abuse.  The nationwide campaign: “Everyone Can Make Great Childhoods Happen—Especially You, Especially Now!” celebrates National Child Abuse Prevention Month, first proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. 

Pinwheel Gardens were “planted” in front of homes and businesses to bring awareness to the month-long observance.  Over 1700 Pinwheels are currently scattered around the community, but the CAPC says it  is not too late to participate in “planting” a Pinwheel Garden. Pinwheels are $2 each and may be purchased online at www.catawbacountycapc.org/pinwheels.htm. Arrangements can be made for curbside pickup at the Children’s Advocacy & Protection Center or delivery to a home or business. Those purchasing the pinwheels are encouraged to take pictures of the gardens around the county and send them in to use on social media.

The CAPC is a non-profit organization that works to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse and serious physical abuse. It coordinates the efforts of Catawba County Social Services, law enforcement, and the District Attorney's office.

More information about the CAPC is available on its website at catawbacountycapc.org. You may call the center at 828-465-9296. For more information about the pinwheels, email cengart@catawbacountync.gov.


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Related Stories:
• April Is Child Abuse Prevention Month






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