Mattress being tested for link to missing girl
October 27, 2010 12:55 PM
McClatchy News Service
HICKORY — Employees at a Lenoir landfill on Tuesday discovered a mattress they say may have belonged to Zahra Baker, police said, possibly providing a breakthrough in the nearly three-week search for the missing 10-year-old girl.
Workers were grading the Foothills Environmental Landfill when they uncovered a mattress, which investigators said matches the description of the one used by Zahra.
Investigators last week called the mattress a key piece of evidence they said might help them establish an accurate timeline for Zahra’s disappearance — and might yield DNA evidence.
Police said they turned over the mattress to the State Bureau of Investigation for testing.
Investigators unsuccessfully combed the landfill for three days last week. Officials said the Zahra’s parents disposed of her mattress just days before reporting her missing Oct. 9.
Hickory police Deputy Chief Clyde Deal said Tuesday the discovery is a potentially significant moment in the case, but he would not elaborate.
Authorities are calling the case a homicide. The girl, who used a prosthetic leg due to bone cancer, has not been seen alive in public since Sept. 25, they said.
Police jailed Zahra’s stepmother, Elisa Baker, 42, saying she admitted writing a fake ransom note. The girl’s father, Adam Baker, 33, was jailed on Monday on charges unrelated to Zahra’s disappearance. He faces one count each of assault with a deadly weapon and failure to return rental property, two counts of communicating threats and five counts of writing worthless checks, authorities said.
Police confirmed that Elisa Baker is assisting them in the investigation. Authorities took her from jail on Tuesday to at least one of the areas where about 40 investigators were searching, Deal said.
Deal wouldn’t say why Elisa Baker has chosen to cooperate or whether she has confessed to any crimes.
“I will not say what our conversation involved,” Deal said.
The Hickory Police Department released a statement saying Elisa Baker’s attorneys Lisa Dubs and Scott Reilly had also provided information.
Neither Dubs nor Reilly could be reached for comment. The Associated Press contributed.