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The Zahra Baker Memorial Park- Hickory, NC Memorial


Hickory, North Carolina

On a hot Saturday afternoon at the Zahra Baker Memorial Park in Hickory, the laughter of children fills the air and the clinking of baseballs on metal bats signifies the start of summer. Picnickers enjoy lunch under the covered shelter while the little ones play tag on the state of the art rubber floor. The 3,600 square foot park with its colorful new toys, innovative Aero Glider Boat, and mountain side slide is every child's dream come true. Little do they know, nor should they know, the story of how it came to be.

Zahara Baker was a vivacious 10 year old living in Catawba County. She came to North Carolina from Australia with her father Adam Baker and his wife Elisa Baker after the two met on the Internet and married. Her biological mother had surrendered custody of her at the age of 8 months old due to severe postpartum depression. Zahra was a true survivor with an amazing spirit. At the age of five she suffered bone and lung cancer and lost a leg and wore a prosthetic. She was also severely hearing impaired and wore 2 hearing aides. Despite her tough early life and physical problems, her handicaps were out shined by her spirited personality.

Sadly her spirit was a source of frustration for her father and stepmother. Adam and Elisa Baker had recently been investigated for abuse by the Catawba County Department of Social Services in previous months. Zahra's teacher had reported to the agency that the child was coming to school with bruises. Shortly after the report, Zahra was pulled out of school. Her step mother stated she would be homeschooling her.

Zahra was reported missing on October 9, 2010 though her father and stepmother stated she was missing as early as September 25th, 2010. On this morning, the Baker's reported a fire to the home and presented police with a "ransom note." That evening, Adam Baker called the Hickory Police Department to calmly report that his daughter was missing. The police arrived to the home where Canine Officers detected blood was discovered on Baker's family vehicles. Police next determine the ransom letter was fake, and Elisa admitted writing it. Elisa Baker was then charged with felony obstruction of justice in the disappearance of Zahra Baker.

After Elisa Baker's arrest, family members began publicly describing the abusive environment in which Zahra was living. One family member told ABC News that "Zahra was locked in her room and allowed out for five minutes a day to eat. She also said she believed the girl was physically abused, saying Elisa Baker would "get mad, she'd take it out on Zahra, things the kid didn't deserve ... she just had a horrible home life." Adam Baker remained quiet about the case. On October 25, 2010 he was arrested for charges not linked to the case. However, he was detained at the Charlotte Airport as he was attempting to flee the country, most likely to return to Australia.

On October 27th, 2010 police locate Zahra Baker's prosthetic leg in a neighboring county in an are where stepmother Elisa Baker used to live. It is revealed in an interview with the family of Elisa Baker that Zahra was not taken to the doctor in more than a year for cancer checkups. Because of bruising on her body, the family stated Adam Baker said he was hesitant to take her to a doctor.

On Monday, November 1st, 2010, family members show police a steep hill where Zahra's stepmother forced her to walk up and down the hill as punishment. Zahra wore a prosthetic leg and walking on hills was painful.

On Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010, Hickory Police located a bone in Catawba County and later discover it belonged to Zahra Baker. On November 11, 2010, police discover remains in a recently dug hole in another area of Caldwell County. Reports later determine the partial remains also belonged to Zahra. The missing persons search is ended. Court documents filed in Catawba County show that Zahra Baker's body was dismembered and spread across three different sites.

On September 17th, 2011 Elisa Baker pleaded guilty to the second degree murder of Zahra Baker and will only serve 18 years in prison as negotiated for her cooperation in the case. Adam Baker will not face charges in the murder because in the state of North Carolina, it is not a crime to dismember a body. The cause of death on Zahra's death certificate is listed as "undetermined homicidal violence."

This crime has markedly shaken the the loving community of Hickory, North Carolina. People all over this mountain town placed tokens of love and memory at Zahra's home and burial sites. Within months, businesses and community members organized a plan to memorialize Zahra Baker in an interactive way.

The Zahra Baker All Children's Playground is a park designed to be used by all children, even those with disabilities and prosthetics. It is located in within the City of Hickory. The playground is funded by donations and grants and was completely built by volunteers in the community.

As a parent, it is impossible not to think about the tragedy while you watch your own beautiful and vibrant child laughing and playing in the clear mountain air. It makes one painfully question how such evil can occur against the most vulnerable in our society. It is my wish that this child could finally feel the spirit of love that she had been denied in her short lifetime. I hope she can feel the outpouring of grief, outrage, and sadness from a society that failed her. We can only hope that the sound of the children laughing and playing makes it way into the clouds and to Zahra Baker's corner of heaven.

Rest in Peace Sweet Angel

Zahra Baker

Zahra Baker

The Zahra Baker All Children's Playground

List of Major Donors

A partial list of those who made this park possible.

A partial list of those who made this park possible.


Boo McCourt from Washington MI on April 01, 2014:

I remember following this in the news. Every picture of that precious girl was of her smiling. Smiling after the abuse those awful people put on her. It is just a shame that children have to endure the pain. pain adults like these who are really cowards and weak human being s to abuse a child. This park makes me happy, happy that Zahra Baker is remembered in such a touching and beautiful way.

Darlene on May 07, 2013:

It is really hard for me to understand why family members stood by and let this child be abused over and over again. This is a beautiful park, and the love from this community and its volunteers is amazing.

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on November 26, 2012:

What a tragic and heart-breaking story! Zahra suffered so much, and it's inconceivable that someone would harm instead of protect a vulnerable little girl. It's nice a memorial was built where handicapped children can play. Zahra would have wanted it that way, no doubt. Voted up and shared.

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on September 03, 2012:

Thanks healthylife. It is difficult but we all need to do so much more to prevent child abuse as a society. I appreciate you reading this.

healthylife2 on September 03, 2012:

As a parent I found this so difficult to read but did keep going. Building a park that can also be used by children with disabilities and doing so in the memory of this beautiful girl is a great way to celebrate her life and hopefully make others aware that child abuse does exist so cases like this can be prevented. Voted up!

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on August 07, 2012:

I had no idea you worked with such families molometer. I can't imagine how hard that was and I am sure you wanted to get your hands on some parents. Moved the goalposts, that sounds like conditions here too. No one wants to get involved and governments don't want to act because they don't want to pay for care and etc.. The people who really care have their hands tied. This breaks my heart for you too. :(

Micheal from United Kingdom on August 07, 2012:

Hi Tammy,

I was working in a school last year, where all the children were on the 'at risk' register.

We saw the injuries daily and had to make detailed report's.

I asked why nothing was being done. To arrest these toerags of parents.

I was told that 'social services have moved the goalposts' on what they consider abuse and neglect! things can get considerably worse before anyone steps in.

Our job was to just gather the evidence for the day when something terminal happens.

Then our evidence would be used, in the event that a conviction's was made.

I quit that job as I couldn't accept the BS that this was helping the kids. By keeping them with their parents. Some parents are just no good.

The lunatics have really taken over the asylum.

Shocking but it happens all to often in our so called civilized society. Tweeting again.

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on August 07, 2012:

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and pain molometer. This is a very painful subject to think about but I think people need to start talking. Too many innocent children are slipping through the cracks due to paper work in government, schools, and the general public. I think if the law is willing to look the other way when it comes to protecting children, it should be just as willing to look away in those situtions when people who can make a difference do so.. such as protecting a child or kicking the *&$^ out of these types of parents. I appreciate your visit and know that you have a big heart.

Micheal from United Kingdom on August 06, 2012:

I am distraught, I want to rage at this abomination.

Tammy. You have moved me to tears. Not an easy task. I come from the school of hard knocks.

What is wrong with these F*%king people.

How can an adult do this to a child. I see it every day in school and I want to go around and kick the sh*t out of some of the so-called parents. I would be the one arrested.

These are NOT parents.

They are monsters that need to be strung up. The sooner the better for these poor children.

I must stop.This is doing my head in.

Sharing this because it needs every mo f*cker out there, to get the message. We will get you, eventually.

I am so pissed off with the current reporting arrangements in schools, I want to scream.

Sorry for ranting on your hub, but Jesus wept. Come on.

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on August 05, 2012:

This is such a heartbreaking story Alastar. All the voulenteers did a wonderful job. This park and play ground is so well constructed. I haven't seen anything like it and there were no details left out or corners cut. It is a labor of love and the love really shows in its construction. Thank you so much for visiting and for your wonderful comment.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on August 04, 2012:

Forgive my tardy reading and responding here Tammy, not sure the notifications are firing on all cylinders these days. I don't even know how to put it, its heart-breaking. She fought so hard to have a normal life, battling cancer and then that horrible family situation. Can't imagine anyone crueler than that step-mother. A friend was a volunteer at the picnic shelter and a nephew helped paint. The memorial park is a beautiful way to memorialize Zahra. Thank you for writing this article with your wonderful pictures Tammy. Up and beau of course.

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 31, 2012:

Thanks Cogerson. Sadly it is too late for this child. I appreciate your visit on a difficult subject.

UltimateMovieRankings from Virginia on July 30, 2012:

Well written hub on a very tragic story....my heart goes out to Zahra....what a horrible way to treat a child....the memorial park is a great tribute to her...so sad that she is not joining all the kids playing at the park.

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 27, 2012:

:) Thanks Sueswan!

Sueswan on July 27, 2012:

Hi Tammy,

This is beyond tragic. Zahara was an innocent child with a beautiful spirit. I too hope that she can hear the children's laughter in her corner of heaven.

Take care :)

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 25, 2012:

Thanks so much for stopping by Christy. I hope she rests in peace too.

Christy Birmingham from British Columbia, Canada on July 25, 2012:

Oh Tammy, my heart is breaking as I read and think about this story. Thank-you for writing a tribute to a wonderful girl who suffered imaginable hardships. May she rest in peace xx

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 24, 2012:

Thanks so much for reading and commenting John Sarkis. It is a very tragic story,

John Sarkis from Winter Haven, FL on July 23, 2012:

Hi Tammy, and what a beautiful and profound hub this one is.

wow...stories like these make me very sad, but I do believe she is in a better place...very tragic!...

Voted awesome and beautiful!


Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 22, 2012:

I feel better knowing she is in a better place too LyricWriter. :( Thanks for visiting.

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 22, 2012:

This is such a painful story. The step mom turned the step dad in and stated he is the one who dismembered the body, but that is not a crime. They had nothing to arrest him on. Breaks my heart too. Being at this park is very surreal. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 22, 2012:

Thanks so much for sharing that kygirl89. People need to act when they see something before it is too late.

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 22, 2012:

Thanks so much for reading Nell Rose. This is a very sad and difficult story. I appreciate you stopping by.

Richard Ricky Hale from West Virginia on July 22, 2012:

Tammy, amazing job! Such a sad story. Life just isn't fair, but I have to believe that she is in a much better place. I am glad she will always be remembered through the park and your article Tammy. Very touching tribute. Voted up and all across but funny.

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on July 22, 2012:

I remember hearing about this in the news. Thank you for writing this beautiful tribute to her. I so wish that in her short life she could have experienced love and happiness. I hope her spirit is happy because she so deserved it. *sigh* I'll have to check this park out next time I'm in Hickory. I also can't believe that the dad wasn't an "accessory" to homicide or something. Thanks again for sharing this.

kygirl89 from West Virginia on July 21, 2012:

While I read this story I almost cried. Some people are so evil. I hope no one forgets this tragedy. Sadly there are so my children who are abused everyday. I hope that more and more people will speak up when they believe children are being abused.

Nell Rose from England on July 20, 2012:

The poor little girl, how sad and appalling! how could they do this to her? I am so glad that they have a memorial to her, but what a tragedy, if that is the right word, In fact I can't think of the words to say how horrible it all is, thanks tammy for letting us know, nell

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 19, 2012:

Thanks RealHousewife. I think there should be a law that says if DSS won't help a child in need, citizens can intervene because as you said many people would love to have a child like her. Her evil stepmother should never have found a man with kids if she hated them so much. If only... :(

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 19, 2012:

Thanks so much for reading and commenting Ardie. I think this is hardest to fathom for us Moms. I am glad that those who followed her case will get to see the park and her memorial. There are supposed to be some scholarships initiated her as well. I appreciate your visit.

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on July 19, 2012:

Tammy - I so remember this case and I am so glad to see a memorial for her. I am very glad you wrote about this...I feel glad knowing she will be remembered. It is terrible too because there are so many, many people who would have loved to raise that little girl. I just wish people that didn't want their children or instead of abusing them to give them away to a family who would love them.

If it were only that easy huh?

Beautiful hub! Excellent!

Sondra from Neverland on July 19, 2012:

What a wonderful way to memorialize this beautiful little sweet girl. I remember this story and it broke my heart. I never heard about this playground on the news so I am elated to read your Hub and hear that her name will live on.

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 19, 2012:

Thanks for your compassionate response JaydenMiller.

JaydenMiller from USA on July 19, 2012:

I hate to see bad things happen to people - but especially those that are defenseless. This is so tragic. The memorial is a nice tribute to her life. Thanks for sharing.

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 18, 2012:

Thanks so much for reading and commenting Dexter. This is a big problem in our society. It is always good to see you.

Dexter Yarbrough from United States on July 18, 2012:

Hi Tammyswallow. This is a wonderful tribute to a beautiful girl. The memorial is beautiful.

It is a shame that she lived such a tragic life. I hope this will encourage others to report abuse. Thanks for sharing.

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 17, 2012:

Thank you so much for reading and commenting Pamela99. This is heart wrenching. The laws really need to change. It needs to be law nationwide to not report a missing child and it sadly needs to be illegal to dismember a body. These parents are getting away with it in this life, we can only hope there is some sort of "justice system" in the afterlife.

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 17, 2012:

Thanks so much for visiting DeBorrah. It is just so very hard to wrap our minds around such cruelty. I matters of war and fighting among adults, it is bad but not so painful because they do it to themselves. But attacking children and animals.. it is unfathomable how a person could do this. I thank you so much for stopping by with a supportive comment. You always bring a sense of peace.

Joseph De Cross from New York on July 17, 2012:

I'm with you Tammy! There so much S*** going on in this world. Is pathetic how we use intelligence to kill and harm!

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 17, 2012:

Thanks for sharing your support Lord De Cross. This should never, ever happen. I am sad to hear that autistic children are being abused. I shed my share of tears. This is almost to much to bear. Great to see you.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 17, 2012:

What a heartbreaking story Tammy. I can never understand how children are abused so horribly and no one finds out. so tragic.

I think it is wonderful that the members of the community have built such a nice park in Zahra's honor. It's a lovely tribute to her life. It is difficult to understand the step-mother only getting 18 years and the father getting off free. I do not think justice was well served in this case. You did a great job of explaining all the circumstances of this case.

DeBorrah K Ogans on July 17, 2012:

Tammyswallow, This is quite tragically sad but so necessary! Too many children are being abused and mistreated it is shameful that a child can be treated as less than an animal... This is heartbreaking. This is a wonderful Tribute to the memory of Zahra. I pray that many are touched by this heartfelt story. It is imporatnt to bring to light the terrible actions of abusers. If just one person sees this and helps a child from being harmed or someone who is an abuser is convicted it is'well worth it!

It is a lovely beautiful gesture to build a Memorial park honoring Zahra's memory where other children can have a safe, place to enjoy themselves. Thank you for sharing, In HIS Love, Peace & Blessings!

Joseph De Cross from New York on July 17, 2012:

You know what? I wish that man never ever married. And things like this are everyday problem. Cases of abuse against autistic children have sky rocketed. This is worse than a September 11th homicide. I feel for the Sahras of the World. Great pictures of this Memoria Park. You as a mom must've cried writing this hub. Thanks for sharing this angel Tammy!

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 17, 2012:

Thank you for visiting Mhatter99.

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on July 16, 2012:

Wow.. this is quite a tribute and report. And thank you for bringing it to us

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 16, 2012:

Thank you so much for visiting Alocsin. It is heartbreaking.

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 16, 2012:

Thanks for commenting fpherj48. I moved to Hickory around the time the step mother was being sentenced. I just couldn't believe it. She was a self proclaimed witch. The first time I saw the coverage she was boo hooing for a change of venue for her case because she didn't think she would get a fair trial here. It is hard to drive by that place. True evil does exist and she is the epitome of it. I appreciate your visit and for sharing your your own sorrow about this case.

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 16, 2012:

Thank you so much for reading and for the thoughtful comment TToombs08. I don't know how these people can live with themselves. :(

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on July 16, 2012:

This is so sad. Hopefully the memorial will encourage others to be on the lookout for such abuse in the future. Voting this Up and Useful.

Suzie from Carson City on July 16, 2012:

Oh, Tammy... I followed this case. That poor, precious child...so sweet and happy despite her illnesses and handicaps. I cried every time the news story was on....and I wanted to reach in and bitch slap that psycho that her stupid Dad was married to!! What an evil, rotten person!!

I am so pleased that a playground has been built in her honor. Thank you for this, Tammy.......UP+++

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 16, 2012:

Me too Vox Vocis. :( If anything it makes me want to do more for children. It is all so painful in its reality.

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 16, 2012:

I appreciate that Ruchira. Some things never leave us and I think this is one of those for me. I appreciate your kind comment.

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 16, 2012:

Thanks so much for stopping by Josh. I appreciate your visit and your kind compliment. It is a heartbreaking story.

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 16, 2012:

We can only hope AnnRandolph. It is a pleasure to meet you and I thank you for stopping by.

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on July 16, 2012:

A beautiful monument to a beautiful child. I hope her father and step mother are forced to pass by this wonderful playground every day after they get out of jail, to see the happy faces of children and remember what they stole from Zahra and the world. Wonderful hub, Tammy. VUM!

Jasmine on July 16, 2012:

The girl had such a wonderful smile. I don't really know what to say, the whole story makes me sad.

Ruchira from United States on July 16, 2012:

gosh, how cruel could they be....it's sad that humans would treat each other that way. Where were their hearts, their feelings?

I am glad that despite all the misfortune zahra suffered; she is in a better place right now. She did not deserved to be treated like this!

very touching hub, Tammy. You have done a remarkable job by creating awareness about it and this beautiful park.

voted up as interesting and sharing it acrss

Joshua Zerbini from Pennsylvania on July 16, 2012:


WOW! What a sad story Tammy. This is a beautiful tribute and a well crafted memorial to that poor little girl. You have done well here Tammy!

AnnRandolph on July 16, 2012:

Thanks for sharing this tragic story that somehow got a touching ending. I'm sure the young girl knows she is finally loved by a whole community.

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 16, 2012:

Thanks for reading this difficult story ExoticHippieQueen. This story didn't get the same attention as Cailee Anthony case, but it is just as sickening. This is an example of the worst of humanity.

Tammy (author) from North Carolina on July 16, 2012:

Thank you billybuc. This is a very special park. :( Thanks for reading.

ExoticHippieQueen on July 16, 2012:

What a devastating story to read, and such a beautiful child with great spirit! When parents do this to their own children, and of course, the father must have had a hand in this, it reminds me of how some animals eat their young. It's horrible enough when a stranger tortures or murders your child, but when a child's own parent does it, they become nothing more than someone who thinks and acts like an animal destroying it's young.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 16, 2012:

How very tragic! Thank you for writing such a beautiful tribute to this young girl. The park is just wonderful, your article is fantastic, and I have tears in my eyes.

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