The stepmother of a 10-year-old disabled girl was indicted Monday on a charge she murdered the child, and officials released the latest gruesome detail in the case of little, freckle-faced Zahra Baker: Her head is missing.
Medical examiners said Zahra's death was caused by "undetermined homicidal violence." An autopsy was done even though authorities haven't recovered many bones, most notably the girl's skull, months after she was reported missing. Several bones showed cutting tool marks consistent with dismemberment.
The revelation came in documents released by the state's chief medical examiner shortly after officials in western North Carolina held a news conference about the second-degree murder charge. Authorities said Elisa Baker, who has been jailed since the weekend the girl was reported missing, desecrated Zahra's remains to cover up the slaying.
Prosecutor James Gaither Jr. said at the news conference that there was no credible evidence to suggest anyone else was involved in Zahra's slaying. Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins called the murder charge "a milestone of holding someone accountable that members of team Zahra have been working toward since the first words spoken on that 911 call."
Attorneys for Elisa Baker did not return calls seeking comment Monday.