Police authorities in North Carolina ended their search for missing Australian girl Zahra Baker, by confirming they have found her remains but assured that they will continue to investigate how she died.
Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins said, Friday, they tested a bone found earlier in the month against the DNA samples taken from items belonging to the 10-year old Zahra and found that they were consistent with the child.
I've been dreading this moment from early on in the investigation, Adkins said. The police chief said the search team and investigators were devastated that we were not able to find Zahra alive and bring her home safely.
Adkins refused to divulge further information so as not to jeopardize future court proceedings. However, he said, the focus of the investigation will now be on how Zahra died. The police are taking Zahra's disappearance and her death as a homicide case.
Adkins did not say whether they will charge Zahra's father Adam Baker and her step-mother Elisa Baker, the prime suspects in her disappearance.
Adam, who worked in an Australian sugar mill, had moved from Townsville in north Queensland to North Carolina two years back. He came to know Elisa through a social networking site last year.
Zahra, a cancer survivor, was being home-schooled and was not sighted outside her immediate family since September. Neighbors claim Elisa often tormented Zahra physically and mentally.
Zahra was reported missing on October 9 by her father but police suspect she was missing longer than that.
Hours before Zahra was reported missing to the police, Elisa had written a bogus $1 million ransom note. She was indicted by a grand jury last week on a felony charge of obstruction of justice and is in jail.
On October 27, the police found a prosthetic limb in the bush several miles away from where her family once lived. Later they confirmed that the serial number on the limb matched with the one Zahra was fitted with in Australia.
On November 3, the police found a bone in the same area and had sent it to the laboratory for tests.
Elisa, a tattooed, self-confessed Goth and lover of vampire movies claims they didn't kill Zahra but what Adam did after that is kinda horrifying.
[Adam Baker] knows what happened to Zahra, and yet I'm the one in here at least for now, she wrote in a letter sent to crime memorabilia dealer Eric Gein last week.
According to local sources, it was Elisa who had tipped off the police about the site where they would find Zahra's prosthetic leg and her remains. The search focused on an area near Gunpowder Creek in Caldwell County.
Adam was arrested on charges unrelated to Zahra's disappearance and is free on bail.
Meanwhile, Zahra's biological mother Emily Dietrich, who has not seen Zahra since she was eight months old, is devastated. Emily had suffered post natal depression after the birth of Zahra and had handed her custody to Adam.
I feel sick, Emily said. I feel sick that in that house she was hurt.
District Attorney James Gaither Jr. has refused to say whether they will press any charges against Adam or Elisa. However, he said the ongoing investigation continues to be a priority.
We want to be as thorough and have as many questions answered as humanly possible before any additional charges may be filed, Gaither said. It would be a mistake to rush into anything without having a complete and thorough investigation.