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Zahra Baker's stepmom charged with murder in N.C. girl's death

Elisa Baker, stepmother of Zahra Baker A grand jury in Catawba County charged Elisa Baker with second-degree murder in the death of Zahra Baker, Mon., Feb. 21, 2011.
CBS/AP
Elisa and Zahra Baker
CBS/AP

(WBTV/CBS) HICKORY, N.C.- Elisa Baker, the stepmother of Zahra Baker, was indicted for second-degree murder on Monday morning, just as Adam Baker broke his silence this weekend to the Australian media and an international audience.

PICTURES: Zahra Baker Missing

Elisa Baker is the sole suspect in the death of her stepdaughter officials said on the same day as a Catawba County, North Carolina grand jury indicted the woman in the death and dismemberment of the 10-year-old girl last year, reports CBS affiliate WBTV.

Meanwhile, the state medical examiner's autopsy report was released regarding the girl's death, which was classified as "Undetermined - homicidal violence."

Hours after the indictment, officials held a press conference and talked about the indictment and the case.

"At this time the state has no credible evidence to suggest that anyone other than Elisa Baker was involved in the murder of Zahra Clare Baker," said Jay Gaither, prosecutor for the 25th District, which includes Catawba County, during a press conference Monday afternoon, according to WBTV.

Elisa Baker's indictment also included "aggravating factors," which indicates a history and pattern of physical, verbal and psychological abuse of the victim, according to Al Jean Bogle, Clerk of Catawba County Court.

The indictment from the grand jury also said that Elisa Baker "desecrated the victim's body to hinder detection" - Zahra's body was dismembered after her death - and her remains have been found in at least 2 places, police say.

The bond for Elisa Baker was immediately increased by $200,000 as the charge was added to the Catawba County jail website, bringing Elisa Baker's total bond to $307,700 on 17 different charges.

Elisa Baker led police to the remains of Zahra. She also told police that Zahra's body was disposed of by Zahra's father and herself after she died of "illness," according to court documents.

On Sunday evening, Adam Baker spoke to 60 Minutes Australia about the death of his daughter, and called that allegation, "the biggest lie she ever told."

"I had no part in my daughter's death or dismemberment," he said.

60 Minutes Australia is a current affairs program which is based on the CBS version in the United States with the same name. Adam and Zahra were from Australia and they moved to Hickory about two years ago.

In October of 2010, Adam called 911 and reported Zahra missing. Police say shortly thereafter, Adam's wife Elisa admitted to writing a fake ransom note. She was jailed on unrelated charges.

Elisa Baker was already facing charges involving the note when Adam Baker spoke to the program.

Adam said he believes Elisa did play some role in Zahra's death and disappearance, and he believes Zahra would be alive today if he had never brought Elisa into their lives.

Click here for complete coverage of Zahra Baker on Crimesider.