HICKORY, N.C. (CBS/WRAL) Zahra Baker, the missing 10-year-old hearing impaired North Carolina girl, may have been missing long before her father, Adam Baker, reported her missing, according to police who are trying to establish a "true timeline" of events leading up to her disappearance.
At a press conference Monday, Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins said that investigators were having trouble finding anyone who had seen the home-schooled girl alive in the last few weeks, aside from her parents.
"We don't know the last time anyone saw her," he said. "We're having a difficult time establishing a true timeline."
Zahra's stepmother, Elisa Baker, told police that she last saw the girl sleeping in her bed around 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning, three hours before a brush fire in the backyard of the family home was reported. Hours after the fire Adam Baker called police to report Zahra missing.
Elisa Baker was arrested later that day on nearly a dozen unrelated charges including communicating threats, writing worthless checks, larceny and driving with a revoked license.
Search dogs that were used on the property reportedly detected the smell of human remains on two cars at the Baker's house, but investigators did not say whether they found actual remains at the house, according to CBS affiliate WRAL.
A ransom note was also found on a car belonging to Adam Baker's boss, addressed to "Mr.Coffey," saying that the writer had Baker's daughter and wanted $1 million for her return. But Adkins said investigators were questioning the validity of the note and said no other demands had been made, the station reported.
Adkins stressed the need for anyone who had any information about Zahra's whereabouts before or after she was reported missing to come forward as soon as possible.
"We are running out of time folks," said the chief.
Zahra is described as white, about 5-feet-1-inch tall and weighing 85 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes. She was wearing a camouflage Army T-shirt and black knee-length tights, and she has a prosthetic left leg below the knee. She is hearing-impaired and does not have her hearing aids with her.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Hickory Police Department at 828-328-5551.
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