BURKE COUNTY, N.C (CBS/WBTV) Elisa Baker, the stepmother who police are calling a person of interest in the disappearance of North Carolina girl Zahra Claire Baker, appeared in court Wednesday morning while police continue searching for the girl.
The 42-year-old made her initial court appearance Wednesday morning on charges she wrote a fake ransom note to throw off detectives investigating her stepdaughter's disappearance.
Elisa Baker was escorted by deputies and her two attorneys into The Catawba County courtroom wearing a pink jail jumpsuit and handcuffs, according to CBS affiliate WBTV.
The judge asked Baker if she understood the charges against her, she replied, "Yes."
Baker's attorney, D. Scott Reilly, told the judge that Baker was currently being held on a $40,000 bond and that he planned to file a motion to have the bond amount reduced. She was previously charged with nearly a dozen unrelated charges including communicating threats and writing bad checks.
Police say that, during questioning Tuesday, Elisa Baker confessed to writing the note in order to throw off detectives investigating Zahra's disappearance.
Officials have reportedly focused their search for Zahra in an area north of Morganton, N.C., 22 miles west of Hickory, where a tree trimming company disposes of tree limbs and other debris.
Investigators have been frustrated in their search for Zahra because they havent been able to establish a reliable timeline for the girl's whereabouts leading up to her ather reporting her missing, Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins said Tuesday. police have been unable to find anyone, outside of her immediate family, who has seen Zahra in nearly a month.
After news of Zahra's disappearance and Elisa Baker's arrest, relatives of the missing 10-year-old, whose bone cancer left her with a prosthetic leg and hearing aids, described the child's life as miserable due to her stepmother's short fuse.
In interviews and court documents, they portrayed Elisa Baker as nasty-tempered and willing to use a gun or her fists to settle an argument and said her disabled stepdaughter usually bore the brunt of her rage.
If convicted on the felony charge, Baker could spend 30 months in prison.
Baker's next court date on the obstruction charge is Nov. 3.
Anyone with information is urged to call the Hickory Police Department at 828-328-5551.