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Adam Baker's attorney wants trial moved

By Gary L. Wright
gwright@charlotteobserver.com

NEWTON Adam Baker is asking that his trial on identity theft and obtaining property by false pretenses charges be moved from Catawba County because many in the community believe he was involved in killing his 10-year-old daughter Zahra.

In a motion for a change of venue, defense attorney Mark Killian wrote that there's so much prejudice against Adam Baker that his client can't get a fair trial in Catawba and surrounding counties.

The disappearance and death of freckled-faced Zahra has been the subject of what Killian described as "excessive and pervasive publicity on a local, statewide and national level."

Adam Baker has not been charged with Zahra's murder. The felony charges against him, Killian noted in the change of venue motion, are unrelated to last year's death of his daughter.

"Despite the lack of any credible evidence that (Baker) was involved in the disappearance and murder of his daughter, there exists in this county a widespread belief that (he) was criminally involved in his daughter's death," the defense attorney wrote.

Elisa Baker, Adam Baker's wife, pleaded guilty in September to second-degree murder in connection with Zahra's death and was sentenced to 15 to 18 years in prison. She is now in the Mecklenburg County jail awaiting trial on federal drug charges.

During an interview with Observer reporters at the jail last month, Elisa Baker, 43, insisted she is innocent of her stepdaughter's killing. She told the reporters that she found Zahra dead in bed on Sept. 24, 2010. Zahra had been sick with a stomach virus the week before, she said.

Elisa Baker portrayed herself as a loving stepmother and unwilling participant in covering up Zahra's death. She accused Adam Baker, 34, of dismembering his daughter and hiding her body parts.

Adam Baker's attorney argues that extensive media coverage has polluted the potential jury pool.

The motion for change of venue notes that The Hickory Daily Record published several hundred articles concerning the death of Zahra.

"The newspaper published an article which noted that 'the prevailing theory in the community is that Zahra's father, Adam Baker, and his wife, Elisa Baker, killed Zahra then cut up her body and disposed of it to hide the crime,' " Killian wrote.

"Some readers have written letters to the editors expressing anger and disappointment that (Baker) will 'get off free for this heinous crime' against his daughter."

The Charlotte Observer has published at least 254 articles about Zahra's death, Killian also noted.

There's a widespread belief in the county that Adam Baker was involved in his daughter's death, the change of venue motion says.

"The Charlotte Observer and other newspapers have published front page articles detailing allegations made by Elisa A. Baker that Adam Baker dismembered his daughter's body," Killian wrote.

Wright: 704 358-5052.
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