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Posted: Thursday, Dec. 01, 2011

'Zahra's Law' goes into effect today

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and April Bethea
Published in: Zahra Baker

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Nearly three dozen laws go into effect in North Carolina today, including legislation inspired by the deaths of a teenager and 9-year-old from the Charlotte region.

Among the legislation on the list is a law that would make it a felony to disturb or dismember a corpse.

State Rep. Mark Hilton, a Republican from Conover, told the Observer this summer that he was approached by the Catawba District Attorney's Office to get the legislation introduced as investigators were working on the Zahra Baker case.

The 9-year-old from Hickory was killed and her body scattered in 2010. Zahra's stepmother, Elisa Baker, was sentenced to 15 to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder and other charges in connection to the girl's death.

Also going into effect today is Laura's Law, which calls for stiffer penalties for repeat DWI offenders whose cases have other aggravating factors. It also gives judges the ability to require some offenders to wear alcohol-monitoring ankle bracelets for much longer than the current 60-day limit.

The law is named for Laura Fortenberry, a 17-year-old from Gaston County, who was killed in a July 2010 vehicle crash. Howard Clay Pasour of Bessemer City was sentenced to 21 to 28 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder, habitual DWI charges and two counts of serious injury by vehicle.

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