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Baker accepts drug plea

Already serving time in stepdaughter's death, she faces up to 20 more years.

By Gary L. Wright
gwright@charlotteobserver.com

Elisa Baker, who pleaded guilty in September to murdering her 10-year-old stepdaughter, Zahra, has cut a deal with prosecutors on federal drug-trafficking charges.

In a plea agreement filed earlier this week, Baker agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to distribute a mixture that contained painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone, and the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam.

The conspiracy charge is punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

The plea agreement says Baker's crime involved about 12,000 doses of oxycodone, about 10,000 doses of hydrocodone and about 29,000 doses of alprazolam.

Baker has agreed in the plea bargain to pay restitution to victims directly or indirectly harmed by her conduct.

Baker was indicted in May and charged with seven federal drug offenses, each punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The plea agreement calls for prosecutors to dismiss the other six drug charges.

Baker, 43, is in the Mecklenburg County jail while she awaits the disposition of her federal drug charges.

Baker was sentenced to 15 to 18 years in prison in September after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in connection with Zahra's death. She also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, bigamy, four counts of obtaining property through false pretenses and two counts of identity theft.

Zahra's freckled face and smile captured hearts from North Carolina to Australia, where she was born. She had survived two bouts with cancer that left her without one leg and with a hearing impairment.

Zahra was reported missing in October 2010, triggering a massive search. But she was dead. Her body had been dismembered, and the body parts were found scattered across rural Caldwell County.

How Zahra died remains a mystery.

In an interview at the jail with Observer reporters in October, Baker insisted that she is innocent of Zahra's murder.

She portrayed herself as a loving stepmother and unwilling participant in covering up Zahra's death.

She accused Adam Baker of dismembering his daughter and hiding her body parts.

Adam Baker, 34, has not been charged in his daughter's death.

District Attorney Jay Gaither told reporters that the state had no credible evidence to suggest that anyone other than Elisa Baker was involved in Zahra's murder.

Police say they have no credible evidence that Adam Baker was involved in the cover-up.

"I had nothing to do with hurting my daughter," Adam Baker told the Observer while responding to his wife's allegations.

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