HICKORY -- Adam Baker has returned to his native Australia. And so has Zahra.
Baker was deported earlier this month by immigration officials and was allowed to take his daughter's remains with him, Shell Pearce, one of Baker's defense attorneys, told the Observer on Monday.
Pearce recalled saying good-bye to Baker: "We wished each other the best of luck. It was really a relief for Adam - that he was going back home and that Zahra would be put to rest. He took Zahra's remains with him."
Adam Baker and his wife, Elisa Baker, have been at the center of one of North Carolina's most high-profile criminal cases - the killing of 10-year-old Zahra, whose smile and freckled face had captured the hearts of people around the world.
Zahra's body had been dismembered and her body parts scattered across rural Caldwell County.
Elisa Baker, 43, pleaded guilty in September to second-degree murder in connection with her stepdaughter's death and was sentenced to 15 to 18 years in prison. She also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, bigamy, four counts of obtaining property through false pretenses and two counts of identity theft.
Elisa Baker now faces incarceration in a federal prison. She pleaded guilty earlier this month to conspiracy to distribute drugs - the painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone and the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam. She is now awaiting sentencing on the federal drug conspiracy charge, which carries a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison.
How and why Zahra died remains a mystery. She had survived two bouts with cancer that left her without one leg and with a hearing impairment.
Elisa Baker insisted during a jail interview with Observer reporters in October that she is innocent of Zahra's murder. She accused Adam Baker of dismembering his daughter and hiding her body parts.
Adam Baker, 34, was not charged in his daughter's death. District Attorney Jay Gaither told reporters the state had no credible evidence to suggest that anyone other than Elisa Baker was involved in Zahra's murder.
"I had nothing to do with hurting my daughter," Adam Baker told the Observer.
In an interview Monday, Pearce said it was only a matter of time before Adam Baker was deported.
"We knew Adam wasn't going to be here long," the defense attorney said. "We knew he would be leaving soon. We just didn't know what day."
Asked what Adam Baker's plans are now, Pearce replied: "Adam plans on going back to Australia and resume a private and quiet life."
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