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The tragic case of Zahra Baker

Zahra was reported missing in October 2010. Photo: AAP

Zahra was reported missing in October 2010. Photo: AAP

Zahra Baker deserved far better.

The brave little girl, who had a prosthetic leg and was deaf after an early battle with bone cancer, should be 16 now, on the cusp of womanhood.

But Zahra, who was born in Wagga Wagga, never lived long enough to make it to high school or get her drivers’ licence.

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In 2010, aged 10, she was brutally murdered in North Carolina, her body dismembered and left for wild animals to eat.

Zahra’s stepmother, Elisa Baker, pled guilty to second-degree murder in 2011 and was convicted and sentenced to 15-18 years in prison, after agreeing to a plea deal with prosecutors.

Elisa Baker has launched an appeal against her conviction. Photo: AAP

Elisa Baker has launched an appeal against her conviction. Photo: AAP

Now Baker, 47, has launched an appeal against her conviction and the ghosts of the case are set to be pored over anew.

Today, as she did then, Elisa Baker claims Zahra died from the cancer that blighted her childhood – despite reports she was in remission at the time – and that she found her in her bed after returning home from a 15-minute trip to get cash.

But Baker now claims someone else was responsible for hacking her to pieces with a saw in the bathtub, and she knows who did it.

That person cannot be named for legal reasons.

“I actually thought [the person] was taking a shower because I could hear water running. I didn’t know. I had no idea. God I had no idea,” she told The Daily Telegraph.

“Why would she haunt me? I was a good mamma.”

According to the report, Elisa Baker is desperate to portray herself as a caring stepmother, and says Zahra’s physical challenges did not cause her frustration.

But that’s despite the initial indictment against Baker, filed in Catawba County, Charlotte, claiming she had a history of physically, verbally and psychologically abusing the young girl.

It said she often had bruises on her body, which her stepmother blamed on falls as a result of her prosthetic leg.

Zahra’s life was, from its very beginning, a difficult one.

Her birth mother, Emily Dietrich, suffered from post-natal depression and gave Zahra to her father, Adam Baker.

Zahra was reported missing in October 2010. Photo: AAP

Zahra was reported missing in October 2010. Photo: AAP

She had her leg amputated as a five-year-old as she battled bone cancer.

Mr Baker moved with Zahra to the United States in 2008 to live with his new wife, Elisa, who he met online.

There, one can ascertain, life for the little girl became even tougher.

Police were told Elisa Baker berated Zahra, sometimes after she had accidentally urinated on herself, and teachers at the primary school she attended kept a box detailing abuse they believed she was enduring.

In October 2010, Zahra was reported missing from her Hickory home by Elisa and her father.

A few weeks later some of her remains were found, scattered in bushland on the outskirts of Hickory.

Now Zahra’s stepmother is trying to rewrite the story of what happened to the little girl who never had the chance to grow up.

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