From every published report, 10 year old Zahra Clare Baker lived a life of hell, her body ravaged by cancer that led to the amputation of her leg and the loss of her hearing, and suffering abuse at the hands of her stepmother.
Now the poor child is missing from her North Carolina home, and presumed dead. Her stepmother, Elisa Baker, is jailed on unrelated charges, and is considered a person of interest in Zahra’s disappearance.
From the news reports, everybody saw it coming. Family members, friends, and neighbors have all said that Elisa Baker abused the girl, that she has a history of petty crimes and violence, and that Zahra spent most of her days locked in her room, only allowed out long enough to eat and go to the bathroom. Even Zahra’s father, Adam Baker, has said it is possible that his wife was involved in the girl’s disappearance.
“I just think this was something that we knew was going to happen for a long time,” one family member said during a television interview. “She was beat almost every time I was over there for just the smallest things,” a relative told reporters.
Neighbors also feared for the girl’s safety at the hands of her stepmother. “She was always beating her. I told her to stop but she wouldn’t listen to anyone. That poor girl,” said one.
Another said “There were warning signs along the way, but you never want to think the worst.” Another added “Lord, how that child suffered.”
The local police have said that Elisa Baker had a history of violence, including threatening to kill a woman and her 7 year old daughter.
News reports say that Department of Social Services workers came to the house in response to reports of abuse. The Department said it cannot comment on the case, citing privacy issues. Whose privacy? Zahra’s? She doesn’t need privacy, she needed an advocate. Elisa Baker’s privacy? Her father’s privacy, who proved worthless in protecting his child??
By their own admissions, everybody knew what was happening to Zahra. And yet they did nothing. Nobody. Not the caseworkers, not the neighbors, not the family, not even Zahra’s own father. They all stood by and looked the other way while this innocent little girl suffered.
It’s not even known for sure when Zahra actually disappeared. The last independent sighting of her was in September, though she wasn’t reported missing until October 9, when her father and stepmother called police with a bizarre tale of a mysterious fire in their back yard, and a ransom note addressed to Adam Baker’s employer was found. Elisa Baker later admitted to writing that note.
It’s pretty obvious that Zahra Baker is dead, and it’s obvious that her stepmother is probably responsible. I personally think the father had a role in whatever happened to her as well.
So what the hell is wrong with our society and our system that the most helpless among us can be victimized like this, and that so many people could have known about it, and yet they did nothing? No matter who actually did the terrible deeds to this little girl, everybody associated with the case must share the responsibility.
Shame on all of them for not putting a stop to it. Shame on her father. Shame on the relatives and neighbors who allowed it to happen and didn’t call the authorities over and over again until they couldn’t ignore the problem any more. Shame on the caseworkers who didn’t do enough to investigate and rescue Zahra.
And shame on us, as a society, that we have so many safeguards in place to protect the rights of psychos like Elisa Baker, and allow them to continue their horrible deeds, while the rights of children like Zahra are ignored.
Tags: child abuse, child advocate, crimes against children, Department of Social Services, domestic violence, missing child, North Carolina, petty crimes, police, social workers, violence, Zahra Clare Baker