HICKORY — More than three months have passed since Zahra Baker was reported missing. Although police found her body in pieces, no one has been charged in the 10-year-old's death.
The delay worries those who want someone held accountable.
They fear the lack of criminal charges signals problems with the case. And the bizarre circumstances surrounding the girl's death have led some friends, family, even area prosecutors to wonder: Can there be justice for Zahra?
"Everyone is frustrated," says Hickory Mayor Rudy Wright, who has plastered a large photo of Zahra on his business along Fairgrove Church Road. "This little girl struck a chord with all of us. ... People want somebody charged."
Catawba County's District Attorney James Gaither Jr. won't discuss the case - or explain why so much time has passed without charges in the death. Experts say he is probably awaiting a complete accounting of evidence from police and medical examiners before deciding what charges he can prove.
Last week, Hickory police turned over the majority of their investigation to the D.A. Zahra's autopsy is not yet complete, but the file is stuffed with recorded interviews, reports and detailed backgrounds on Zahra, her parents and other relatives.
"I've been doing this 26 years, and I've never seen a case file this big," says Hickory police Major Clyde Deal. "That poor little girl went through things that no 10-year-old should go through."
Zahra's smiling face, broadcast in photos worldwide, has captured hearts from her Hickory home to places far beyond. Her story of surviving cancer, losing a leg, living with a hearing impairment and yet somehow remaining upbeat, has endeared her to people.
Many believe Zahra must have been killed because her body was dismembered and tossed along roadsides. "We just want whoever did this to be held responsible," says one of Zahra's relatives.
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