Courts & Crime

Case of missing girl highlights N.C. social services issues

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Friends and family worried that 10-year-old Zahra Baker was in danger.

They saw bruises and a black eye. They questioned her parents. And they reported suspected abuse to the Department of Social Services.

Now, police believe the missing Hickory girl whose story has captured worldwide attention is dead. They are investigating her disappearance as a homicide and last week jailed her stepmother, who they say admitted writing a phony ransom note.

As the search for the girl entered its second week Saturday, people are left asking: Why didn't someone protect Zahra?

And the case raises fresh questions about North Carolina's long-troubled child protection system.

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