Courts & Crime

Mattress found in landfill may be clue in girl's disappearance

CHARLOTTE — Employees at a landfill in Lenoir, N.C., discovered a mattress that might belong to Zahra Baker on Tuesday, providing a possible breakthrough in the search for the missing girl, police said.

Workers were re-grading the land at Foothills Environmental when they uncovered the mattress, which investigators believe could contain DNA evidence. Authorities said they turned the mattress over to the State Bureau of Investigation for testing.

Police unsuccessfully combed the landfill for three days last week when they searched for the mattress to corroborate witness statements. Officials said the 10-year-old Hickory girl's parents disposed of her mattress just days before reporting her missing Oct. 9.

Hickory Police Deputy Chief Clyde Deal the discovery is "potentially" significant moment in the case. Deal would not elaborate.

Authorities believe Zahra is now dead and are investigating the case as a homicide. The girl, who used a prosthetic leg since she was diagnosed with cancer, has not been seen alive in public since Sept. 25, they said.

Police jailed Zahra's stepmother, Elisa Baker, saying she admitted writing a fake ransom note. The girl's father, Adam Baker, remained jailed on charges of writing worthless checks and failure to appear in court that are unrelated to Zahra's disappearance.

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