Lawyers for the father and stepmother of a 10-year-old girl who authorities believe was killed and dismembered are sticking by their clients even though North Carolina will no longer pay the tab because no charges have been filed in the girl's death.
The state Office of the Capital Defender said this week it will cease paying the lawyers it appointed for Elisa and Adam Baker — a move that comes after the local prosecutor objected to their work. But the attorneys for both Elisa Baker and Adam said they will continue helping their clients.
"I'll probably stay on to assist him in this matter if he needs me to," attorney Mark Killian told The Associated Press on Friday. Killian said Adam Baker, an Australian citizen, was in unfamiliar territory and he was "just trying to help him out the best I can."
Killian also represents Baker on unrelated charges.
Lisa Dubs, Elisa Baker's lawyer, told the Hickory Daily Record that she planned to remain with her client as well. Like Killian, Dubs said she was not concerned if she were not paid by a client or the state.
"As a practical matter, it doesn't effect my or Mark Killian's ability to represent Elisa Baker or Adam Baker," Lisa Dubs told the newspaper.
The lawyers were appointed for the Bakers after Zahra Baker was reported missing Oct. 9 and authorities later characterized the case as a homicide. Court documents said the Capital Defender Office appointed Dubs because it believed Elisa Baker was about to be accused of murder.
Nobody has been charged in the girl's death. Elisa Baker has been charged with obstruction, accused of faking a ransom note to mislead investigators. She also has told authorities that Zahra Baker was dismembered after she died, but no cause of death has been publicly revealed.
Prosecutor Jay Gaither has said he objected to the lawyers' appointments because the capital defender's office should not be providing attorneys for people who have not been accused in capital crimes.
Bob Hurley, the state capital defender, told the newspaper the Bakers needed provisional counsel because they were implicated in the child's death.
"All you have to do is read the paper and listen to comments of law enforcement and follow their investigation," Hurley said. "Everyone in the state knows that Elisa Baker and Adam Baker are the leading suspects of the investigation."
His letter to Dubs said her work was needed during a critical time in the ongoing investigation.
Word of the state ending the appointments came as some members of the community gathered for a two-day memorial service for Zahra at a funeral home. Several dozen people signed a memorial book during the Thursday gathering, which was to resume Friday afternoon.
The funeral home displayed photos and a video of the girl.
"Please make sure justice is served," said Melissa Simpson, a Hickory resident. "This is a sad, sad thing — I'm a mother myself."
By The Associated Press