The life and death of Zahra Baker

When my friends at the Hickory Daily Record asked me a couple of months ago to help them with a video project about the Zahra Baker case, I said an enthusiastic “yes” right away, despite the fact that a) I’d never really worked on a documentary video script before and b) it was a tragic and complicated story I didn’t really know much about. Baker is the 10-year-old disabled girl who moved to Western North Carolina from Australia after her father married a North Carolina woman he met online. By all accounts, Zahra’s life was pretty miserable here, and when she disappeared last fall, her stepmother, Elisa Baker, was the early and prime suspect. (Elisa pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree murder and was sentenced to up to 18 years in prison. Read more about the case.)

Editor Lee Buchanan and videographer Jeremy Detter deserve a lot of credit for tackling such a project, and I think they did a whale of a job collecting video footage and tracking down family photos of Zahra that add so much to the story. It was not an easy story to tell, but it was a necessary one. We produced the piece in three segments:

Part One: The Girl from Down Under

Part Two: New Life in North Carolina

Part Three: Murder and Mourning

March 23, 2012 update: We learned this week that “Zahra’s Story” won the 2011 D. Tennant Bryan award for multimedia journalism. I’m very proud of Lee and Jeremy for their great work, and I’m honored to have been a part of it.