She was a real-life evil stepmother and many hoped she would be sentenced to death, but Elisa Baker has managed to use the law to her advantage one more time.

Baker, who admitted murdering her disabled 10-year-old Australian stepdaughter Zahra Baker, cutting her up with a saw and dumping the body parts in North Carolina bushland, learned on Monday she could one day be a free woman.

The 44-year-old self-described gothic and bigamist faced a death sentence for the 2010 murder of little bone cancer survivor Zahra, but did a deal with prosecutors in 2011 that led to a lesser second-degree murder charge and a maximum 18-year jail sentence.

With the murder sentence set in concrete, prosecutors had one last chance to ensure Baker was kept behind bars for the rest of her life.

That was dashed on Monday in a Statesville, North Carolina, courtroom.

Baker was originally facing 140 years for seven felony drug charges involving the alleged sale of 50,000 prescription pills, including to some teenagers, but she managed another plea deal, with prosecutors agreeing to drop all but one charge: conspiracy to distribute prescription drugs.

On Monday, US District Court Judge Richard Voorhees confirmed the deal and sentenced Baker to 10 years.

The decade sentence will begin when Baker completes the 15 to 18-year second-degree murder sentence.

Baker could be out of jail before her 70th birthday.

Zahra's tragic life story began soon after she was born in Wagga Wagga, with mother Emily Dietrich suffering postpartum depression and leaving Zahra's father, Adam Baker, to raise Zahra in Queensland.

When Zahra was five she was diagnosed with bone cancer and doctors were forced to amputate one of her legs.

She was also inflicted with lung cancer and lost her hearing.

Mr Baker, a single dad, one day came across a US woman, Elisa Fairchild, on a gothic website. An online relationship developed, the mysterious woman soon was on a plane to Queensland and in a surprise to family and friends, Mr Baker and the American were married.

The wedding was a surprise to Fairchild's friends and family in North Carolina, as she was still married to a man back in the US.

In fact, Mr Baker was her seventh husband.

The Bakers moved to North Carolina and Zahra, despite using a prosthetic leg and hearing aids, captivated the locals with her bright smile and laugh, but at home family and friends feared the little girl was the victim of mental and physical abuse from her stepmother.

One day Zahra went to school with a black eye.

The world came to know Zahra on October 9, 2010, when Mr Baker called authorities to say Zahra was missing, a fire had been lit in the rear of their small rented home in Hickory, North Carolina, and a ransom note demanding $US1 million was found on his work car.

Baker soon after admitted she wrote the note.

Fearing Zahra's body would never be found, authorities agreed to do a deal with Baker.

She took them to bushland and searchers found some body parts and a prosthetic leg, which were identified as Zahra's.

Just a few weeks ago a small skull found by a hunter was identified as Zahra's.

Her memory has been commemorated with a park built in Hickory named the Zahra Baker All Children's Playground, but the cheerful little girl who had every right not to smile, will never have a chance to ride on a swing or zoom down a slippery dip.

She will never have a chance to live a normal life.

Her evil stepmother, however, will likely one day walk out of jail and be given that opportunity.